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.

  1. Long nails can get caught on things in the house and a torn nail may result.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sharp cat claws will shred screen doors, furniture and drapes.
  6. 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.

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