Do you trim your cat’s nails? Here’s why you should.
Tigers keep their nails sharp by scratching on tree trunks, and, like their big cousins, cats do the same! When scratching on posts, tree trunks, and even the furniture, cats are not only marking the surface with their scent but also sloughing off the old, frayed layers of their nails to expose fresh, sharp claws ready to pounce on the world.
While kitties do a good job keeping their nails in fine murder-mitten form, extra sharp claws just won’t do in a household setting. With all the soft surfaces and human skin in the house, cat claws that grow too long can cause problems for a kitty. While cats always need their claws, helping them keep their nails at a manageable length is a must. Meaning you and a pair of clippers will need to intervene to save fabric and flesh!
Clipping cat nails may seem like a challenge, but with patience and positive reinforcement, you and your cat will be pros at nail trims in no time. This important task will help save your cat from paw injuries, resulting in nails growing too long and getting hung on soft surfaces. Plus, when cat nails are left to grow, they tend to curl into sharp daggers, which can penetrate the soft paw pad, causing pain.
While experts recommend every 10 days to 2 weeks as a reasonable basis for cat nail trims, it really depends on your cat’s claws. Dr. Ireifej suggests, “There is no specific guideline as to when to trim a cat’s nails, as each cat has a different rate of nail growth, but eventually you will be able to gauge how often it needs to be done.”
If it’s been a while since the last trim, you’ll know it’s time when your feline starts looking like their paws are stuck to the furniture or the carpet because their claws keep getting caught.
But when it comes to clipping your cat’s nails, where do you start?
First, you’ll need to choose whether you’ll want to use clippers or a grinder for trimming a cat’s nails.
When it comes to clippers, you can choose either scissors-style, guillotine clippers, or even human nail clippers as cat claws are small enough to fit between the blades. It depends on your preference, but the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University recommends the guillotine or human fingernail clipper as the easiest to use for trimming cat nails and using the scissors-type “if a toenail is so long that it is curling in a circle.”
Some cats could care less about getting their nails trimmed, watching nicely as they wait for the treat they know will come in the end. Other felines can be a nightmare when they see the clippers come out, fighting with all their strength to bail out. For cats who feel mortal terror at the sight or the sound of clippers, try a grinder or an emery board instead.
Grinders will gently grind down the nail, dulling the sharp tip to a blunt length that will keep the kitty from getting snagged on the couch or in your skin. But if the grinder’s sound or vibrations bothers a cat’s sensitivities, try a simple nail file instead. Just grab an emery board and give your kitty a mani!
Okay, so you’ve got the cat and the clippers, let’s get trimming!
Some cats will settle right into your lap for the trim. Others may need convincing and can be bribed with love and treats. Then, there are those cats one might call difficult. And just how do you trim a cat’s nails when they don’t want you to? Very carefully!
Seriously, if your cat is difficult during nail trims, consider wrapping them in a towel or blanket to keep them gently restrained. You’ll only need one paw out of the wrapping at a time. This type of restraint can also help kitty feel calmer.
You can even enlist the help of a second person when trimming your cat’s nails—one person to hold while the other clips.
With one of your cat’s paws in hand, select a toe, and using your thumb, gently push forward to expose the claw. You’ll notice the sharp, white tip and a pink center closer to the paw. This tiny white tip is what you will trim. It will be so small a clip, you might think you’ve nipped off nothing at all!
But before you set to clipping or grinding, let’s talk about the pink part inside the claw. Be certain not to cut into this extremely sensitive portion of the nail! Known as the nail’s quick, this soft tissue is rich with nerves and blood vessels and will cause pain if penetrated. Imagine cutting into your nailbed. Yes, that cringe-worthy pain you imagine is the same a cat will feel if their nail quick is nicked!
In case of an accidental cut to the nail quickly, apply styptic powder to the bleeding tip. If you don’t have styptic powder, use flour, cornstarch, or even a dry bar of soap to stem the bleeding.
Alright, you’ve learned where to cut the nail and studied your clipper or grinder instructions forwards and back. Your cat is relaxed in your grip, and you’ve identified the safe zone from the quick zone in your cat’s nail. It all comes down to this. Position the blades and make the clip with quick, firm pressure! Repeat on all of those adorable little toes and feet, back paws included.
Don’t forget the dewclaws! Because dewclaws are situated on the inside of the front paws, these gripper claws can be tricky to clip. You’ll have to maneuver the dewclaw away from the paw, but be careful not to cause discomfort when stretching the claw from the paw for access.
After the nails are nice and tidy, reward your kitty with hugs, kind words, and a load of treats!
If you don’t feel comfortable clipping your cat’s nails, schedule an appointment with the vet to have the kitty’s talons trimmed. While you’re there, ask the doctor or vet tech if they’ll demonstrate how to trim a cat’s nails for you.