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How to Keep Your Cat’s Nails Healthy in 5 Vet-Approved Steps

Written by: Genevieve Dugal

Last Updated on July 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat paws when sitting on the table

How to Keep Your Cat’s Nails Healthy in 5 Vet-Approved Steps

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

As a responsible cat owner, you’re well aware of the importance of caring for your kitty’s sharp little claws—not only for their health but also to spare your furniture! While our feline companions know how to keep their fur in tip-top condition, sometimes they need help maintaining their nails.

With the right approach, patience, and plenty of pets, keeping your feline’s claws healthy can be a pleasant experience for both of you. Here are the steps to follow to take care of your cat’s claws while sparing yourself a few scratches!

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What Does It Mean to Keep Your Cat’s Nails Healthy?

Cats’ nails are like ours in that they will continually grow if they aren’t trimmed. That said, cats can scratch with their claws—sometimes in inappropriate places, like your favorite couch—to keep them at an appropriate size.

However, checking your cat’s nails regularly is essential to ensure that they don’t get too long. Nails that aren’t trimmed often enough can curl on themselves and become ingrown, which is painful for the cat and can lead to infections. Moreover, their claws can get stuck in carpets, blankets, or other places, which can lead to injury when they try to free themselves.

In short, keeping your cat’s nails healthy means making sure they aren’t too long, injured, deformed, infected, or dirty.

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The 5 Steps to Keep Your Cat’s Nails Healthy

1. Trim Their Nails Once or Twice a Month

The health of your cat’s nails requires regular trimming. The idea is to familiarize your kitty with this process from a very young age, but getting an older cat to be fine with having their paws and claws handled is possible. However, it may take more time and patience!


2. Handle Each Paw With Care

How to clip a cats nails
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It’s essential to cut your cat’s nails in a position that suits them best, whether they’re sitting, standing, or lying down. Pick a quiet place in your house where your cat feels most comfortable, get cozy, close the door, and above all, make sure your kids or dogs don’t come in!

To help your cat get used to having their paws touched, try this exercise. When your cat is relaxed, gently touch the top of one of their paws, and then give them a treat. Repeat this several times, touching each paw separately and giving them a treat each time. With practice, your cat should become more comfortable with having their paws touched.

If your cat seems stressed or tries to bite you, stop immediately and let your cat leave. You can try again when they are calmer. If your cat seems relaxed and peaceful, it’s time to get a pair of quality cat nail clippers and get to work:

  • Place your cat comfortably in the crook of your arm so you are looking in the same direction.
  • Take one paw in your hand and hold it gently but firmly.
  • Gently squeeze the tops of their toes to expose the claws.
  • Place one exposed nail tip into the clipper ring, perpendicular to the nail.
  • Squeeze the clipper to cut. Stop about 2 mm from the “quick,” as this sensitive part contains nerves and blood vessels.
  • Cut the tip of each nail.
  • Repeat with each paw.

3. Provide Multiple Scratching Posts

You can safely encourage your cat’s natural instinct to scratch by providing appropriate outlets. Invest in scratching posts and other cat trees, which are available in different shapes, sizes, and textures at pet stores or online. You can also give free rein to your creativity and DIY an original scratching area for a low price! For example, you can cover a post or large cardboard box with carpet or opt for sisal or rope-like materials for cats that tend to destroy sofas.

Place the posts strategically near your cat’s favorite scratching spots, such as near their resting areas. Some cat parents build custom scratching posts using wood, carpet, fabric, or sisal and make cat trees with many climbing perches and hanging toys.

Whether purchased or built, scratching posts should be sturdy, unlikely to tip over, and at least as tall as your cat when they’re standing on their hind legs with their front paws extended.

orange cats using scratching post
Image Credit: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

4. Check Their Paws Regularly

Take the time to inspect your cat’s paws regularly. Look for any signs of redness, swelling, or abnormalities in the nails or paw pads. Detecting problems early will help prevent potential complications and unnecessary pain for your cat. Furthermore, the more often you check your cat’s paws and claws, the better you will become at identifying potential health problems, such as infections, trauma on the nail bed, or ingrown nails. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice.


5. When in Doubt, Ask for Help

Despite your best efforts, trimming your cat’s nails on your own can be tricky. So, if you are unsure how to keep your cat’s claws healthy or if your cat has specific nail-related problems, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. A pet groomer can show you proper nail trimming techniques, while your vet can ensure that there are no underlying health issues that could affect your beloved beast’s nails.

Cat in a veterinary clinic hairdresser cutting nails
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

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Should You Trim Your Indoor Cat’s Nails?

It depends on your cat’s personality and how much they move around inside the home, but usually, yes, indoor cats need their nails trimmed. In fact, indoor cats typically don’t wear down their nails as much as outdoor cats do. The frequency of trimming depends on your cat’s activity level, how fast their nails grow, and how much they wear down their nails on scratching posts. As a rule of thumb, trimming your indoor cat’s nails every 2 to 4 weeks is advised by most vets. However, if possible, avoid cutting your feline companion’s claws if they go outside, as they need their claws sharp enough to climb trees and escape potential threats.

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Final Thoughts

Keeping your kitty’s nails healthy isn’t rocket science, but it does take a bit of skill, practice, and patience. Some cat parents are lucky enough to have docile fur babies that let their paws be handled without issues, while others may witness their beloved cat turn into a ferocious beast at the slightest touch. In such cases, seeking advice from your vet may be your best bet to prevent any potential injuries.


Featured Image Credit: Nailia Schwarz, Shutterstock

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