By Dr. Genna Mize
Consulting and Reporting Veterinarian at Virbac
Keeping your cat's nails trimmed is important for several reasons: Most importantly, overgrown nails can grow into your cat’s paw pad, causing pain (including difficulty walking on the affected limb) and infections.
Keeping nails trimmed also helps protect yourself and your furniture from unnecessary scratches!
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to properly trimming your cat’s nails:
- Educate yourself on cat nail trim techniques (ask your veterinary technician for a demonstration), proper equipment (use nail clippers made specifically for cats), and familiarize yourself with the structure of their paws. You probably already know your cat actually has retractable claws, which can present a challenge. The more time you can spend handling your cat’s paws and getting them comfortable with the contact of manipulating their toes (in an ideal world when they’re kittens), the easier the nail trims will be.
- Ensure your cat is in a good mood and calm. You don’t want to attempt to cut your cat’s nails on the day you’ve just introduced a new puppy to the household, for example.
- Choose a position that’s most comfortable for your cat. This might be lying in your lap or on their favorite napping perch. Some cats enjoy being wrapped in a towel to keep them situated - a “kitty purrito” as we sometimes call it.
- Distraction is your best friend. Use your cat’s favorite treats, toys, or a chin scratch to distract them from the process. You’d be surprised how many cats can be bribed with a worthy distraction!
- If your adult cat is a beginner, keep sessions short (under two minutes ideally), trimming a few toes at a time. Be sure to stay away from the “quick”! This is the opaque part of the cat’s nail, which can be easily visualized in most cats. If you cut the quick, it will be painful and bleed so it’s best to avoid this. Moreover, it is not likely your cat will tolerate nail trims very well going forward.
- If you are not confident or your cat is not tolerant of nail trims, it is best to seek the help of a professional.
What other advice do you have for cutting your cat’s nails?
Some cats will only tolerate one paw, or even a few toes, at once. That’s okay! Just space out nail trims. Make sure your cat is in a secure position and you feel confident in your trimming technique before attempting. Don’t get scratched!
The biggest difference between cutting a cat's claws vs. a dog’s nails is that cat claws are retractable in nature, so you will need to apply gentle pressure to the top and bottom of the toe to extend the nail. Again, only do so as your cat will tolerate! And again, seek professional guidance if you’ve never trimmed your cat’s nails before.