How to trim Cat Nails? – In 7 simple STEPS

Posted by | Feb 24, 2017 |

Trimming cat nails
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Author Amira

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I’m Amira, founder and editor at Cattention.

This website is dedicated to share useful but entertaining information and help You understand Your cat’s actions, behavior and needs.

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While most people tend to think that clipping cats’ claws is not necessary, the truth is, trimming cats’ nails should actually be the part of their regular grooming routine.

Keeping a cat’s paws and claws properly groomed is essential in many ways. It is not only beneficial to the owner but the cat as well. While it can save your furniture (and you), it can also keep your cat at an optimal state of health.

Knowing this, many cat owners are still hesitant about trimming their cats’ nails as it seems to be a challenging and stressful task. However, with few helpful tricks and tips, a little practice and a lot of patience, this process can become quick, easy, painless and fairly enjoyable for both cat and owner.

So how to trim cat nails?

This article is here to help you learn everything you need to know about cat nail trimming, including how to train your cat to accept her claw trimming, how to trim your cat’s nails, as well as how often should they be trimmed. You can also get to know the benefits and the reasons behind along with other useful details and information.

How to trim cat nails in 7 simple steps – The procedure in short

If you are wondering how to trim your cat’s claws, here is how to do it right in 7 simple steps:

  1. Prepare the things
  2. Position your cat
  3. Expose the nail
  4. Find the quick
  5. Trim with ease
  6. Repeat from 3 to 5
  7. Release and reward

While the above process seems to be fairly easy, trimming a cat’s nails can be quite challenging and difficult if it is not well-prepared in advance. Read on to get to know the essential things required for the process, how to prepare yourself and your cat for the procedure and how to get it done properly.

Things you need for trimming cat nails

Learning how to trim a cat’s nails starts with a very important task: getting the right equipment. If you want to make sure to trim your cat’s claws in the proper way without harming your cat, having the right tools is absolutely essential.

So what supplies you need to trim your cat’s nails at home? First of all, you need a high-quality cat nail clipper and styptic powder, and you can also go for some treats and a bath towel. Let’s take a closer look of each of these items.

Cat nail clippers

Trimming a cat’s nails can be challenging as it can easily cause discomfort (splitting or breaking the claws), bleeding and even pain for your cat if it is not done correctly with the right tools.

Since cats’ claws are very different than ours, it is better not to use human nail clippers on them. Baby nail scissors are not designed to clip cats’ curved nails either, and dog nail clippers are also not suitable for cats as they are too large which could cause injury on the cats’ small paws.

While using the wrong tool can cause unpleasantness for your cat, it can also add to your difficulties when clipping her claws.

Cats’ claws are tapered, sharp and pointy so get a good pair of nail clippers designed especially for this type of claws.

To trim your cat’s nails you will definitely need a quality pair of cat nail clippers that can help you do your job easier, quicker, more efficient, and trouble-free while keeping your cat’s claws neat and healthy.

While there are four main different types of cat nail clippers (scissor, guillotine, plier and electric types) and each comes in a huge variety of different styles, cats’ claws can best be cut by using the plier type cat nail clippers.

The very best pair is the Safari Professional Nail Trimmer. It not only encompasses everything an excellent trimming tool must have but also features additional great qualities like blades with curved edges for better visibility, safety guard for safer usage, and locking blades for safer storage.

However, you cannot go wrong with any other nail trimmer that has stainless steel, sharp blades, rubber coated handles, makes no or very less noise, and fits in your hand comfortably.

BUT!

Please, always make sure that the blades are extremely sharp. While using poor quality dull blades will not only hurt your cat but will also make your job longer and harder, sharp cat nail clippers will ensure a quick, fine and painless cut.

Check the blades each time before trimming, and if you notice that the blades have gone dull (need more pressure to cut the claws or the cut is not fairly clean), either sharpen the blades or discard the entire cat nail clippers and purchase a new pair.

Also, make sure that the cat nail clippers you use are always exceptionally clean to prevent infections and ensure your cat’s overall health and hygiene.

All in all, regardless of the type and style of cat nail clippers you choose, always keep them sharp and well-maintained for a quick, easy and painless cut. And if you are not satisfied with the clipping result, you can always use a nail file to smooth the end of your cat’s claws.

Safari cat nail clippers

Styptic powder

Since accidents can and will happen while clipping your cat’s claws, it is also essential to have styptic powder on hand.

When it comes to clipping a cat’s claw too deep, aside from being extremely painful, it can result in a rush of blood for hours creating a mess, and lots of anxiety for all concerned.

Styptic powder is a first aid white powder product for cats that will cauterize and stop the bleeding caused by trimming nails and accidentally clipping too deep back to the blood vessel in the claw.

One of the best styptic powders on the market is the Remedy and Recovery Professional Groomer’s Styptic Powder for Pets.

It is a quick, safe and effective powder that dries up blood, liquid, and moisture in no time. Manufactured in the US, it is a high-quality remedy for clotting blood almost instantly with no anesthetic or antiseptic in the product. This styptic powder has been used by professional groomers all over the world for many years.

How to use it? If you cut too deep, your cat may cry and struggle to escape but do not panic. Sooth your cat and treat her wound with this styptic powder by applying it on the bleeding area (usually the nail tip) with a tissue dipped in the powder. Hold it on this area while using direct, moderate pressure on it.

It not only coagulates the blood almost instantly but also creates a clog at the bottom, preventing bacteria from entering the blood vessel. Hold the claw for 1-2 minutes, and if you cannot get bleeding to stop, consult the nearest veterinarian.

Important safety warnings: This styptic powder is for animal (cats, dogs, and birds) use only. It is not recommended for use on severe wounds or on deep cuts that require stitches. Also, please always read and follow the label’s instructions and warnings.

