A Guide to Trimming Cat Claws

As a pet parent, you know it's important to keep up with regular cat maintenance like combing her coat and brushing her teeth, but is trimming cat claws on your list? It should be!

In addition to keeping your furniture intact, there are other reasons that trimming your kitty's claws is important, such as reducing the hurt factor when she kneads you. "Taking off the very end of those claws will make this loving gesture something you can enjoy, rather than dread," explains Vetstreet. "For your cat, clipping her nails can prevent painful broken claws that can result when a sharp tip gets caught in the carpet." A good claw trim also cuts down on the "click, click, click" you hear when your kitty runs down the hall.

Ideally, start trimming claws when your feline friend is still a kitten. The biggest advantage for starting young, of course, is that your cat becomes used to it and doesn't go nuts when you take out the clippers.

Don't worry if your cat is older—you haven't missed the window of opportunity for giving your kitty a mani-pedi. She might be cranky about it, but it's worth a try.

Fluffy dark gray cat lying down with claws extended into carpet. The fur is gray fluffy

What Tools You Need

You can purchase cat nail clippers at your local pet retail store or veterinarian's office. Another option is to use human baby clippers, particularly the ones with a bulbous handle for easy grasping.

First, familiarize your cat with her nail clippers. Petcha suggests placing the clippers near her so she can sniff them out. Reward her if she reacts calmly toward them. Then, "When she is familiarized with the clippers, touch her paws and toes with them, getting her used to having them around her paws." If she's comfortable around them, your cat will be less inclined to run and hide in small, dark spaces when you take out the clippers.

How to Trim Cat Claws & Proper Length

  1. Choose a small, safe spot that has a door and good lighting, like a bathroom or bedroom.
  2. Have your supplies ready ahead of time: clippers and treats for afterward to reward her for being such a good girl.
  3. Sit on the floor and hold her securely in your lap, belly-side up. Comfort her with some tummy rubs and soothing words. If your cat responds well to treats, you can give her one to help her relax.
  4. Using your thumb and forefinger, gently squeeze her paw so that the nails are extended.
  5. Clip the sharp tip of the claw in one quick motion.

When deciding how far to cut your cat's claws, do not cut too close to the "quick," which is the pink part of the claw that houses the blood vessels and nerve endings. Cutting the quick is what causes bleeding and pain. If you do cut the quick, the Princeton Veterinary Hospital advises to rub a small dab of cornstarch or flour on the claw and apply pressure to help clot and stop the bleeding. At this point, it's best to abandon the effort for the day and let your cat recover emotionally.

Tips for Trimming & What to Avoid

Don't wrap your kitty in a towel because she may become more agitated.

Don't aim to trim all four paws in one session. Try one paw a day until she's accustomed to the process. It's okay to clip only one claw at a time. VCA Hospitals points out, "The goal is for your pet to associate the handling of the feet and nail trimming with a pleasant outcome." Rewarding her good behavior instills in her a sense of pride and in you a sense of accomplishment.

When to Cut Your Losses

If the process is too upsetting, it's time to make an appointment with your vet or a reputable groomer. Your career of trimming cat claws may be over, but in the end, you have to do what's best for both you and your furry friend.

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.

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