cutting cat's nails

Just because a cat seems to groom themselves several times a day doesn’t mean they don’t need some human intervention in the grooming process. In fact, learning how to cut your cat’s nails will be important, since many felines spend most of their days indoors and don’t have the opportunity to sharpen their claws on rough surfaces outdoors. Nail care is an important part of feline health and one part of the grooming that requires human attention. This article will discuss the benefits of nail trims and how to do it gently, without upsetting your cat.

Why You Need to Learn How to Cut Your Cat’s Nails

If you don’t want to take your pet to the vet for a routine trim, then learning how to do it yourself can be a great way to save some money, but can also make this grooming process more convenient for you and your pet, since you won’t have to leave home.

Cats are very independent, sometimes stubborn creatures who usually hate to be groomed, brushed, or have their claws trimmed. Most cats are known to be very choosy about cat litter, pet food, and grooming needs. You may be lucky and have a cat who is very tolerant, but most likely, you have a cat that puts up a struggle or makes a run for it every time they see you pull out the nail clippers or try to touch their paws. Some pet owners will take their cat to the vet for a trim, especially if their cat is very anxious and refuses to sit still.

If you’re a new kitty owner, then you may have had no idea that they need to have their claws trimmed. Many new pet owners mistakenly believe that cats handle this themselves, but if left uncared for, cat nails can grow uncomfortably long, which can become a health risk.

What Happens if You Don’t Trim Your Cat’s Nails?

cute cat getting a trim

A regular nail trim will minimize the damage to furniture, carpet, clothing, and drapes. Cutting the claws correctly can prevent them from getting snagged on the furniture, carpet fibers, and other fabrics in the home. If you have a cat that loves to knead your skin this can be very uncomfortable for you if their nails are long. Additionally, nails that are neglected can curl under, growing into the toe pad. This can cause significant pain and discomfort and may lead to an infection, which would require veterinarian attention.

Nail Trimming Frequency

How often you trim your pet’s claws can depend on whether your pet is indoor-only and their age. If you have a kitten, then you can give your kitty a trim pretty frequently, allowing them to get used to the proc, which will make trimming their claws as adults much easier.

For Seniors

Older animals may require regular trims every couple of weeks since many senior felines have trouble retracting their claws, which makes their claws more prone to breaks.

Outdoor Pets

Outdoor animals may not need a trim very often since they’ll take advantage of the rough surfaces available outdoors in order to sharpen their claws. An outdoor cat will also need longer nails to defend themselves against predators.

Cat Nail Anatomy

behave kitty

Before you give cutting your pet’s claws a shot, it’s important to learn about cats and their unique nail anatomy. Most cats have eighteen nails, with five claws on each front paw and four on each rear paw. Keep in mind, a cat’s nails will retract when they’re at rest. The claws can be extended for trimming, all you need to do is apply gentle pressure to the paws and on the bottom and top of a toe.

Nail Quick

Learning about the quick is important information that will ensure nail health, while reducing the chances of injuring the quick. The quick is the pink part of the claw that contains nerve endings and blood that provides and feeds sensation to the claws. If you overdo it and cut into the pink part, it can lead to bleeding and can be painful and uncomfortable for your kitty. Fortunately, the quick doesn’t extend throughout the entire nail. You’ll need to identify the end of the quick and clip below it to prevent the quick from bleeding.

Steps to Trimming a Cat’s Nails

owner cutting cat's nails

The first step when you’re dealing with cat nails is to find a quiet spot, one that’s away from the kids and noise.

Get Your Cat Comfortable

Make sure you spend some time petting your cat before you begin a nail trimming session. You can also use a towel to wrap around them. This will help your cat to relax and will make them feel more secure. Gently rub their paws and speak in a soothing voice.

Practice Extending the Claws

Place your cat in your lap. Before you start clipping, practice extending the claw by applying a little pressure to the bottom and top of each toe. Have treats on hand so you can reward your cat as they sit quietly and allow you to extend each claw. If your kitty is particularly uncomfortable with having their paws touched, then you may not even get to clip their claws at first. However, this will give you a good opportunity to touch their feet and get them used to having them handled.

Look for the Quick

If your kitty is still sitting peacefully in your lap as you touch their paw, make sure you identify the quick before you make a cut. Remember, the quick is the pink portion of the nail at the toe end. The quick contains the blood vessels and nerves. Cutting into this area will cause pain and bleeding. A cat’s nails are semi-translucent, so you’ll notice that there’s typically a good distance between the quick and the tip of their nails. Try to trim just the tip as the tip is where it’s safe to cut.