Consequently, take exceptional care to avoid cutting too deep into your cat’s claws to prevent pain and excessive bleeding. However, don’t forget to keep a clotting solution like styptic powder on hand for a quick and effective solution in case of an accident.

Styptic powder for cats

Special cat treat

Since most cats do not really like their nails to be touched and cut, you should have a supply of your cat’s favorite treats on hand during trimming time.

Giving your cat lots of praise, treats and positive attention during and after grooming her nails will help to enforce cooperating with the nail trimming, so it is wise to find a treat your cat cannot resist and keep this treat only for this procedure.

One great treat example is the Temptations Classic Cat Treats that feature a unique tidbit that is delightfully crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside with no artificial flavors.

How to proceed with it? When you finish each unpleasant process (like practicing the position, touching her paws and trimming her nails), reward her good behavior immediately with this treat (or even a toy) so that she can have a good association with the trimming procedure.

Temptations Cat treat

Bath towel

In case you would have a hard time trimming your cat’s nails because they are very sharp or she hates having her claws touched and cut and tries to scratch you and escape making it impossible for you to trim her nails, you can try wrapping her in a towel exposing one paw at a time.

Since you will wrap your cat in this towel, make sure it is large enough but not too rough so that it will not irritate her.

This will help to make your cat calm which will reduce struggling and keep her away from injuring herself and you.

7 crucial things to know before you start trimming your cat’s nails

Trimming your cat’s nails does not have to be a challenging, stressful task. With preparation and some simple tricks, you can make it quick, easy and even enjoyable.

First of all, having all the right tools ready is the most important step in trimming a cat’s claws. However, being aware of the right moment and location, getting the cat to accept the procedure and of course knowing what to cut is absolutely essential as well.

While the actual process of trimming a cat’s nails is pretty simple if one is well-prepared, the preparation takes a lot of practice and patience.

The following useful tips will help you make nail trims with your cat a quick and easy task.

Number 1: Know the timing

While learning how to trim a cat’s nails starts with getting the right tools, understanding the importance of the timing is imperative as well.

You can’t just trim your cat’s claws whenever you want. You have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity because if your timing is right, the task becomes significantly easier.

So what is the best time to trim your cat’s claws?

First of all, never attempt nail clipping when your cat is agitated, restless, hungry or in an aggressive mood. Also, don’t try to trim her claws right after playtime or a stressful experience. Even if you notice a broken or splitting nail, do not cut it immediately, instead, wait for the right moment like:

  • When your cat is sleepy. One of the best time is when your cat has just finished a period of activity or ready to take a nap and she is too lazy to care.
  • When your cat is relaxed and calm. You should pick a time when your cat has just finished her meal, coming out of a nap or resting at her favorite place.
  • When your cat is napping. Many cats can be clipped when they are sleeping. If you have a cat like that, try to trim her claws during her naptime.

In consequence, the calmer your cat is, the more cooperative she will be, which means good news for you: the easier the task becomes.

Number 2: Pick the right location

If you have ever tried to trim a cat’s nails, you most probably know how important it is to pick the right location.

Every cat owner knows that cats are amazingly curious and get distracted very easily. So finding the right place is a basic requirement for a proper trimming session.

So what is the best place to trim your cat’s claws?

  • Bright: Make sure the room is bright enough (has natural light or well-lit) so you can see properly what you are doing.
  • Quiet: Always trim nails in a calm, quiet room where your cat feels safe and relaxed.
  • Comfortable: Choose a spot that is comfortable for both you and your cat.
  • Distraction-free: Take care that your cat won’t be distracted by activities inside or even outside and ensure that other pets are not around.

All in all, the best place for a trimming session is a bright and quiet location (like a bathroom) with the door closed. Don’t try to trim your cat’s claws where there is a lot of activity (busy area like the kitchen or near the window) and avoid areas where other pets are around.

Number 3: Prepare your cat for nail trimming

Most cats like to be in control and do not like people touching their paws, so trimming their nails can be tricky especially if they are not used to it.

If you approach your cat straight with a sharp object in one hand and trying to reach out for her paw with the other hand without any preparation, do not expect cooperation. This act could frighten your cat and make her feel threatened.

Since trimming claws is a procedure you will want to do regularly throughout your cat’s life, it is worth it to train your cat to accept the procedure calmly instead of creating a stressful and dangerous event.

For this, long before you begin, make sure to earn the trust of the cat. The more comfortable she is with it, the easier for you and the better for both of you.

During this session, you won’t attempt to trim the claws. Instead, you will accustom your cat having her paws handled and squeezed. While this process takes time (one or two weeks) and effort, it will make the entire procedure less threatening to your cat and more efficient to you.

Step 1: Arm yourself with your cat’s favorite treats

Whether your cat is an adult or a kitten, you have to make sure that the process is fun and the experience is positive because if you create a negative association, your cat will response with resistance any time she sees the clippers.

So along with reassurance, petting, and praising, you can also use treats after every successful step to give your cat a distraction and make a positive association with her paw handling and nail trimming.

Once your cat learns that there is a positive event at the end, she will become tolerant which in return, will make the whole procedure easier for you.

Step 2: Get your cat into the trimming position

Holding your cat in a comfortable trimming position is one of the most important keys to having a successful trimming session.

To be able to use cat nail clippers safely, you will need to make sure your cat is comfortable and relaxed. If your cat is already sitting in the right position to have her nails cut, it will make the actual trimming much easier for you and more tolerable for your cat.

What positions can you try?

Sitting position:

  • Sit down on a comfortable surface (like couch, bed, or chair or even on the floor) and place your cat on her rear on your lap facing away from you.
  • To restrain your cat, circle your arm around her and hold one paw in one hand (eventually you will hold the nail clipper in the other, dominant hand).
  • When you are at the stage of trimming you can also turn your cat slightly to have a comfortable position for clipping her claws.
  • This is an ideal position as you can have full control that allows you to easily clipping your cat’s nails.

