Trimming your cat’s nails can be a bit of a challenge, but it is an important job. You know that annoying feeling you get when your toenails are getting too long? Your cat gets a feeling like that too. When they want to shed those long nail tips, that’s when they start scratching everything in sight. Don’t resort to declawing your cat ( declawing is inhumane) to control the scratching behavior – give your cat a pedicure!
Title Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary via Flickr
Click here for a few other humane alternatives to declawing!
A few important tools will help you to both train your cat to allow you to trim their nails and actually do the trimming.
- Nail trimmers.
There are several varieties of nail clippers that will work for trimming your cat’s nails. One note of caution: while many people use human toenail clippers, these are more likely to cause the nail to split. Clippers made for cats will work best. Keep them sharp to avoid hurting your cat by applying too much pressure on the nail.
- Cat treats.
Cats are never quite thrilled about having their nails trimmed. Treats are important for training and can make the experience more pleasurable for you cat.
- Styptic powder, cornstarch or a dry bar of soap.
This will come in handy if you ever cut into the quick and need to stop the bleeding. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but better safe than sorry.
- Dry spaghetti.
This will be used in the training process. Keep reading, you’ll see. Trimming your cat’s nails is a learning process for your cat too.
Training Those Tootsies
Take some time to get your cat used to having their paws held and let them become accustomed to the clippers. This may take a few weeks, but it will be worth it. Just follow the 3 steps below.
Step 1: Touch those tootsies!
In a place with few distractions, allow your cat to relax in your lap. Gently touch the cat’s paws for a few seconds. Give the cat a treat when he/she allows you to touch their paws. That may be as far as things can go for a while. Once you are “allowed” to touch the paws, try holding the paw or at least touching the paw pads. Give the paws a little massage. Once again, give treats for receiving the behavior you wanted.
Step 2: Extend the claws.
Now that you can touch both sides of the paw, it’s time to work on getting the cat to allow you to extend its claws. Apply gentle pressure to the paw pad and the top of the toe right behind the claw and the claw should extend. Only work on one or two toes every training session. Give your cat a treat when they allow you to extend a claw.
Step 3: Introduce the clippers.
While still using a relaxing setting with your cat in your lap, start showing the clippers to the cat. Place a treat on top of the clippers and let the cat take it off of them. Continue touching their paws in the presence of the clippers. Let these strange metal objects become familiar to your cat.
Once you feel that your cat accepts the presence of the clippers, it’s time to whip out the dry spaghetti. Go through the process of massaging the cat’s paw, extending the claw, and showing the clippers to the cat. Then as you extend one of the cat’s claws, hold the clippers near the cat and cut a piece of dry spaghetti. This will help your cat get used to the noise that the clippers make when trimming your cat’s nails. Don’t forget to give your cat a treat for allowing you to make that noise near them. As soon as your cat gets used to the noise, it is time to try and trim!
How to Make the Cut
When you are ready to trim, extend the cat’s nail and look for the quick. The quick is the pink part of the nail which contains all of the nail’s blood vessels. This part of the nail is very sensitive so you want to make sure not to cut into it. Try to trim off just the sharp tip of the nail – just a few millimeters off of the end. There is no need to cut it close to the quick.
If you accidentally cut into the quick, the claw will begin to bleed and you will need styptic powder, cornstarch or a dry bar of soap to stop the bleeding. Don’t panic if this happens, this is not likely to result in any permanent damage. If you are concerned about the injury, call your veterinarian.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Trimming Your Cat’s Nails
- DO cradle your cat in the crook of your arm rather than just laying them in your lap if it is easier for you.
- DO give your cat a treat for letting you clip their nails.
- DO take your time and get the desired results. Training takes time. If you can only trim one nail every session, that’s still a win.
- DO expect that your cat will want to run straight to the scratching post every time you clip their nails. According to cat behavior experts, that is perfectly normal and positive.
- DON’T raise your voice or attempt to punish the cat for not allowing you to do any of the steps in training or the actual clipping. This may cause your cat to associate the training with being punished. Simply reward the behavior you want to see.
- DON’T cut more than one or two nails at a time until the cat is used to having their nails trimmed.
- DON’T attempt to trim the cat’s nails when the cat is not calm and relaxed.