How to Clip your Cat’s Claws

How to Clip your Cat’s Claws

Does your cat regularly get hooked up on carpet?

When your cat kneads on your lap and you experience the “Ouch” factor, then she may need her nails trimming. However, there is a right and a wrong way to clip claws, and even when you do it right not all cats is keen on having their toes touched. So to ease the trauma of claw clipping, here is our guide to no-tears nail trimming.


Happy Feet

Don’t run before you can walk. First of all make sure your cat is happy having her feet handled. Not all cats are. If yours is super sparky when you reach for her paws, and then be pre-pawed to take to turn things around and teach her to enjoy a pedicure.

Do this when she’s relaxed beside you on the couch, by lightly stroke her legs. Travel your hand as low as you can before she gets angsty, and praise her patience. Have some tasty cat treats to hand, and give her titbits as a reward for letting you intrude.

Clicker training can help with this as the click-clack builds an association between it and rewards. Let her get accustomed to your touch as you build up her tolerance. The eventual aim is to have her happy with you holding her paws before you try nail trimming

Another top tip is to do any pedicures or paw handling before meal time, so she gets her supper as a reward. This builds paws-itive associations between feet and a happy tummy.


Access All Areas

Now she’s happy with her feet being touched, know how to get access to pop those nails from their sheaths.

Cats have retractable claws. This means it’s not always easy to see the claw you want to clip. Think of the unsheathed claw as being on the end of a toe containing bones arranged in a “W” shape. Place a finger on top and a thumb below the toe (or W) and squeeze gently. This should flatten out the folds of the “W” and pop that claw out of its hiding place.


Take Time to Avoid the Quick

Now look for the living part of the nail, called the quick. This is richly supplied with blood vessels and nerves, and is painful when clipped.

It’s super easy to see the quick in light-colored claws, as you should spot its pinky glow. Know the quick comes to a point and simply snip the tip of the claw, whilst taking care to steer clear of the quick.

Know that you don’t have to clip all the claws in one go. What often works best is trimming one or two nails a day, stop before the cat gets resentful and give her a treat. This reduces the risk of things deteriorating into a fight and you stand a better chance of keeping Kitty happy.

Don’t worry if the nail seems to slough off in your hands. You haven’t hurt the cat as this is perfectly normal and happens because the claw grows in layers like the skin of an onion. When the body registers the claw is damaged, it simply sheds the outer most layer. This is a clever mechanism on the part of Mother Nature, to make sure cats always have sharp weapons at their disposal for fighting or climbing.

It’s a good idea to snip the tips of claws once every couple of weeks, which is frequent enough to stop them growing overlong.


Clippers or Snippers?

As long as the blades are sharp, you don’t need particularly heavy duty clippers. Indeed, if you’re just snipping the tips then small pedicure scissors designed for rabbits are ideal.

Claws clippers come in different styles from plier type clippers to guillotine cutters. As a general rule, how sharp the instrument is matters more than the type, so chose the style of clipper you feel most comfortable with.


Alternatives to Clipping

If you’re not comfortable with clipping claws or the cat won’t co-operate, then look at the alternatives. For sharp claws (rather than overly long) try using a coarse emery board to buff the tips off. The same rules apply, which are to first ensure you have a happy cat, then reward her co-operation, and just do one or two nails at a time.

Another option is to encourage your cat to enthusiastically indulge in that most natural behaviors that is scratching. This is how Mother Nature intended the cat to condition her claws, and the act of scratching is hard-wired into the cat’s psyche.

Providing an outlet for this natural behavior could not only save your from having to clip claws, but also save your furniture from trauma. Purchase a sturdy scratching post so that she can comfortably rake her nails down or across it. Some cats prefer vertical scratching to horizontal, so orientate the post accordingly. See also: How to Stop your Cat Scratching Carpet and Furniture

Site the post near her bed or entrances and exits, which feeds into her natural inclination to scratch. Teach her what to do by gently taking her paws and making slow scratching movements on the post, which helps spread her scent on them which will draw her back.

And finally, if in doubt about how to clip your cat’s nails have your local friendly vet tech show you.