Use Sharp Clippers for a Safe Nail Trim

Look for deals online or check your local Petco for the right tools to use. Always make sure you use a pair of sharp clippers that are appropriate for your pet’s nails and comfortable to hold. Small scissor-style clippers can be easier to use and more comfortable for cats but watch out for dullness. A dull blade can lead to breaks.

Best Nail Trimmers for Thick Nails

trimming cats nails

For a cat with thicker nails, you’ll want to avoid these scissor-style clippers in favor of a guillotine tool. This type of tool is equipped with an oval ring in the center, which is what you’ll place the tips through. The sharp blade will slide closed over the exposed tips of the nails.

Position the Nail Trimmer Correctly

Once it’s time to trim, take your pet’s paw and use your index finger to position the sharp tips of the clippers at a slightly forward angle on the nail. Firmly close the clippers over the tips of the nails for a fast and clean cut.

Hitting the Quick

If you accidentally placed the clippers too high on the tips and cut into the quick, stay calm and don’t show any visible signs of distress. This will only cause your cat to become anxious and possibly bolt. Since the quick contains blood vessels, you can expect some bleeding.

Styptic Powder

Get Your cat positioned in your lap, with their injured paw firmly in your hand. You can use styptic powder and apply it liberally to the bleeding nail. Styptic powder can be found at a local pet store, or you can order it online. This product is designed to stop the blood flow immediately, simply press the powder onto the nail and hold it in place for a few seconds.

Helpful Nail Cutting Tips

bengal cat on display

· Never use human nail clippers, which are not specially designed to accommodate the contours and shape of a feline’s nails. Tools that are designed for a cat will have a sharp tip and an angled design that makes cat nail clippers easier to use correctly.

· You may want to have some friends help with the trimming process. You can have a couple of friends hold and stroke your kitty as you move from toe to toe. This can be very comforting for your pet, especially if they’re prone to anxiety.

· During nail trims, it’s important to stay relaxed. Your cat can tell a lot from your body language. If your cat senses that you’re fearful, anxious, or tense, they will be on alert and ready to make a run for it. Relax and take things slow. Try not to be disappointed if you can’t trim every nail in one sitting.

· Have kitty food on hand and reward your cat for remaining calm. This may even cause your cats to look forward to having their nails trimmed in the future. After each nail you clip, give your cat a little food. After you’ve done this a few times, you can increase the number of toes you clip before giving them a treat. Move to every two toes, then every three, until you’ve managed to give them one treat per paw.

Signs that Your Cat May Bolt or Scratch

When a cat is stressed, they usually display a few typical responses: fight, flight, or freeze. When a cat freezes, they seem to fall into a type of zen-like state that allows them to dissociate from the situation. Unfortunately, they will also quickly move from zen to making a run for it or they’ll seemingly scratch you out of nowhere. If you’re concerned your cat is going to make a run for it or scratch your hand, wrap a towel around their body, burrito-style. Another good idea when you notice this behavior is to stop what you’re doing and call it a day. Some felines are more fearful and skittish than others. You can also try turning a regular play session into an opportunity for nail trims, cutting one or two at a time.

Tail and Ears

Keep an eye on their ears and their tail. Flattened ears means your cat is scared or angry. A puffed out, twitching tail can mean your pet is about to fight or make a run for it.

Body Language

Pay attention to your pet’s body language. If a kitty is panting, becomes stiff, or begins to growl, it’s time to quit for the day and try again some other time. Leave the area and give your pet some space.

Final Thoughts

vet cutting cat nails

Learning how to cut your cat’s nails is a standard part of grooming health, but it will also save your furniture, your skin, and can prevent your cat from snagging one of their nails on the carpet, drapes, or couch. Acclimating a cat to having their nails trimmed is not an easy job. It can be a very traumatic, stressful time for them, especially if they’ve had a bad past experience having a trim done at the groomers. Using the right tools and taking your time to show your cat that they’re safe will go a long way toward how successful your cat nail trimming experience will be. In some cases, you may only be able to trim one nail a day. This is perfectly fine. Going slow and being considerate of your cat’s feelings will ensure the next time you attempt to clip their nails, they’ll be more relaxed and tolerant, which will lead to easier and faster nail trimming sessions in the future.