How to trim a cat’s claws

Cat’s claws are essential to their wellbeing. They’re used for many different activities, including scratching, climbing and marking territory. Cat’s claws  are retractable, staying hidden until a cat needs to use them.

They also grow continually. Outdoor cats keep their nails short by climbing and scratching on trees, among other outdoor activities. Indoor cats often use cat scratching posts, but these posts may not be enough to keep a cat’s claws short.

Why it’s important to trim claws regularly

Overgrown claws become curved and don’t retract completely. You will know if your cat’s nails have grown too long if its claws get stuck in carpets or other soft surfaces, or if your cat can no longer retract her nails.

Severely overgrown and curved nails can grow into the footpad, causing significant pain and mobility problems. Therefore, it is very important to keep your cat’s nails short. Cat should have their nails trimmed every 10 days to 2 weeks so that they do not get to this point.

Keeping your cat calm

Trimming cat nails can be challenging, because most cats do not like nail trims. Here are some helpful tips on the cat nail trimming process and how to keep a cat calm during a nail trim.

  • Select a comfortable chair in a quiet room where your cat can’t look out the window.
  • Hold your cat in your lap when she’s relaxed and a little sleepy, such as after a meal.
  • For at least several days before the nail trim, massage your cat’s front legs and paws, pressing gently on each foot pad with your thumb and forefinger to extend the corresponding nail. Release the pressure and immediately give your cat a treat. EberVet Vetshops stock a wide range.
  • Get your cat used to the sound of nail clippers. Place a piece of uncooked spaghetti in the cat nail clippers.  When you press on a foot pad as described above, ‘clip’ the spaghetti when the nail extends. Release the pressure and immediately treat your cat.

Cat getting a nail trim

How to clip cat nails

When your cat is calm and is comfortable with you touching her paws, you can now trim her nails. Use only cat-friendly nail clippers. Ask your vet or EberVet Vetshop for advice.

  1. Organise your supplies: sharp cat nail clippers, a towel and styptic powder (if a nail starts to bleed).
  2. Place your cat in your lap with her facing away from you and your forearm over her neck. Gently wrap her in the towel if she starts to squirm.
  3. Massage and press a foot pad to extend the nail.
  4. Locate the quick, which is the pink portion of the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels.
  5. Before clipping, position the clippers perpendicular to the nail so you are cutting it from top to bottom; cutting side to side may split the nail.
  6. Cut only the sharp tip of the nail. Do NOT cut the quick! Cutting the quick will be painful and cause bleeding. If you accidentally cut the quick, apply a small amount of styptic powder to quickly stop the bleeding.

Depending on your cat’s temperament, you may be able to cut only a few nails at a time, and that’s okay. Be patient with your cat and don’t punish her if she resists the nail trim. If your cat continually refuses your attempts to trim her nails, take her to your veterinarian or groomer for a nail trim.

  • article by Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM