Cats use their claws for a lot of things, including defense, exercising their leg muscles, and stretching their bodies. But any cat owner will tell you that if you don’t keep claws trimmed, they can damage furniture — and our skin. Here are a few tips to get your cat used to this important and necessary grooming procedure.
1. Choose your clippers wisely
There are three tools you can use to trim your cat’s claws: a tiny scissor with a claw-shaped trimming edge, a clipper with a “guillotine” blade that slides across a small hole through which you put your cat’s claw, and a human fingernail trimmer. Try out all of them and pick the one that feels most comfortable to you.
For best results, whatever tool you use must be sharp in order to prevent crushing the claw and causing discomfort.
2. Start slowly
If your cat hasn’t had her nails done before, don’t whip out the trimmers right away. Start by getting her used to having her paws handled. While you’re petting her, stroke her paws and then gently manipulate her toes, as if you’re playing "this little piggy went to market." If she enjoys that, gradually work up to putting gentle pressure on her paw pads to expose her claws. This can be a slow process, but be patient: The work you do now will make claw trimming a lot easier in the future.
3. Have someone show you how
If you have no idea how to do a trim, have someone demonstrate the technique. Whether that person is an experienced cat caretaker who knows your cat, or a groomer or your vet, it really helps to have someone show you the ropes. There are many resources online as well; two of my favorites are this step-by-step guide from Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine and this video from Dr. Christianne Schelling:
4. Timing is everything
Choose a time when your cat is relaxed. Don’t trim just before meals, or if other cats are milling around nearby.
If you approach claw trimming with a calm attitude, your cat is much more likely to do the same.
6. Reward your cat
Show your kitty how awesome claw-trimming time is by rewarding her with her favorite treat — whether it’s a tasty snack, lots of love and affection, or a round of play with her favorite toy — when she cooperates with you. You may end up doing this every couple of claws in the beginning, but taper off as she cooperates more. Do not give her a treat after she’s run away or done something else you don’t like, such as swatting at you; if you do treat her when she acts like this, you’ll be reinforcing the bad behavior.
7. One at a time is okay
If your cat starts squirming after you’ve trimmed one or two claws, let her go. You want to make claw clipping a comfortable experience, not a form of torture.
Some cats will never love the claw trimming experience, but if you follow these tips, you’re much more likely to be successful in your efforts. If your cat refuses to even try to cooperate, it’s fine to ask a groomer or your veterinarian to give her a trim when she comes in for a checkup.
Do you have any surefire tricks to trim your cat’s claws? Let us know in the comments!