How to Trim Your Cat's Nails

Posted by Dr. Jessica on

How to Trim Your Cat's Nails

Cats use their nails for a variety of purposes—including hunting, marking territory, and defense. If their nails get too long, serious issues can occur. Long nails begin to curve inward and grow into the footpads, causing cats pain. Not only that, but nails that are too long can be hazardous to pet parents and furniture, as cats will scratch in an attempt to buff or self-trim.

Regular nail trimming (by the pet parent) is essential. Trimming a cat’s nails helps protect their feet, the pet parents’ furniture around the home, and pet parents. The process may be a challenge if the feline is unused to the routine, however. Cats may not willingly allow their pet parents to hold their toes and trim their nails but working to establish comfort, trust, and familiarity with the practice is a useful exercise. 

Pick Your Tools Before You Trim a Cat’s Nails

The most common way to trim a cat’s nails is by using clippers. There are a few different styles, including:

  • Guillotine-style clippers
  • Human nail clippers
  • Scissors-style clippers

There are also nail grinders. These battery-powered tools gently buff the nails down to more healthy lengths. Keep in mind that the sound or vibrations from these gadgets may make some cats nervous.

Choose the Right Time to Give Your Cat a Pawdicure

A cat should feel calm, safe, and comfortable. Pet parents can also use treats to keep cats from feeling stressed or anxious. Choose an environment that is free of loud noises, distractions, and escape routes. 


Learn How to Trim a Cat’s Nails

Give a cat plenty of comforting head scratches and speak to them in a calm, soothing tone. As the cat is resting on a pet parent’s lap, it’s easy to give them a pawdicure. Here’s how to trim a cat’s nails:

  • Hold a cat’s paw and get them to extend a nail by gently squeezing a cat’s toe bean with the a thumb and forefinger.
  • Hold the clippers perpendicular to the nail where it starts to curve.
  • Line the clippers just short of the quick, the nerve and blood vessel inside the nail.
  • Clip smoothly and slowly from the top and bottom of the nail (not the sides). Trimming from the sides of the nail can crush and splinter their nail causing some pain and discomfort.
  • After trimming all of a cat’s nails, reward a cat with treats. If a pet parent cannot do all nails in one sitting, don’t stress. One paw at a time, over time, will keep cats’ nails at a generally healthy length.

Getting a cat comfortable with trimming can take time and patience. Not all felines are willing to sit still while someone cuts their nails. One option to keep a cat safe and still is to wrap them in a blanket or warm towel. Pet parents can always ask for help. If a cat struggles too much to safely trim the nails or becomes aggressive, let them go and try again later with help from another pet parent, if needed. 

Maintain Your Cat’s Nails Between Trims

Pet parents generally only need to trim a cat’s nails weekly or bi-weekly. Provide a cat with some maintenance tools to help keep them healthy between sessions—such as scratching posts, mats, or cat trees. Consider buying multiple scratching posts or mats to place in several rooms near favorite spots. Reward a cat for using them to reinforce the scratching behavior with the scratch item instead of furniture corners.

Protect Your Cat’s Feet, Your Furniture, and Yourself

It may take a little practice to help get a cat comfortable with getting their nails trimmed. Once a pet parent develops a rhythm with their cat while grooming, it can be done in as little as a few minutes once or twice a month. 

Would you like to learn more about cats and nail trimming? When you become a Fuzzy member, you’ll receive 24/7 access to a Live Vet Chat. Sign up today to ask all your cat health, training, and behavior questions. Seriously, no question is too small.

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