There are many reasons why people trim their cat’s nails. Some do it to protect their furniture, some not to get so scratched, some so when their cat kneads on them it’s a loveable experience rather than a stressful one.
Nail trimming can prevent claws from breaking or splitting. Their nails grow in layers like shells. When they sharpen their claws, they remove the older layers. But sometimes they don’t remove them properly and this can lead to ingrown nails that can be very painful.
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Trimming is basically just removing the sharp points of your cat’s nails and it’s not something you should be afraid of. With a proper technique and practice, you won’t hurt your cat.
How do you know it’s time to trim?
If you can hear your cat’s nails clicking when they walk on hard surfaces, their nails may be too long.
What materials do you need?
You can use a pair of clippers made especially for cats or small-sized human fingernail clippers. As long as the blade is always sharp— dull blades may hurt your cat and cause the nail to split or bleed.
Have styptic powder, styptic stick or cornstarch nearby just in case you accidentally cut too much and you need to stop the bleeding. Also, use treats to reward your cat.
When and how to start?
Ideally you should start when your cat is a kitten but if your cat is already an adult you will need to start slowly.
First you need to set up the mood. You will need a quiet and comfortable place where there are no distractions. The best moments are when they are resting, relaxed, sleepy or content after eating. Also, make sure they aren’t close to another animal.
READ MORE: WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE DOG GROOMER
STEP 1: Make friends with the paw
Basically this step shows your cat that you handling their paw will result in a reward.
Sit them on your lap and gently massage one of the paws for no more than three seconds. If your cat pulls away, don’t pull back or force it, just follow the movement and keep gentle contact with the paw until you manage to press softly on the pad and extend the nail. Release and reward.
Repeat with the other toes. Try this during several sessions, handling a different toe until you’ve worked them all. Always give a treat and never force the situation.
You should do this step several times before actually clipping your cat’s nails so they feel comfortable with you handling their paws.
During these sessions, you could start getting them used to the sound of the clipper. Clicking something like a piece of uncooked spaghetti next to them while holding one of the paws can work.
STEP 2: Familiarize yourself with your cat’s claws
You need to gently press on your cat’s toe pads enough to extend the claw. Observe it carefully. There is a pink part called the “quick” and you should be very careful not to cut it because it is the part where nerves and blood vessels are. It is a sensitive area and can cause bleeding if cut. It is best to cut less of the nail than to cut the quick.
But if you accidentally cut it, apply the styptic material (powder or stick) or dip the claw into cornstarch to stop the bleeding.
STEP 3: Clipping
Sit your cat on your lap facing away from you (or laying on his side), take one of his paws in your hand and press gently on the top of the paw and the toe pad to extend the nail. Pay attention where the quick begins.
Carefully clip off the sharp tip of the nail. Reward your cat after every claw. If they didn’t seem to notice or they are still relaxed continue with another one. Don’t forget the dew claws (they are like a small thumb, on the side of the front legs below the wrist).
Try this until your cat is comfortable. Most likely it will take you more than one sitting to finish them all. And remember to always give your cat a treat after.
If your cat refuses every time, ask your vet for help.
- Don’t trim when your cat is agitated or you’re upset.
- Don’t rush.
- Don’t punish the cat if they don’t want to.
- Don’t try to trim all the claws at once.
- Don’t suppress their need for scratching, even if you trim the nails. Have a scratching post or surface to satisfy this natural need and desire.
DON’T EVER DECLAW. Declawing is not just removing the claws as the name implies. It involves 10 separate amputations of the last bones of your cat’s toes, including nerves, joint capsule, collateral ligaments and the extensor and flexor tendons. Cats suffer a lot of pain while recovering from this. In many countries this is illegal and considered animal cruelty (ASPCA).