Lay back position:

  • Sit down on a comfortable surface and place your cat on your lap upside down with legs facing forward (just like a baby).
  • While this is also a great way to trim cat nails, it can only be done if your cat is tolerant enough and enjoys this position.

What if your cat doesn’t like to be picked up?

You can try putting your cat on a stable surface or approaching her when she is napping, and just take one paw in your hand.

What if your cat moves too much?

Some cats will calmly sit on your lap or happily rest on a stable surface while trimming their nails, however, there are cats that require some form of restraint.

If you have a hard time getting your cat into position for nail trimming (because she is trying to escape and scratch you), you can try another effective method of restraining her which won’t increase her stress level: wrapping your cat in a towel.

Put a large, thick (but not rough) towel on a flat surface and position your cat on top of the towel in a lying down posture. Wrap the towel over your cat while leaving her head and one paw out, then cuddle your cat in the towel, gently pet her back, and give her some treats for her good behavior.

Meanwhile, make sure not to put your cats’ feet into uncomfortable positions and use the least amount of restraint as excessive restraint will make the procedure less pleasant and more dangerous.

While this method can stop your cat from fighting, keeps her calm and secure, in long term, it is best to train your cat to accept trimming without having to restrain her to make the whole process quicker, easier and safer.

In consequence, while some cats do well without holding them at all, most cats need to be held firmly but gently. Try out these different positions and stick to the one whichever method is most comfortable for you and your cat. Practice having your cat sit this way and reward her with treats and praise.

Step 3: Habituate your cat for having her paws handled

Most cats hate having their paws handled. So after your cat is comfortable in the trimming position, the next step is to make her feel comfortable about having her paws held and massaged.

When your cat is sitting with you with an ease, gently touch her paws for some seconds while petting her in her favorite spots. Once she is comfortable enough with your gentle touch without pulling her paw away, you can start holding her paws, touching the pads and the nails.

Gradually work up to holding each paw firmly for around half a minute. This can take even for a week with regular, daily handling.

Once your cat is relaxed and not sensitive about having her paws touched and held, gently take one of her paws between your fingers and massage it in a circular motion for a couple of seconds. You can even try to rub your fingers between her toes. This motion will prepare her for having her nails exposed.

Make sure your cat stays comfortable during this process. However, be prepared that most cats will initially react by taking their paws back or even walk away.

If this happens, follow her movement but do not squeeze or pinch it. Let it go and don’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want. You can continue gently pet her paws whenever you have the opportunity. Eventually, she will realize that paw handling is part of your interactions with her.

Practice handling and massaging all your cat’s paws every day for at least a week before even grabbing the cat nail clippers. And whenever you handle your cat’s paws, reward her with treats she is particularly fond of so she considers having her paws handled as a positive experience.

While this process may be a slow start, building this trust is important.

Step 4: Practice pressing the paw to expose the claw

Cats’ nails are naturally retracted most of the time. However, for trimming claws, the nails should be visible. So once your cat allows you to handle and massage her paws without any fear, you can prepare your cat for clipping.

Hold the paw in one hand. Place your thumb on top of your cat’s paw and the rest of the fingers underneath for support.

Apply a small amount of pressure by pressing your thumb and fingers toward each other. Make sure not to squeeze as it can cause discomfort to your cat. Be very gentle and gradually increase the pressure. When you do this, it will push the claw out and will stay extended until you release your fingers.

Hold it for a second and then release the paw without clipping, and again, don’t forget to reward your cat with treats and praise.

Practice this on one paw at a time and move on to the next one as soon as she is comfortable with the first. Repeat this process every day until your cat accepts having all her nails exposed.

Once your cat is completely comfortable with having all her paws handled and pressed, you can attempt the first actual nail trimming.

Number 4: Know what you cut

Being the one to do the trimming, it is essential for you to know your cat’s paws properly not to harm her during the process.

Having differences between our nails and cats’ claws, it is important to be aware of the anatomy of your cat’s nails, where the nerves and blood vessels begin, and to know and recognize the excess part you have to trim.

How many claws do cats have?

Most cats have four paws and a total of eighteen toes. Because the claws are located on their toes, cats have the same number of claws as they have toes.

While the front paws have five toes, the hind paws have four toes. The fifth toe of the front paw is known as a dewclaw, and as it is a little bit raised it does not touch the ground. Cats do not have dewclaws on their hind paws.

While most cats have eighteen toes, it is not uncommon to find cats with more toes. These cats with extra toes are called polydactyl.

These polydactyl cats’ extra one, two or three toes are most commonly found on the front paws only, though on very rare occasions you might find cats with extra toes on their hind legs.

Anatomy of a cat’s nail

Cats have retractile claws, so in order to visualize and analyze your cat’s nails, you need to hold a paw in hand (your thumb on top of it and the rest of the fingers underneath) and apply a small amount of pressure by pressing your thumb and fingers toward each other to expose the nail.

While you are doing this, look at your cat’s claw closely how it is structured.

What is a cat’s nail made of?

First of all, know that the cats’ claws are made of keratin, and the outer layer of it consists of dead keratin which is commonly known as a sheath. When a cat scratches, she instinctively does it on rough surfaces to get rid of this old sheath.

What are the parts of a cat’s nail?

A cat’s nail can be divided into two main parts.

The first part of the claw structure is a clear, semi-transparent thick part of the nail, called the claw tip. This part shapes a sharp end and contains no nerves or blood vessels.

The second part is a pinkish area running down the center of the claw, located towards the cat’s toe, and does not extend through the entire nail. It is known as the quick. Being part of the cat’s paw, the quick is a living tissue of the nail that contains nerve endings and blood vessels.

Since each of the cats’ claws are usually similar, you can expect that the location and the size of the quick for each nail would be roughly similar.

What if your cat has black nails?

While most cats have light-colored, clear claws making it easy to see the whole nail structure, in some cats the nails are darker (blackish) which makes it difficult to see the claw tip and the quick.

