Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

If you’re like most cat owners, you look forward to clipping her nails just about as much as she does! As difficult as it may seem (at first anyway), your couch, curtains, and friend’s feet will thank you. With these helpful tips, and a generous supply of cat treats, you can turn trimming into an easy –and even pleasant – experience for both of you.

The Secret to Successful Clipping: Patience and Preparation

Whatever you do, do not approach your cat with a pair of clippers and try to hold her down. You’ll find out that she’s a lot faster than you thought – and even better at hiding! According to the ASPCA, it can take as long as a month to help your cat feel comfortable having her paws handled. To start, consider where, when, and how.

Where? Choose a quiet room that is as free of distractions as possible.

When? Timing is everything! Choose a time when your cat is relaxed and sleepy, such as after mealtime.

How?  Sit calmly, place your cat on your lap facing away from you, and pick up one of her paws. Simply massage it with your thumb, index, and middle fingers for a few seconds. She may pull away; that’s all right. Keep in gentle contact and wait until she settles back down. Again, pick up her paw and press the pad. The nail will extend out.  When it does, put her paw down, and immediately give her a treat.

While her claw is extended, take a second to look for the quick. This is the pinkish area under the nail that houses blood vessels and nerves. Clipping it can be painful for your cat.

That’s it for today! Every other day, repeat this process on a different toe. Yes, it does take time and patience, but you are teaching your cat to associate clipping with treats and snuggles. This way, when the trimmers do finally come out, it will become an enjoyable experience instead of a battle.

Spaghetti, Anyone?

What type of clipper is best for your cat? There are a few different options available:

  • Guillotine. These have a small opening into which you insert the nail. A blade comes up and cuts the nail when you squeeze the handle. This is a great option, particularly if you have weakness in your hand.
  • Human nail clippers. A pair of standard human nail clippers will do the trick beautifully. (Just make sure to get kitty her own pair!)
  • Scissor-type clippers. These are recommended if your cat’s nails are so long that they’ve started to curl under.

The “best” option is the one that works for you. No matter what type of clippers you select, make sure they are always sharp. Dull trimmers put pressure on nails and can cause breakage and pain.

When you’ve chosen your clippers, go back to your comfortable, quiet room with your cat on your lap. Put a piece of dry spaghetti in the clippers and start to massage her toe. After a second or two, press her toe pad. This time, when the nail extends, clip the spaghetti. It mimics the sound her nail will make so she’s not scared during the actual trimming process. Let go of her toe and give her a treat.

Ready, Set, Clip

Now is the time when all your work and patience pay off!

  1. Sit with your cat facing away from you.
  2. Gently hold one of her toes, massage, and press to extend the nail.
  3. Look for the quick.
  4. Trim only the tip of one nail to avoid cutting the quick.
  5. Give your cat her favorite treat immediately.
  6. If she’s calm, trim another nail. Follow up with another treat.

Most vets recommend doing only two claws per “pedicure” at first. When your cat becomes familiar and comfortable with the process, you can progress up to one paw. Eventually, you may be able to complete both paws in one sitting, but that depends on your cat’s temperament and tolerance.

Clipping your cat’s nails is an essential part of her grooming routine – and may save your furniture from some wear and tear! Plan on taking your time and having a good stock of favorite treats on hand! Soon it’ll become just another chance to snuggle with your furry friend.