Felines use their claws for various activities such as scratching, climbing, protection, catching prey, and marking their territory.
Most of the time, cats will keep their nails retracted while calm and content, so they will appear hidden within the fur of their paws. When your cat is feeling a bit playful or even scared, you’ll notice their claws will instinctively start to come out.
Just like ours, cat nails grow continually throughout their lives. Sometimes a cat’s claws can become too sharp, becoming a danger to humans and your home. There are also cases where a cat's nails may grow and curve inward into their toes and cause them pain over time. In cases like this, it may be necessary to trim your kitty’s nails at home or with a professional.
However, if you have never done it before, cutting a cat’s nails can seem a tad daunting. But, fear not, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to make this task quick, painless, and stress-free for all involved!
How Necessary Is It To Trim Your Cat's Nails?
Cats generally keep their nails under control by scratching either the trees outside or scratching posts indoors (unfortunately without this your furniture could bear the brunt of this).
Outdoor cats usually scratch enough to maintain their nails to a comfortable length, as the coarse texture of trees is perfect for keeping them short. However, it’s common for indoor cats’ claws to occasionally need a trim from their owner, as scratching posts may not be as effective.
How Often Should I Be Clipping My Indoor Cat's Nails?
Most indoor kitties will need their claws trimmed every 2-4 weeks. It’s easy to tell when they need cutting as the ends will look very pointed with a slight curve, and they will feel sharp against your skin.
But What Happens If I Don't Trim Them?
If your kitty does not have the right surfaces to scratch on, their nails can become overgrown. Overgrown cat nails will appear curved and may not retract completely. They can then curl in on themselves and grow into the footpad, which will be very painful for your feline.
If your cat’s nails get stuck in carpets or other soft surfaces, this is a sign that they have become overgrown. The longer your kitty’s claws are the higher the chance they could cause damage to both you and your furniture as they attempt to scratch and manage them.
Why You Should Never Have Your Cat Declawed
Some cat owners choose to declaw their cat under the impression that doing so will prevent them from scratching and damaging the furniture. However, most owners will do so ignoring the painful impact this could have on their cat and their well being.
Declawing is a surgery that involves amputating the last bone of each front toe, along with the nail bed and claw. As you can imagine, this is extremely painful for kitties to recover from, and complications and infections can arise.
Cats have claws for a reason. Even if your fur baby is an indoor-only cat who doesn’t need to hunt or protect themselves, you should never consider declawing them as it has been deemed an unethical practice by most veterinarians.
How To Safely Trim Your Cat's Nails
Clipping a cat’s nails is quicker and easier than you would think. It does not cause cats any pain or lasting discomfort, providing you do it safely and correctly. Follow our step by step guide to ensure neither you nor your kitty comes to any harm during this process.
Disclaimer: If you're feeling unsure or fear you could injure your or your cat please seek help from a professional groomer or veterinarian who can trim their nails for you.
1) Find An Appropriate Pair Of Cat Nail Clippers
You can buy pet nail clippers from almost all pet shops, and they are usually pretty cheap. If you’re unable to get hold of a pair, you can also use human fingernail clippers (just make sure you're extra careful with your angles). Even so, we prefer cat clippers as they can properly fit the unique curve of a cat's claw.
2) Create A Quiet & Calm Environment
Take your cat into a quiet room and spend a few minutes petting them as they relax. It also helps to wait until your kitty is a bit sleepy, perhaps after a meal or as they're waking up from a nap.
3) Position Your Cat On Your Lap Or Have Someone Hold Them
Put your fur baby on your lap facing away from you. Gently rest your forearm around their neck. It’s a good idea to have a towel to hand too. If your kitty starts to wriggle, burrito wrap them in the towel to gently restrain them and then pull out one paw at a time.
You can also do this as a two-person job and have one person there to hold and restrain your kitty while the other tackles each nail from the front.
4) Softly Massage Your Cat's Paw
Make sure to press the footpad gently to extend their nail. If your kitty pulls away, let go and wait a few moments before trying again. While you do this, have the clippers in your other hand (which should be your dominant hand) ready to swiftly get in and get out.
5) Cut The Transparent Sharp Part Of The Nail
The most important thing to know when trimming your cat’s nails is where to cut. When you look at your cat’s claw, you’ll see a white/transparent tip, which turns pink closer to the paw.
Be sure to cut the sharp, transparent end rather than the pink part, as this contains nerves and blood vessels. This is known as the ‘quick,’ and cutting it can cause bleeding and be very painful for your kitty.
6) Trim The Sharpest Nails First
If your cat reacts badly, you won’t have much time, so it’s smart to start with the sharpest, longest nail(s) first. The nails on the front feet are usually more pointed than the ones on the back feet, which may not need trimming at all in some cases.
7) Once Finished, Reward Your Kitty!
Give your precious kitty a well-earned treat once you have finished their clipping. This will help them associate having their nails trimmed with something good, hopefully making it easier in the future!
Emergency: What To Do If You Accidentally Cut The Quick
If this happens, the bleeding will usually stop on its own within a few minutes. Still, you can apply some styptic powder to stop the bleeding immediately. Bear in mind that your kitty will be quite distressed and in pain, so they will likely run away and hide.
If so, don’t worry, as they won’t lose a significant amount of blood. Once they have calmed down, inspect the nail and assess whether they should be seen by their vet.
One Final Note
This information and advice in this guide are not meant to substitute veterinary care. Always consult your vet if you’re concerned about trimming your cat’s nails, and follow their guidance.
Additionally, if your cat keeps refusing your attempts to trim their claws, or you don’t feel confident doing it, take them to a vet or groomer. They will give your furry friend a professional trim instead which usually takes no more than 10 or 15 minutes in the office.