How To Trim Your Cat’s Nails

Veterinarian cut cats claws in vet ambulantYour cat’s nails are an important part of their biology, as their claws are designed to help with hunting, stalking, attacking, cleaning, and eating. When you have a housecat, it is easy to forego trimming their nails, especially if your cat isn’t fond of swiping. However, regardless of how well-behaved your cat is, it is important to keep their nails trimmed and tidy. This prevents your cat from getting caught on fabric and ripping a nail, an injury that could quickly escalate to a more serious medical condition. There are many tactics to make trimming your cat’s nails easier and hassle-free, and we’ve got some great tips lined up for you right here.

1. The basics: Trimming your cat’s nails can be something that you take care of at home, or something that you outsource. If you’re going to do it at home, as many cat owners to, it is important to understand the basics of nail trimming. First of all, you’ll need a designated feline nail trimmer. You’ll never be able to do the task without the proper tool. These are inexpensive, and can be found at any pet store. They usually look like little scissors with a circular cutting area. The purpose of trimming your cat’s nails is to relieve them from the dangers that come with overgrown nails, as well as protecting you from harmful swipes.

In order to get a clean cut, you’ll want to hold your cat’s paw. Gently squeeze the base of the claw, where it juts out from its sheathed area. This will involuntarily extend your cat’s claw from hiding. You should be in a well-lit area so that you can observe the cat’s claw. If your cat has white or light-colored claws, you should be able to see where the bloodline extends to. You’ll want to trim just before the bloodline. If you accidentally snip too close to the bloodline, you will cause your kitty some serious discomfort.

If you are nervous or can’t see your cat’s bloodline due to dark claws or any other factor, you should either have your cat’s nails professionally trimmed, or just lightly trim them yourself. All you really need is to remove the super sharp tips and any extreme excess length that could cause discomfort in your cat.

2. Outsource the task: If you’re afraid that you aren’t experienced enough with trimming your cat’s nails, or you simply would rather a professional handle it, you have some options. Professional cat groomers almost always offer nail-trims. This won’t cost much, and only takes about fifteen minutes. Veterinarian offices also typically offer nail-trims. These professional venues will ensure that your cat’s nails are trimmed to a proper length, and that your cat won’t be injured in the process.

This service could be included with your regular checkup, routine professional grooming session, or just on its own. This is a good way to handle nail-trims if you have a feisty kitty and don’t have a good assistant to help you with the task. If you do decide to have it done at the veterinarian’s office, you’ll be taking care of multiple errands all at once, especially if you have any specific questions that you need answered or any other health inquiries.

When you take your cat to have their nails trimmed, they will be in a more stressful situation than they would if you took care of the task at home. Be calm, as your cat relies on your attitude to set theirs. Make sure to pay attention and watch how the professionals do the nail trim so that if you do decide to take a crack at it, you’ll have first-hand examples to go from.

Playful Kitten3. Get your cat in the mood: In order to make trimming your cat’s nails a painless and easy process, you’ll want to trim on your cat’s terms. This isn’t to say that cats enjoy having their nails trimmed; in fact even the most well-behaved cats take issue with it most of the time. However, you can prepare your cat for a nail trim in a few different ways.
– Use catnip: If your cat is known to trip out on catnip and then take a serious snooze, you may want to consider giving your cat some catnip before attempting to trim their nails. Most cats that react to catnip react first with a burst of energy followed by a sleepy sedation, so pay attention to the way that your cat reacts to catnip the next time that you give them some. This could be a helpful tool in preparing your cat for a nail trim.
– Play beforehand: Cats love to play, and you can use this to your advantage when your kitty is due for a nail trim. By playing with your kitty, you’re forcing them to extend energy that they’ll feel later on. Most cats can exhaust themselves through play, and in turn will be in great shape for a calm nail trim.
– Get a good meal in: Another way to naturally calm your cat is by giving them a nice meal. Give your cat a nice heap of their favorite food, and wait until they’ve digested and taken their after-meal nap to approach with the clippers. Never attempt to trim your cat’s nails while they’re face-first in their food bowl, as this could create a negative association with the feeding area.

These tactics are meant to prepare your cat for their nail trim by calming them down. If your cat is calm, they are more likely to allow you to touch their paws and get in for a trim.

4. Take your time: On the same note of going along with trimming while your cat is calm, you’ll want to be patient when it comes to the actual trim. A good idea would be to actively try to get all of your cat’s nails over time, and not necessarily all at once. Just like with affection, even the greatest cats have a tolerance limit for activities that could displease them. If your cat is calm for only enough time to trim one paw, don’t be discouraged. The nicest thing that you can do for your cat is let the trim happen in a calm way. If you don’t let your cat get so riled up that they are distressed and run away, they’ll be more likely to allow you to trim for longer next time. It is all about building up tolerance when it comes to trimming your cat’s nails at home. Have the nail clippers near a spot where you and your cat frequently relax together. This way, you’ll be prepared to do a few snips the next time your cat is in their calm state of mind. Back off before they get feisty, and you’ll soon be able to give them a full trim in no time.

5. Utilize treats: If your cat is food-motivated, you’ll want to harness the power of the treats for nail-trimming time. Follow the steps listed previously and make sure that your cat is in a calm, collected mood. As you begin to rid your cat of their pointy sharp claws, you’ll want to reward their positive behavior with treats. You may even be able to distract your cat so much that you get through all four paws with the treat-tactic. Your cat will always love treats, and likely won’t associate treats with nail-trims any time soon, regardless of how you use them. Treats give your cat a distraction and a reward all in one foul swoop.

6. Have a friend help: If your cat simply won’t let you get near their paws, you may want to enlist in the help of a friend or family member to step in as your assistant. Your assistant can help by distracting your cat with treats and pets while you get down to business on their paws. A friend can also help you with restraining your cat if you plan to go for gold and get all nails trimmed in one session. Make sure to not be too rough with your cat, as this will only make it more difficult to trim their nails and upset them further. You can have your friend hold your cat’s neck and scruff so that they can’t bite you, or hold them in a blanket, burrito-style, so that no other limbs can come out and attack you besides the one paw that you’re attempting to trim.

Cat scratching showing room7. Provide scratching posts: Scratching posts are a way to deter your cat from scratching on furniture, as well as keeping their nails down to a healthy length. If you’ve ever seen your cat chewing at their nails, this means that they are too long and proving bothersome for your cat. You may still need to come in for regular trims, but a scratching post could potentially solve many of the issues that come with long cat claws. If your cat isn’t initially attracted to the scratching post or pad for whatever reason, you can try placing catnip and/or treats on the scratching area to try to attract them.

When your cat is scratching, they are doing a few things:
– Marking territory: As discussed in Kitty Paws 101 (ilnk), your cat uses his/her paws to mark territory through scent glands located in their paw pads.
– Trimming their nails: Cats are disturbed by long claws just as much as humans are. They can tell when the dead layer of nail has grown out too far and will work to trim their nails themselves by scratching.
– Stretching: Cats utilize scratching to help them stretch parts of their body that wouldn’t be stretched otherwise. By extending their retractable claws, they are stretching everything from their back to their elbows to their claw sheaths.

As you can see, many cat owners have a hard time with trimming their cats’ nails. Keeping your cats’ nails short is a key part of grooming and taking care of your kitty and all their needs. Although they may act like they hate what you’re doing, your cat will appreciate the freedom that they have from the lack of sticky sharp claws. Whether you’re going to take your cat to the veterinarian, or trim at home, having a kitty with trim and proper nails will help you, your cat, and your carpet and furniture more than you could ever expect!