If your cat has black claws, take a closer look and notice that the base of the claw has a triangular shape and it ends in a pointy hook. In this case, the pointy hook can be considered as the claw tip.

However, if you still have doubt, try to find one clearer nail and shine a light behind it making it easier to visualize. Since each of the claws will be similar, you can use this nail as a reference for the others.

Where to trim a cat’s nail?

The trickiest part of trimming a cat’s nail is learning where to clip because trimming too much can hurt the cat and cause injury.

While trimming, there is only one goal: to make the sharp edge shorter and more manageable (not completely declaw it) without harming the cat. For this, we have to be well-aware what should be and what shouldn’t be cut.

Since the transparent tip of the claw is the area that forms the sharp edge and has no nerves or blood vessels, this is the only part you can safely trim.

The other slightly pink-colored part of the nail, called the quick, is a sensitive living tissue with nerve endings and blood vessels, therefore, this area should be well-avoided and never be cut to avoid injury and pain.

Rules when you trim your cat’s nails:

  • Most importantly, never cut to the quick.
  • Aim to clip between the quick and the sharp edge.
  • Trim the very tip off the end, around 2 mm away from the quick.
  • Do not forget to trim the dewclaws, back claws, and extra claws either.
  • Do not cut the claws aggressively.
  • Do not try to trim the nails extremely short or cut very deeply.
  • If your cat has black nails, cut only the very tip with more frequency.
  • When in doubt, trim smaller portion (less than you think you should).
  • Do not cut unless sure that you can do it without harming your cat.

Note:

If you have never trimmed your cat’s nail, it most probably has long blood vessel while the claw tip will be short. If you trim small portions often, over time, the quick of the nail recedes allowing you to clip your cat’s nail shorter and shorter until it reaches an optimal length which can take even up to 3-4 trimming sessions.

What happens if you trim your cat’s nail too deep?

If you cut your cat’s claw too deep, in the quick, it will start bleeding causing an unpleasant and painful (maybe even traumatic) experience to your cat. The deeper you cut, the more bloody and more painful for your cat.

This painful experience may develop a fear of the procedure in your cat, causing her to be more averse to having her nails trimmed in the future.

However, you do not have to panic about bleeding. If you do happen to cut the quick, sooth your cat and apply styptic powder on the bleeding area (usually the nail tip) with a moderate pressure on it. The bleeding should stop soon, in one or two minutes.

After the bleeding stops, you have only one task left: work on gradually regaining your cat’s trust in the trimming procedure.

Number 5: Introducing the cat nail clippers

Trimming your cat’s nails without any chaos and trouble will highly depend on the usage of the cat nail clippers and the acclimatization of your cat to the site and sound of nail clippers.

Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you know how your cat nail clippers work and your cat knows how they sound.

Holding and using the cat nail clippers:

Holding and using the clippers at a right angle to the nail can make the cut neater and cleaner.

First of all, always hold the cat nail clippers in your dominant hand. Secondly, the blades of the trimmer should be positioned on the sides of the claw facing you rather than your cat. Avoid cutting parallel to the claw (from top to bottom) to prevent splintering and crushing the nail.

Now, let’s see how the different cat nail clippers work:

  • The scissor and plier type cat nail clippers function just the same as scissors: The curved edges fit around the claw and cut it off by snapping the sharp blades together from both sides.
  • The guillotine type cat nail clippers work by inserting a cat’s claw in the circular opening at the bottom (where the blades form a loop) and squeezing the handles. As the handles are closing, the blade is sliding through the nail and cut it safely off.
  • The electric type cat nail clippers slowly grind down the cat’s claw after switching the device on.

If you are still unsure about the usage of your cat nail clippers, you can try them by practicing on a piece of spaghetti. By doing this, you can gain confidence and a good understanding of where your clippers will cut.

Getting your cat used to the nail clippers

While in most cases calmer cats do not need to be habituated to the site and sound of the nail clippers, snappy and tremulous cats do need some preparation and training.

To train your cat not to be afraid of the cat nail clippers, sit down with her in the trimming position, and introduce the trimmer gradually.

First, just show it to your cat, then you can touch it to her paw. If she is tolerating this, you can press her paw to expose the nails and gently tap the clippers against a nail without actually clipping it.

Since often it is the noise of the clippers that scares away a cat, it could even be helpful to desensitize her to this by clipping a piece of uncooked spaghetti while exposing her nails. This will get her used to the sound of the nail clippers.

During this familiarization, please make sure to always observe your cat’s reaction.

If she starts to panic any time during the process, take a few steps backward and try it again later. However, if she reacts well for any of these movements, reward and praise her so that she has a positive association with the trimming process.

Don’t forget, the goal eventually is to get your cat allow you to trim at least one nail.

Number 6: Be patient, remain calm and be positive during the process

Since most cats don’t like their paws to be touched which is essential for nail trimming, creating a calm and positive environment for it is the key to a successful procedure.

Start slowly

There are cats that are fearful of nail trimming. If you introduce the trimming session slowly and give your cat some time to get used to it, sooner or later it will become just a normal grooming routine for her which your cat will not mind doing.

Remain calm

Trimming a cat’s nails will be the easiest if you deal with a calm cat. Since cats can feel our energy and emotions and will respond accordingly, it is very important that you avoid getting frustrated. If you get upset, your cat might react with aggression. So always remain calm and gentle. The calmer your cat is, the easier the process will be for both of you.

Be patient and do practice

Since most cats don’t really like nail trimming, it could take a lot of patience to introduce it to them. While inexperienced nail trimmers might find the process challenging at first, with some practice the event will become less stressful and more relaxed. The more practice you get, the easier it becomes. So remember to be patient and do not mind to practice.

Be positive

Don’t forget to be positive: praise and reward your cat during practicing as well as during trimming. It will make your cat happy to adjust and cooperate, and will also have a positive association with trimming.

