5 Tips to Trim Your Cat’s Claws Safely
by Jane Meggitt - 6/4/19
If the idea of trimming your cat’s nails invokes a vision of scratching and blood, don’t despair. There are ways to cut your pet’s nails safely without harm to either one of you. Indoor cats should have their nails cut every few weeks. If your cat lives outdoors, his nails don’t require clipping; he needs sharp nails to climb trees or combat predators. The needs of an indoor cat, however, are very different, and you want to ensure his nails don’t grow so long that they hook into his toepad. Regular nail trimming can also spare your upholstered furniture.
Just like cleaning your cat's litter box and ears, nail trimming should be a regular part of your cat care regimen.
1. Start Young
For best results, familiarize your feline with having her nails clipped while she’s still a kitten. That’s obviously not possible if you adopt an adult cat, but if you acquire a kitten, get her used to having her paws handled and light pressure applied to her toes. Make this a positive experience by rewarding her with treats. With an older cat, you can take the same approach, but you may meet more resistance. Remain patient and reward your cat whenever he is mildly cooperative with paw touching and toe pressure.
2. Use the Right Equipment
When it comes down to how to trim cat nails, having the right equipment is essential. Avoid using a human nail clipper on felines. Instead, purchase a clipper designed specifically for cat claws. The most common cat nail clippers are either the guillotine type, in which the nail is stuck into the hole in the clippers, or the scissor form. With the former, squeeze the clipper and the blade slices off the nail edge. The larger scissor clipper is best for longer nails, but some people find them easier to use overall. Your veterinarian can recommend the best type to use for your pet. You may also want to ask your vet or a groomer to demonstrate the best way to clip a cat’s claws, so you have a frame of reference.
3. Feline Restraint
If your cat isn’t keen on having her nails clipped, you will have to restrain her. Place her in your lap, and keep her there by draping your forearms over her neck and around her rear end. When clipping, hold the clippers in your right hand.
4. How to Cut Cat Nails
Holding your cat firmly, gently squeeze her toes between your forefinger and thumb so she retracts her claws. You’ll see a pink area near the nail’s base, which is known as the quick. That is the living part of the nail — you don’t want to clip that far down. If using a scissors clipper, place it so that it is at a 90 degree angle to the nail, and give each nail a quick snip. Cut from top to bottom rather than side to side.
A top to bottom cut is clean, while a side to side cut may crush and splinter the nail. If using a guillotine clipper, make sure the cutting blade faces you. Place the tip of each nail in the clipper’s hole and gently squeeze. Whatever the clipper type, don’t forget to cut the dew claw on the inner foot.
5. In Case of Bleeding
Just in case you clip Kitty’s nails too short and bleeding starts, have cotton balls and a silver nitrate styptic pencil on hand. If the claw bleeds, just put the silver nitrate on the area, pressing gently with a cotton ball. Most bleeding will cease within a few minutes. If severe bleeding ensues, call the vet.
A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, The Alternative Daily, nj.com, The Happy Cat Site and The Nest Pets.