How do I Trim a Cat's Claws?

Mary McMahon

By periodically trimming your cat's nails, you can make the cat more comfortable, reduce the risk of damage to your furniture, and avoid accidental scratches. It is relatively easy to trim a cat's claws at home with a few basic tools. To trim a cat's claws, you will need a cat, a nail clipper, and a styptic pencil or swab.

Some nail clippers are specifically made to trim a pet's nails.
Some nail clippers are specifically made to trim a pet's nails.

It is usually easier to trim a cat's claws when the cat is sleepy, so you may want to keep your tools handy so that you can swoop down on the cat as he or she nods off. It is also a good idea to keep calm and maintain a positive, friendly attitude while trimming the cat's claws, as this will reduce the cat's stress and make it easier for you to trim his or her nails in the future. The nail clippers used for trimming can be regular human nail clippers, or clippers designed especially for pet grooming, which you can pick up at any pet store. Finally, styptic pencils are handy in case you cut into the soft part of the nail, known as the quick, because they will quickly staunch bleeding.

Trimming a cat's claws can make the animal more comfortable and reduce the risk of accidental scratches.
Trimming a cat's claws can make the animal more comfortable and reduce the risk of accidental scratches.

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There is no right way to hold a cat to trim its nails. If your cat tends to be very relaxed and calm, you may be able to get him or her to lie in your lap for the procedure, for example, while more restless or anxious cats may need to be actively restrained. The important thing is to be firm, but gentle, while holding the cat, and if the cat becomes extremely distressed, stop and pick up the procedure another time.

If your cat becomes extremely distressed while you're trimming its nails, put it down and try later.
If your cat becomes extremely distressed while you're trimming its nails, put it down and try later.

Trimming the front claws can be easier than trimming the back nails, so you may want to start with a front paw. Gently squeeze the joint just above the nail to force the nail out, and then trim a small amount of the nail off. If this is the first time the cat's claws have been trimmed, you may want to stop here, allowing the cat to get used to the sensation. If not, you can trim a little higher. As you trim a cat's claws, remember to avoid the quick, the extremely sensitive fleshy part of the nail which shows up as a pink streak in white nails and as a dark patch in dark nails; trimming nails in a strong light source can be a good idea, as it will help you see the quick.

As you work, you may want to talk reassuringly to the cat and offer him or her treats to make the experience more positive. If you do hit the quick by accident, and even professionals do this now and then, gently apply the styptic pencil and stop trimming for the day. When you're finished, give the cat a treat to reward him or her for good behavior. If you trim a cat's claws every few weeks, you can establish a regular routine and the cat will grow accustomed to the procedure.

It is easiest to trim a cat's claws when the cat is sleepy.
It is easiest to trim a cat's claws when the cat is sleepy.

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