clipping cat nails

Cats are fairly independent creatures and don’t require much maintenance or grooming, especially if they have a short coat. However, if you have indoor only cats, then you’ll need to learn how to trim their claws, to prevent ingrown nails, shredded curtains and furniture, and to ensure your feline’s nails don’t get ripped out or caught on clothing or on the couch. Fortunately, clipping a cat’s nails is easy enough, if you use a trimming technique that works for you and your pet and you have the proper tools.

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

With the right tools and the proper technique, you can gently trim your feline’s claws without any serious problems. However, if you have little to no experience with cat grooming and nails, then the entire process may seem a little intimidating.

Below, I’ll go over what type of nail trimmers to use, how to get your cat to tolerate having their paws handled, and how to get through the process unscathed.

Choosing the Best Cat Nail Clippers

You can be a professional at doing a cat’s nails, using techniques a vet will use that are designed to keep a cat calm. However, if you don’t use the best cat nail clippers, you may end up accidentally hurting your feline.

There are many different types of nail clippers you can use:

  • Guillotine
  • Scissors
  • Traditional clippers

Each type of tool has its advantages and disadvantages, so you may want to experiment with a couple of different types for trims and settle on a tool that you’re comfortable using.

How to Keep a Cat’s Nails Short

Many pet owners use cat trees and cat scratching posts to protect their belongings and keep nails at a manageable length. However, not all cats will use a post or sharpen their claws on a cat tree’s rugged surface. If you have pets that turn their noses up at cat trees and posts, then learning how to groom your cat’s nails is a must.

All Cats Scratch

It’s perfectly natural for your cat to scratch the sofa, your bed, the drapes, and even you. Sharpening their claws is an instinctive and healthy behavior that all cats have. Instead of yelling at them for clawing the furniture, try redirecting them. Yelling or punishing them for clawing the couch can be very scary and confusing.

Trimming Frequency

cat getting a nail trim.

The more a cat scratches, the sharper their nails will get. Because of this, they may need a trim periodically. If you notice that your pet accidentally scratches your skin or rips fabric, these signs can indicate it’s time.

Typically, you should shoot for a nail trim every six to eight weeks, unless their nails are seriously outgrown. If they have very long claws, which is a common issue in older pets, then try trimming a little at a time once every two weeks.

Simple Nail Trimming Techniques

Nail health is very important for cats, but cutting them can be more difficult to do compared to dogs because they’re so small. A broken or missing nail can lead to health issues such as infection. But if you can’t afford to have them professionally groomed or you can’t make it to the vet, learning how to do it yourself can save you time and money.

When you clip a cat’s nail, you’re only going to cut off the sharp tips. You’ll want to avoid cutting the cat’s nail too short, which can cause bleeding and pain, should you cut into the quick.

If you have a kitten, it’s best to start clipping their nails at an early age using smaller nail trimmers. If you have older cats that are fearful of nail trims, make sure you give them time to adjust and stop trimming their claws if they seem scared or anxious.

Supplies You’ll Need to Clip Cat Nails

  • Sharp guillotine clippers or other type of nail trimmers
  • Towel
  • Favorite treats or other food
  • Styptic powder

Below, I’ll go over an easy technique a veterinarian uses that you can try when it’s time to have your feline’s claws trimmed.


  • If your veterinarian or groomer had to use a restraint on your animals for a trim in the past, then you can use the same method and place your animal in your lap and wrap a towel around your kitty to prevent them from clawing you or escaping.
  • Begin by setting your kitty on your lap. Gently grasp your cat’s paws and toes. Do not immediately begin cutting, instead, see how your cat responds to you touching and holding their feet. As you touch their feet, rub the toes and make contact with each claw.
  • Many cats become very anxious when you touch their feet or toes, so release their paw and offer a few treats. Touch their foot again and reward them.
  • You can introduce the nail clipper next. As your animal remains sitting on your lap, gently tap the nail clipper against the claws without trimming. When the cat allows you to make contact with a claw without struggling, you can start trimming.
  • When you trim your cat’s nails, if they become restless after using the guillotine on one nail, show some restraint and stop for the day and try again the next. In some cases, you may find that trimming just one or two a day is all that your cat will be able to handle.
  • If the nail trim was a positive experience, don’t forget to give your animal a treat or have a play session right after.

Is Routine Cat Grooming Necessary?

weekly cat grooming

Not all indoor cats will need to have a routine nail trim, but you should still inspect each toe and their claws occasionally to ensure they’re short and healthy and no toe or nail is injured or infected. Outdoor felines know how to take care of their claws and will use trees and other types of rough surfaces to sharpen them, that’s why an outdoor cat’s nails are usually very sharp, short, and well kept.

What to Do if You Cut into the Quick

Clipping a cat’s claws can be very challenging, especially if your cat naturally has anxiety, is restless, or has a short attention span. Keeping a feline calm and preventing them from struggling when they’re getting their nails trimmed is crucial and challenging for some.

If you accidentally cut into the quick, which is the pink part of the claw, your kitty may respond by scratching you, struggling, or some may simply flinch. The quick contains sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels. Cutting into the quick can cause excessive bleeding, pain, and discomfort.

Don’t Panic

If you do cut into the quick when you trim your cat’s nails, try to hold onto them and squeeze the tip of their claw to help minimize blood flow. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the entire paw, since this will cause the quick to bleed even more. Instead, hold their paw gently, while applying a moderate amount of pressure to the claw. Offer treats and have one person hold them as you apply pressure. Extend the nail carefully to treat the cut.

Styptic Powder for Cat’s Claws

Use a styptic pencil or powder to quickly stop the cat claws from bleeding. Cornstarch can also work. Both powder and cornstarch are used to quickly contract blood vessels.

While it can be pretty painful, overcutting a nail isn’t considered a serious injury and it should heal right up within a few days. Apply the powder to the injured pink area and press down firmly.

However, this type of situation can cause your cat to be fearful of having their paws or foot touched after.

You may even notice that your cat avoids being around you for a few days.

Immediately after you have cut the quick and have applied powder to stop the bleeding, try to reassure your pet and comfort them. Stop the nail trimming session if your cat becomes aggressive or fearful. In some cases, a cat will not have much of a reaction to this type of injury, in which case, you can continue to trim their nails. But if they do show any of the signs I’ve mentioned above, it’s best to stop and try again in a few days.

Final Thoughts

Clipping a cat’s nails should become a routine in your home. Not only will it save your furniture, drapes and carpet from damage, but it can also prevent nail infections, ingrown nails and snags. If you’re not able to clip every nail in one sitting, try clipping one or two. It’s important to pay attention to your cat’s body language and end a session if your cat is showing any signs of discomfort, anxiety, or distress. It can take several sessions before your cat becomes comfortable and relaxes when they’re having their nails trimmed, but with patience and positive reinforcement, you’ll find that each session is a little easier.