Be confident while trimming

Always work confidently when clipping your cat’s claws. It can avoid splintering and breaking the nail. Also if you are nervous, your cat can become nervous as well. So keep the experience confident and positive to have a relaxed clipping process.

All in all, start slow, practice a lot with patience and be confident and positive during the process.

Number 7: Don’t rush and take breaks

Trimming your cat’s nails needs a lot of concentration and focus. Do not think to get it over faster is better as you may end up with a traumatized and injured cat.

Instead, it is better to trim your cat’s nails slowly while petting and praising her. Work at your cat’s speed so she will never panic. Go slowly and do not rush.

Also, note that you do not have to trim all the claws at once.

If this is your first trimming time, even if you just trim one nail that should be enough to get started. If your cat does not seem to be bothered about it, proceed with another one, two or three nails until your cat is calm. Clip as many as you can, and reward her for being obedient as soon as the job is finished.

However, if your cat becomes anxious and impatient and retreats her paw, do not squeeze it, don’t raise your voice and don’t punish her, just let her go.

Cats have remarkably good memories, so if you fight with her during nail trimming, it is highly likely that the procedure will get more and more difficult over time.

Trimming off less nails more frequently is better than making the experience frightening and unpleasant and having your cat run every time she sees the nail clippers in your hand. The key to success is to avoid overstressing your cat and keep her calm.

To achieve this, learn to become familiar with your cat’s attitude and work on her nails on her pace. Offer her breaks and treats, and if she is too stressed, take a longer break. Depending on your cat, this might mean some minutes, some hours and some cases even days. However, if you do it this way, it will be easier on your cat.

Also, gradually move forward and increase the number of nails you trim in each sitting: first trim only one or two nails to practice then build it up to one paw and finally increase it until you can clip all four paws in one session. This may take several sessions and several days.

While this requires a lot of patience and some effort, after a few times, your cat will get used to it making nail trimming a pleasant experience.

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The procedure in detail – How to trim cat nails in 7 simple steps

Trimming a cat’s nails can be a challenging, difficult procedure if you are not well-prepared in advance. However, with the previous crucial things in mind, the process is relatively easy and should only take a couple of minutes to complete. But how exactly do you do it? Let’s learn how to trim cat nails in 7 simple steps:

The cat nail trimming procedure

Step 1: Prepare the things to the right location at the right moment

The first important thing for a successful nail trimming is to wait for the right moment to do it because if your timing is right, the task becomes significantly easier.

Choose a time for nail trimming and get your cat when she is either calm and relaxed or sleepy. You can also try to approach her when she is sleeping. This way she will not fight when getting the job done.

The calmer your cat is, the more cooperative she will be, and the easier the process will become be for you.

Once you have the timing right, you can start the procedure by gathering all the essential things to a quiet, distraction-free, comfortable and most importantly, well-lit spot.

Collect the main thing: the sharp cat nail clippers, and also prepare styptic powder and your cat’s favorite special treats. You may also want to get a towel to wrap your snappy cat in it.

Before you begin trimming, pour some styptic powder in its lid to keep it ready in case you cut the quick.

Once you have everything ready, prepare yourself for a calm and confident nail trimming for the best results.

Step 2: Hold your cat in trimming position and grab the cat nail clippers

Holding your cat in a comfortable trimming position is another important key to having a successful, easy trimming session.

Once you collected your cat and took her to the prepared place, sit down with her and hold her in trimming position. You can try any of the following:

  • Sit down and place your cat on her rear on your lap facing away from you.
  • Sit down and place your cat on your lap upside down with legs facing forward (just like a baby).
  • If your cat does not like to be picked up, you can put her on a stable surface or approach her when she is napping.
  • If your cat is quite active and moves too much, you can wrap her in the towel you prepared.

While some cats do well without holding them at all, most cats need to be held firmly but gently. Try out these different positions and stick to the one whichever is most comfortable for you and your cat.

Support your cat securely and relax her by speaking softly and stroking gently.

Once your cat is calmly and comfortably placed into trimming position, it’s time to pick up the cat nail clippers. Please make sure to always hold the tool in your dominant hand.

Step 3: Hold your cat’s paw and expose the nail

Now, that your cat is in position with you with an ease and you hold the cat nail clippers in one hand, gently pick one of the front paws (the one you want to work on) with your other hand.

Spend some time touching and massaging this paw while soothing your cat and petting her in her favorite spots because if you try to trim her nail immediately, she is most likely to get thrilled with the process. Always make her feel comfortable to reassure that there is nothing to worry about.

Once your cat is relaxed and comfortable enough, you can prepare the paw for clipping. Since cats’ nails are naturally retracted, you have to make sure that the nails are properly visible.

Place your thumb on top of your cat’s paw and the rest of the fingers underneath for support and apply a small amount of pressure by pressing your thumb and fingers toward each other to push the claw out as much as possible.

Now, that your cat’s nail is exposed, hold the paw firmly in this position (but do not squeeze hard) while speaking to her gently, and move on to the next step.

Step 4: Take a good look at the claw and identify the location of the quick

Before doing the actual trimming, take a very good look at the claw as trimming too much can hurt your cat and cause injury.

If you look closely, you will see that your cat’s nail is divided into two main parts. While the first part of the claw structure is the clear, semi-transparent claw tip which shapes a sharp end, the second part is a pinkish area, called the quick, which runs down the center of the claw, located towards the cat’s toe, and does not extend through the entire nail.

In case you have a cat that has black claws, take a closer look and notice that the base of the claw has a triangular shape and it ends in a pointy hook. In this case, the pointy hook can be considered as the claw tip and the other part should contain the quick.

Since, the quick is a living tissue of the nail (being part of the cat’s paw) that contains nerve endings and blood vessels, cutting too deep and clipping into this part can cause pain and bleeding.

