How to Trim Cat Nails



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Trimming your cat’s nails may seem scary, but it is essential to maintaining your cat’s good health. So don’t let the fear of scratching keep you from showing your cat some tender love & care.

How To Trim Cat Nails. Ginger tabby cat with orange eyes, being held face forward, and front leg being held by person with blue surgical gloves and pet nail trimmers, wearing purple scrubs with a stethoscope on a white background.

You can become a pro and train your cat to enjoy the process with patience and many treats.

Trimming Cat Nails: At a Glance

SignificanceIt helps prevent scratches on furniture and people, reduces the risk of ingrown nails, and maintains the overall health of your cat’s paws.
What you’ll needYou’ll need a pair of cat nail clippers, styptic powder (in case you accidentally cut the quick), and treats to reward your cat for good behavior.
Step-by-step guideFirst, gently restrain your cat and hold their paw. Use the clippers to trim the tip of the nail at 45 degrees. Be careful not to cut the quick (the pink portion of their nails). Reward your cat with a treat and repeat it on the other paws
Avoid doing thisTrimming your cat’s nails too short or cutting the quick can be painful and lead to bleeding. Don’t force your cat to continue if they become agitated or stressedDon’t punish them for bad behavior during the process

Why Is Cutting a Cat’s Nails Important?

Long claws may not seem like a big issue, but it can be problematic if your cat’s nails grow too long.

  • It can lead to half-broken nails or cause other injuries to your cat.
  • A cat’s long nails can get stuck in clothes, carpets, blankets, and furniture.
  • They can give severe scratches on your face or body.
  • Knowing that overgrown claws can curl into your cat’s paw pads and cause infections is essential.

You can save this pain by trimming your cat’s nails regularly.

How Often Should You Trim Your Cat’s Nail?

Indoor cats typically require nail trimming every two weeks. While a kitten’s nails grow faster and may require weekly trimming, older cats need nail trimming only once a month.

You should regularly check your cat’s paws for signs of wounds, swelling, infection, or splinters. It is time for a nail trim when you hear your kitty’s little tap sounds when they walk on the floor.

Process of Trimming A Cat’s Nails

Follow the steps below to learn the art of perfectly cutting your cat’s nails!

Gather All The Equipment

Before you begin the trimming process, you must gather all the necessary supplies that you might need. These include a nail trimmer, towel, styptic powder, and many treats.

There are multiple nail-trimming tools like scissors, pliers, and guillotines; however, selecting tools specifically for cutting cat nails is better. Also, make sure the device you choose has sharp blades, as a blunt blade can put pressure on it and cause injury to your cat.

Once you have picked the tool, it’s time to introduce it to your cat. You can leave the trimmer where they can inspect it and familiarize themselves. Some cats may even get frightened by the sound of the clipper. You can try cracking a piece of spaghetti with the clippers near your cat’s paw to get him comfortable.

Find a Comfortable Position

Although training your cat to nail trimming at a young age is ideal, it’s never too late to begin. Start by finding a quiet and calm location, away from all distractions or startling noises, where you can comfortably sit with your cat.

There are several positions that you can try and find which one is the most comfortable for you and your cat. These include-

  • Holding your cat across your lap while sitting
  • Standing with your cat on a smooth flat surface
  • Reclining with your cat on your chest
  • Sitting with your cat between your legs, lying face up

If your cat is squirmy, wrap it in a towel with only one paw out at a time for added control. Remember to exercise caution, as this may stress some cats.

Time to Trim

The primary trimming process is relatively easy but requires a lot of patience and practice. Read the steps below to trim your cat’s nails safely.

Step 1: Take Your Cat’s Paws in Your Hands

When you have positioned yourself and your cat comfortably, gently hold one of their paws. Please keep it in a natural position to avoid any discomfort.

Select a paw to begin with, and extend it by pressing the paw pad gently. As cats have retractable claws, this is necessary to access the nail. Next, use your non-dominant hand, placing your forefinger on the paw pad and thumb on the toe to hold it securely.

Gently massage your cat’s paw and observe it closely to locate the “quick,” which is the sensitive part you should avoid cutting.

Step 2: Maintain a 45 Degree Angle While Trimming

When cutting your cat’s nails, use nail clippers to trim the tip part of the nail. A 45 degrees angle is ideal as it allows the nail to rest comfortably on the ground when your cat walks.

Cat nails have a greater curvature than human nails, so gently shift the nail clipper inside while titling it to get the right angle.

Apply firm pressure while cutting to avoid crushing the nail, and ensure a clean cut. Nail grinders can sometimes pull hair and cause pain. So if your cat has long hair around the paws, make sure to pull it back so that you have a clear view.

Step 3: Take One At a Time

Cats usually have low patience, so you probably won’t be able to complete the whole trimming in one go. Instead, begin by cutting the tip of the nail and stop cutting when you see a pink or black dot in the middle area.

If you notice any warning signs such as growling, twitching, panting, or body stiffening, don’t ignore that. These might indicate that your cat is angry or stressed and can scratch or bite you. If any of these occur, take a break.

Take it slow, as it’s always better to gradually increase the speed later rather than cause stress to your cat.

Step 4: Cut The Remaining Nails

Repeat the same process on the rest of the nails, including the dewclaws located higher up on the front paws, like thumbs. Neglecting these can cause them to grow long and curl into the leg, causing discomfort.

You can always stop and continue the session 2-3 days later if your cat gets restless. However, taking breaks and doing the task in small shifts is essential to maintain your cat’s comfort and stress levels.

Reward Your Cat

Give your cat a special treat for cooperating during the whole process. Reward your cat with toys, cuddles, and some playtime to relate nail trimming with a positive experience.

Do Not Cut The Quick

The quick contains nerves and blood vessels, and cutting it can cause bleeding and discomfort. Only trim the white part of the claw and keep styptic powder handy in case of accidental deep cuts.

Final Thoughts on Trimming Cat Nails

Creating a calm environment for your cat while cutting their nails is important. Proper technique and a positive attitude can make a stress-free experience for you and your cat. If you find that you are still struggling to trim your cat’s nails, don’t despair, many vets offer a nail trimming service at their surgery.

Before you go, you might find these articles helpful:

How To Keep Cats From Scratching Furniture

Why Cats Chase Their Tails

How To Clean A Cat’s Teeth

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