In my mind, trimming a cat’s nails always seemed like an impossible task. I thought of it as being like bathing a cat– something that only a masochist would do. So, for years, I allowed my cats to grow out their claws, which meant some damage to my furniture and a few playful scratches here and there. It wasn’t until I saw my vet clip my cat’s nails as easily as she might trim her own that I realized how simple it really is.
I asked my vet to show me how to trim cat claws without it leading to disaster, and the process was so simple that I felt silly for avoiding it for so many years. Here are the simple steps you can take to trim your kitty’s claws.
1. Get snuggly. Grab a pair of nail clippers and coax your kitty into your lap. Pet him and talk to him until he’s calm and relaxed. A cat is much more likely to cooperate with nail-clipping if you initiate it while snuggling him, instead of simply pinning him down with no preparation. Some cat nip or a treat might help.
2. Grasp your cat’s paw firmly but gently, with your fingers on the pad of his paw and your thumb above. Press one toe with your finger; this will cause him to reflexively extend the claw. This provides easier access to the claw so you can trim it effectively.
3. Examine the claw to identify the quick. It is a pink-toned center that contains blood and nerves; you should be carefult o avoid clipping it. The curved part of the claw should be the only part you remove, so be sure to identify it before cutting.
4. Use nail-clippers to trim the curved part of your cat’s nail, between the quick and the sharp end. Do it quickly and nonchalantly to minimize stress for your cat. Repeat this with all of his front claws.
5. While you might choose to trim your cat’s hind claws next, this is a bit more difficult and not really necessary. Cats don’t normally attack people or damage furniture using these claws, so the stress of the additional nail-trim isn’t really worthwhile. However, you can use the same method for back-claw trimming if you decide that it’s necessary for your cat.
6. Praise your cat and give him a treat for his cooperation. By giving your cat a treat or some snuggles as a reward for his good behavior, you help to encourage him to associate nail-clipping with pleasure, not discomfort. Make sure you shower your cat with love and attention afterwards, and he’ll likely be very cooperative the next time you need to trim his nails.
Of course, there are situations in which owners simply can’t realistically trim their cats’ nails. Even the most meticulous of owners can make mistakes and injure their pets. If this is a major concern to you– or if you cat simply won’t let you cut his nails– leave it to your veterinarian or groomer. Ask your vet for a step-by-step demonstration if you’d like a little extra help learning this fairly simple, but somewhat intimidating, skill.