So be careful with this area and before you attempt to trim your cat’s nail, make sure to locate where the quick ends and plan to trim accordingly.

Step 5: Trim your cat’s nails with ease

After exposing the nail and locating the most sensitive part, the quick, now it is just a matter of clipping the nail using the cat nail clippers.

Remember, you are not trying to remove the entire nail. The only goal is to make the sharp claw tip shorter and more manageable without harming your cat.

To avoid injuring your cat, follow the next steps:

  • As you hold the cat nail clippers in your dominant hand, open the cat nail clippers and simply place it around the extended nail. The blades of the trimmer should be positioned on the sides of the claw facing you rather than your cat. Avoid cutting parallel to the claw (from top to bottom) to prevent splintering and crushing the nail.
  • Place the nail clippers to the right position of the claw. Aim to clip between the quick and the sharp edge, around 2 mm away from the quick. If you have doubts, aim to clip just a little bit, at the point where the nail starts to curve downward.
  • Trim the sharp, very tip of the nail in one smooth, confident motion, as slow squeezing on the nail will be irritating for the cat and could cause the nail to split. Also, avoid cutting into the quick as it can cause the nail to bleed and hurt your cat.
  • Once you trimmed your cat’s nail, check between the toes and also examine the paw pads for any signs of cuts, foreign bodies or soreness. If you notice anything unusual, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Safety rules when you trim your cat’s nails:

  • Do not cut the quick.
  • Do not use dull cat nail clippers.
  • Do not cut the claws aggressively.
  • Do not trim the nails extremely short or cut very deeply.
  • When in doubt, trim smaller portion (less than you think you should).
  • Do not cut unless sure that you can do it without harming your cat.

Step 6: Repeat the procedure from step 3 to 5

After you have successfully trimmed one claw and your cat does not seem to be bothered about it, proceed with another one, two or three nails in the same way as you managed the first one.

Repeat the process from step 3 to 5 for as many nails as you can until your cat is calm and comfortable before she becomes impatient or anxious.

If your cat gets stressed and struggles, don’t raise your voice and don’t punish her, just talk to her calmly. If this doesn’t help, take a break and try to continue it later.

Wait until your cat calms down and becomes comfortable again and then attempt to trim the next nail. Clip every claw including the dewclaw on the inner side of the front paws and the extra claws if you have a polydactyl cat.

While many cats need only their front claws trimmed regularly depending on their activities, still take a look at your cat’s hind claws as well to see if your cat is keeping them short enough. These claws may not need regular trimming, however, once in a while they might get longer and in this case, they can be trimmed in the same way as the front claws.

No matter how many claws your cat allows you to trim, be consistent, firm and patient and always make sure that you keep the experience as pleasant as possible.

Step 7: Release your cat’s paw and reward her with special treats

As the last step, release your cat and give your cat her favorite special treat. You can praise and reward her between clips, in the middle of the procedure, or even after each nail, just make sure to always end the session in a positive way.

Giving your cat special treats will help your cat associate having her claws trimmed with a positive experience and this will help foster cooperation in future nail trimming sessions.

Once you successfully managed to trim all your cat’s nails, give her a reward for cooperation, praise her for good behavior, pet her for a job well done, and spend some time playing with her. All these positive things will lead her to associate the trimming session to some treats and fun experience which she will never mind getting.

What if?

What if you trim too deep and it starts bleeding?

Once in a while, you may accidentally clip too deep right into the quick. This can happen even to experienced people.

Since the quick is a living tissue of the nail that contains nerve endings and blood vessels, clipping into it will cause bleeding and an unpleasant, painful (maybe even traumatic) experience to your cat. The deeper you cut, the more painful and bloody it will be.

If you do happen to cut into the quick, your cat may cry and struggle to escape, but do not panic. It is nothing serious and should heal in a very short time, maximum 5-10 minutes.

Just sooth your cat and treat her wound immediately by applying the prepared styptic powder on the bleeding area with a gentle, moderate pressure on it, without squeezing the paw (this could increase the blood flow) for a few moments.

This will coagulate the blood almost instantly and also will create a clog at the bottom, preventing bacteria from entering the blood vessel.

After treating the claw, give your cat extra attention and loving, stop the rest of the trimming as she can associate the experience with pain and make sure your cat doesn’t lick her wound. Also, monitor this cut nail for infection (swelling or redness) for a couple of days.

If the bleeding persists or the nail becomes infected, get in contact with your veterinarian or the nearest emergency cat clinic for examination.

Since this painful experience may develop a fear of the procedure in your cat, causing her to be more averse to having her nails trimmed in the future, after the bleeding stops, you have to work on gradually regaining your cat’s trust in the trimming procedure.

What if you are not satisfied with the trimming result?

After trimming your cat’ nails, you might not be satisfied with the result because in some cases the nails can be stringy, splintered or broken.

In these occasions, you can consider using a nail file to clean up any imperfections and smooth the rough edges starting from the back of the nail and following the curve to the tip.

However, the easiest way to clean up the splinters and broken pieces is to let your cat do it by herself. Just provide something sturdy your cat can scratch on (such as scratching post or cat tower) comfortably, and she will complete her manicure by naturally sloughing off the pieces. It is also a good way for her to let off steam she may have developed during the procedure.

Trim or not to trim

Now, that you know how to trim your cat’s nails, it makes sense to understand whether you should really do it or not and why.

First of all, be aware that claws are important for cats as they rely on them to a certain degree. They use them for:

  • communicating,
  • exercising,
  • stretching their muscles,
  • relieving stress,
  • climbing,
  • marking territory,
  • hunting and attacking prey,
  • fighting,
  • defending themselves.

So if the claws are this much useful for cats, should you even trim them?

