How to Clip Your Cat's Nails
If we humans want to return the love our cats shower upon us, a good way to do it is make sure our cat's nails are trimmed on a regular basis. Why trim a cat's nails? There's a long list of reasons.
Long nails can get caught on things in the house and a torn nail may result.
Cat scratch posts and platforms are not always enough to keep your cat's nails trim. And they won't do any good at all if the cat doesn't want to use them.
Ingrown nails can result when the nail grows around into a circle and pierces the foot pad. Polydactyl (multi-toed) cats are especially prone to this syndrome. If not treated, ingrown nails are painful for the cat and their paws can become infected.
Claws are formed from keratin, the same substance that forms hair. They grow continuously just like human finger and toe nails. There are five claws on each fore paw but only four on each of the hind paws that will require clipping.
Sharp cat claws will shred screen doors, furniture and drapes.
It is always better to trim cat's nails instead of having them surgically removed. Some vets will refuse to do it for ethical reasons. A cat can't defend itself from other animals or even escape up a tree with no claws. A few nations, Australia for example, have banned declawing as inhumane.
Before trimming your cat's nails, assemble all of the supplies you will need. Purchase a pair of safety type nail clippers from a pet store. They are sometimes also known as Guillotine clippers and are usually less than $10. You should also have some styptic powder or gel handy in case of bleeding. Have some cat treats nearby too, so kitty and get positive reinforcement when the procedure ends successfully. Sometimes a large towel is helpful to hold a struggling cat steady and help keep him calm.
Step By Step Nail Trimming Instructions:
- Make sure you've purchased a nail clipping tool. Have someone demonstrate how to use it at the pet store.
- This is not an activity that should be rushed. You can prepare your cat for nail clipping by spending a week gently massaging your cat's paws and getting him used to having his paws handled.
- Place one finger on the cat's food pad and push the claw so that it is visible through the fur. This might take greater manual dexterity if you have a long-haired cat with furry "hobbit-like" feet.
- Start slowly. Don't feel like you have to complete the entire process in one setting. If your cat seems stressed out, try doing just one paw per day rather than all at once.
- Trim each nail to just beyond the point where it begins to curve.
- Only trim the white tip of the claw. Never clip the pink or darker part of the nail which is closer to the foot pad. The thin vein which runs down the nail is called the nail bed or quick, and it is usually visible. It is only necessary to snip a small portion of the pointed end of the nail so it becomes blunt.
- It's always better to clip too little, rather than too much.
- If you are really uncomfortable about clipping your cat's nails by yourself, remember that most vets and all groomers will include nail trimming as part of their services. Another option is to have your vet demonstrate how to clip nails when you have your next visit.
Fast Cat Nail Clipping Facts
- Sometimes the cat nail clipping project is easier to accomplish with two people involved instead of just one. Have one person keep the cat still and the other to trim the nails.
- Why do cats systematically scratch household items? They are actually not trying to sharpen their claws. Cats have sweat glands between their paw pads, and by scratching, there are leaving their "scent" and thereby marking their territory.
Some people may be more comfortable using one of the "Peticure" or "Pedipaws" electric nail trimmers as seen on TV. They are not quite as simple to operate as the television commercial indicates, but they can be effective if the cat is OK with the electronic buzzing noise.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
How to Get Your Cat to Accept Grooming
My cat was terrible to groom when I first got her. She had to be completely shaven as she had fur "wings" off her body at least eight inches out.
What worked for us was shaving her completely, and then I would give her two days with the grooming tools out next to the treats. The next day, when she was letting me pet her, I'd casually pick one up, but I wouldn't use it on her.
We did this for probably about three more days. Eventually, I found out that she really loves getting her face scratched. So I started using the greyhound comb just on her cheeks. At first, she was a little put off, but she quickly warmed up. She loves getting her face brushed now. I'll do two or three swipes on her cheeks, and then gently do her back.
Every day, I start with her face, then slowly move to another body part. It's been about eight months, and I still don't groom her in one fell swoop, but every two days I probably finish up whole body.
The trick for me was this: when we were first starting out and saw that she was uncomfortable, I'd either move back to her face where she loved it or soothe her and give her a treat and then be done for the day.
This way, grooming was never scary. I also brushed her every day when she didn't have hair, just to keep her going and used to it, and it worked!
~Mandii E., owner of Himalayan
Shampooing Your Cat Can Help Shedding Problems
Most long haired cats need some help with their fur. Since I started showing Maine Coons, I have learned the fine art of the cat shampoo. And learned that shampooing my cats removes TONS of dead fur. I highly recommend the occasional shampoo.
My cats have no hairball problems because they are shampooed regularly. Yes, we do have shedding, but we would have more shedding if I didn't shampoo them regularly. Any shampoo that works for your cat is fine. Maine Coons tend to get greasy, and dish detergent is often used. Find out what shampoo works for your cat.
Personally, I think that if you aren't up to grooming your long haired cat, you should have chosen a short hair. On the other hand, using that as an excuse to put the cat in a shelter sounds cruel. Learn to groom.
~Valerie D., owner of Maine Coon
Constant Maintenance is Key to Controlling Cat Fur
I've come to the conclusion that constant maintenance is the key, at least for my long-haired cats. I use one of those furminator de-shedding tools to wipe out much of the undercoat, but still, even with vigilant brushing and vacuuming, there's still hair everywhere.
I balked at the price of furminators when I bought mine initially, but I feel they do work well, and the blade on mine has yet to wear out after over two years. Furminate, then brush a few times weekly, but either way, long-haired cats are prone to matted fur which needs to be clipped out periodically.
~Aaron L., owner of Domestic Long Hair
Helping Your Cat with Hairballs
You can help the hairball situation by grooming your cats with a Furminator, Zoom Groom, or the professional groomers' favorite, a metal comb. A regular bristle brush or a metal pin brush can also be useful, depending on your cat's particular fur type. Finally, a bath every once in a while (make sure to scrub well and rinse, rinse, rinse) will also do wonders for getting rid of loose and dead hair. If you help out your cat with regular grooming, there won't be so much necessity for hairball remedies or hairball control food.
~Valerie D., owner of a Maine Coon
If Your Cat Vomits a Lot
If your kitty vomits a lot and hasn't been to the vet in a while, I would take her to the vet for an exam. I have a cat that vomits a good deal sometimes and there is nothing wrong with her, as she maintains her weight. But, something could be wrong with your kitty and only a vet could diagnose the problem. When one of my cats starting vomiting and losing weight, he became allergic to the foods he was eating. It could so many things.
~Patricia P., owner of a cat
Don't Get Too Alarmed
As long as the hairball is mainly hair, I would not worry. It is a normal part of being a cat. I give my cats Petromalt, which they absolutely love and lick right off my fingers. Give it 2-3 times a week until hairball symptoms subside and then lower it to once or twice.
Brushing and bathing can also help remove the loose hair and can help reduce hairballs. I have also heard that Vaseline, butter, and canned pumpkin can help reduce hairballs (although I am not sure of the proper amounts on these last few).
~Ellie C., owner of a Domestic Shorthair