To get a clear answer, carefully consider how much your cat uses her claws and how much she is depending on them to accomplish things. If you have doubts, here are some tips:

Things to consider before trimming your cat’s nails

  1. Is your cat an indoor or outdoor cat?

Outdoor cats may not need their claws to be trimmed as climbing and walking on rough surfaces will naturally wear down their nails and keep them from growing too long. Also, they use their claws for climbing, getting around, hunting, and defending themselves, therefore, it is beneficial for them to have longer claws. So while clipping an outdoor cat’s nails isn’t generally necessary, it is absolutely important to keep an eye on their paws regularly for overgrown claws, infections, and injuries.

On the other hand, indoor cats may enjoy using scratching post but that is not enough to stop claws from getting too long. These cats don’t need their claws to hunt and defend themselves so their claws can become very sharp and overgrown easily unless they are clipped regularly.

So, while outdoor cats may not need regular nail trimming (only very rarely), indoor cats do need their nails to be trimmed regularly.

  1. Does your cat use her claws to get around?

If your cat doesn’t climb much and doesn’t use her claws to accomplish things, feel free to clip her claws regularly. However, claws may be essential for cats that use their nails to get around in the house. But, you may still want to clip off the claw tip for safety reasons.

  1. How is your cat’s condition?

There are certain conditions when cats do need regular nail trimming whether they are indoor or outdoor. While cats with arthritis usually don’t exercise enough to wear down their claws, aging cats often have overgrown, thick and brittle nails. These cats definitely need regular clipping.

  1. How is your cat’s temperament?

It is not easy to deal with a nervous or aggressive cat. If you have a feline with a hard temperament, a slight nail trim may make life easier for both of you.

In the end, consider all of the above mentioned factors to determine if you should trim your cat’s claws, or just leave her alone. And once you decided to trim those claws, take a look which claws should be trimmed.

Should all the claws be trimmed?

It is quite obvious that the front claws should be trimmed. But what about the rest and what about the extra toes?

Dewclaws:

While you start the nail trimming procedure with the front paws, do not forget to clip the dewclaws as well. This is a nail on the inner side of each front paw.

Since these are a little bit raised and they do not touch the ground, they don’t get worn down with usage like the other claws do, so they tend to overgrow curling up in the soft paw. So if these dewclaws are neglected, they can easily cause severe pain and infection.

Do not forget to trim the dewclaws!

Back claws:

Since cats do little damage with their rear claws and do a good job of keeping them at an optimal length by themselves, it is common to only cut the front claws. Nevertheless, do take a look at them every time you finish trimming the front claws to see if your cat is keeping them under control.

If needed, do clip the back claws as well.

Extra claws:

If you have a polydactyl cat, she has extra toes with extra claws. These nails are most commonly found on the front paws only, though on very rare occasions there are cats with extra toes on their hind legs.

Extra claws are harder to trim so you may have difficulty clipping them. However, if you feel comfortable trimming these nails as well, please do so as they can easily become overgrown.

If your cat is a polydactyl, do not forget to trim all the extra claws!

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Reasons – Why is it necessary to trim cats’ nails regularly?

Cats scratch, and the more they do, the sharper their claws will become. Also, cats’ nails grow constantly and if left unattended they can cause a great variety of problems.

Having plenty of scratching posts might help to a certain degree, however, it does not eliminate nail trimming completely.

Even though cats are meant to have claws for several reasons (including communicating, exercising, marking territory, hunting, and defending themselves), keeping their nails trimmed is important for many reasons.

It not only ensures our own safety but also keeps our cats’ overall health in good condition. Here are some of the reasons why trimming a cat’s claws is an essential thing to do:

  • Sharp claws can cause pain for people and other pets:

Cats can be potentially dangerous if their claws are kept too long. Sharp cat nails not only can cause painful scratches but also can lead to serious injury.

While consequences can be some bleeding and a little wound, sometimes, deep scratches can even become infected (known as scratch disease) leading to further serious health problems.

Children are particularly vulnerable, however, a long clawed cat can also cause injury to other pets. So to minimize the possible injury, trim your cat’s nails regularly.

  • Long claws can damage household items and clothing:

Cats love to scratch and knead on anything they can get their paws on. They will try to sharpen and wear down their claws by scratching different surfaces, and they won’t mind doing so on the carpet, sofa or even curtain.

Long, sharp claws can also easily snag in clothes. So if your cats’ claws are not maintained properly, they can easily damage all your belongings.

To reduce damage in your household items and belonging, it is essential that you keep your cat’s nails at an optimal length.

  • Long claws can cause discomfort for cats:

Cats with long claws are likely to have their claws get caught easily in a carpet, curtain or furnishing. When a nail gets caught, the cat might have difficult time to free herself which can easily lead to injury or in some cases even distress or trauma.

Long nails can also cause painful walking to cats. When nails overgrow, the cats might not be able to retract their nails so they will be pushed up against the nail bed making it difficult to walk.

In addition, to avoid this pain these cats will have bad posture that can lead to further issues. So over time, this will hinder their walking, playing and life quality. To avoid all this problem, clip your cat’s claws on a regular basis.

  • Long claws can cause several health problems to cats:

Untrimmed cat claws can cause a variety of problems. First of all, longer nails are prone to splitting and breaking which is very painful for a cat.

Also, cats’ nails grow very fast, and if left untrimmed, they tend to overgrow curling inwards and eventually will grow into the paw pads. This can lead to ingrown nails that can injure the pads and feet causing difficult walking and extreme pain for the cat.

In addition, when cats’ nails grow too long, they can be more prone to infections as they can potentially harbor harmful bacteria.

You can minimize all these risks by trimming your cat’s claws regularly.

  • Long, sharp nails are not good but declawing is even worse:

Even though long, sharp nails can cause a variety of problems and trimming cat nails can be quite challenging, declawing should never be an option.

Declawing is a permanent amputation of the first joint of the cat’s toe which is highly discouraged by many veterinarians and cat experts.

It is not only painful, but also has a risk of infection and bleeding, and also can have a number of potential psychological and behavioral effects like increased biting, litter box avoidance or depressed, stressed or even aggressive behavior.

Please do not ever consider getting your cat declawed. Instead, trim your cat’s claws with a good pair of nail clippers.

When to start trimming a cat’s claws?

Since most cats hate having their paws handled and nails to be trimmed, clipping those sharp claws may seem to be a hard task. As you might expect, your cat can panic, you can get scratched, so for sure it won’t go easily for the first time.

But, most cats can easily be trained to allow nail trimming. Since kittens adapt to changes easier than older cats, it makes perfect sense to start trimming your cat’s nails as early as possible.

The younger your cat when you start, the more likely she will be fine having her paws handled and getting her claws trimmed. Also, the longer you wait, the harder it becomes. So the sooner, the better.

Ideally, you can start training your cat even as young as a month old.  At this age, she is more willing to cooperate. Start with playing with her paws, gently pressing the paw pads, and touching her claws every day. This regular bonding will make her feel comfortable with having her paws handled, and will get her used to the sensation of nail trim before she even needs it.

Rewarding your kitten with a treat after handling her paws will make the process even more enjoyable for her. Make it a calm, weekly routine and your cat will grow up knowing it as a part of her lifestyle making your job easier when it comes to clipping.

Eventually, you can start using nail clippers with an ease with a cooperating, easy to handle 2 months old cat.

What about older cats?

Teaching your cat to accept paw handling and nail trimming is easier if you begin when she is still young, but cats of any age can also be trained to accept having their nails trimmed.

If you are dealing with an older cat, you are likely to encounter some resistance and might have a harder time getting her used to nail clipping. It might take more patience and practice to build up the trust and get her used to the idea, but it can definitely be done through slow and gradual training and lots of treats.

However, if your cat becomes too stressed or agitated about getting her first nail trimming, do not panic, you still have options. Either you can get someone to help you or you can take your cat to a professional groomer or veterinarian.

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How often should you trim your cat’s nails?

While usually cats sharpen their claws and keep them in good shape, keeping their paws and claws regularly groomed is important.

While overall it is recommended to trim a cat’s nails every two to four weeks, the frequency of nail trimming depends on the individual cat and situation but mostly on the following things:

  • How short you cut the claws: If you cut only the very tip of your cat’s nails, you will definitely need to trim them more often. The shorter piece you clip, the more frequently you have to trim.
  • How much your cat is accustomed to nail clipping: Some cats allow only some claws to be trimmed at a time. If your cat allows you to clip only a couple of nails, you need to repeat the process quite frequently to finish all the claws.
  • How fast your cat’s nails grow: Each cat’s nails grow at a different rate. If your cats’ nails grow superfast you need to clip them more often. The faster the nails grow, the more frequently you have to trim.
  • How active your cat’s life is: There are cats that play a lot with their claws and do a lot of scratching. If your cat is like that, you can reduce the frequency of the nail trimming. The more the cat scratches, the less frequently you have to trim.
  • How old your cat is: Older cats are more prone to injury from getting their nails caught on things as they may have difficulty retracting their claws. So a mature cat’s nails may need more frequent trimmings than a kitten’s
  • How is your cat’s lifestyle: Outdoor cats need less frequent clipping (or even none) than indoor cats as they naturally trim their nails by walking on rough surfaces, climbing and scratching trees.

The frequency of nail trimming also depends on the individual claw. Since the hind claws grow slower and they also get ground down more from regular daily activities, they do not need to be clipped as frequently as the front claws. Also, because the dewclaws do not touch the ground, they tend to overgrow, so they need frequent trimming.

All in all, to maintain your cat’s health, it is good practice to trim her nails every two to four weeks. And if you have an indoor cat, older cat, or your cat claws grow too fast, you can trim her nails more frequently, particularly the front claws.

Please note that this is just a general guideline. Check your cat’s nails frequently and use your own judgement when to trim her nails based on her individual needs. Take a look at your cat’s nails and it will be obvious whether they need to be trimmed. Basically, you should trim your cat’s claws if they grow long, become too sharp or start splitting or breaking.

Check the nails frequently and clip them as needed.

Benefits of trimming cat nails

Keeping a cat’s claws trimmed regularly is not only essential but also prevents a lot of problems and offers several benefits – for people, their belongings and cats as well. Clipping your cat’s nails is a great way to:

  • Keep your cat healthy, safe and comfortable:

Benefits of clipping cat claws include prevention of splitting and braking nails. By clipping the long, sharp claws, we can also prevent painful, ingrown nails.

Regular nail trimming avoids serious infections by ensuring that harmful bacteria is gone and fresh keratin can grow in its place. Keeping them short can also prevent your cat’s nails from getting caught in different fabrics.

All in all, trimming your cat’s claws regularly will ensure her comfort and overall well-being.

  • Keep your cat calm:

Cats scratch to trim their claws and get rid of the dead layer of their nails. While it is a form of self-grooming, if you help your cat with trimming, she won’t feel the need of constant scratching to remove the old layer.

As she does not have to scratch everything to keep her claws under control, she will feel much calmer, more comfortable and relaxed.

  • Protect yourself, your family members, guests and other pets:

Trimming your cat’s claws will not only benefit your cat but you, your family members and guests as well. If your cat tends to knead, clipping her claws will prevent painful scratches making cuddling a more enjoyable moment.

Therefore, it will improve the relationship between you and your cat.

If you have several pets at home, trimmed claws will also prevent other pets to get injured during rowdy play times.

  • Reduce the damage to your household items and belongings:

Long, sharp nails can cause more damage than short ones. Your clothing and household items like carpet, curtain or furniture will also notice significant benefits from a shorter claw.

If you clip your cat’s claws, you will blunt the sharp nails that usually cause unpleasant marks on your furniture and snags on your carpets, curtains and upholstery.

Therefore, trimming cat nails will protect the household items by preventing extensive damage, and will also<