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July 8, 2020 |0 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

How to Trim Your Cat's Nails

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Trimming your cat’s nails is one of those tasks on the cat grooming checklist that many pet parents dread doing, but that has to be done to keep your kitty safe and healthy. If your cat’s claws grow too long, there is an increased risk of infection or other issues. In fact, they can even grow into your poor kitty’s paw and then you may need to take them to the vet to get them professionally removed. 

But, all that can be avoided by properly trimming your cat’s nails. Here, we’ll provide information and tips on how to trim cat claws!

How Often Should I Trim My Cat’s Nails?

Many people wonder “how often should I cut my cat’s claws” and the answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. For example, cats that go outside might never need their claws trimmed, or will need them trimmed less frequently because they are always scratching them on the pavement, dirt, trees, and other things outside. But indoor kitties have fewer things to scratch, which might mean that their claws need to be trimmed more regularly. Always keep plenty of scratching posts and scratching boards around to give your indoor cat something to scratch on (besides the side of the couch!). 

In addition, your cat’s activity level will determine how often they need their nails trimmed. Older or less active cats might need their claws trimmed more frequently because they can get longer quicker. You don’t want to run the risk of the claws penetrating into the pad, which can cause extreme discomfort and even infection. 

In order to keep your cat’s nails healthy, make it a habit of examining them regularly. This will help you know exactly when they need to be trimmed before they become an issue. Look for the curve of the nail. If it starts to curve over toward the paw, it might be time for a trim!

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How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails: 5 Tips

Now that you understand when to trim your cat’s claws and how to know if they are in need of a trim, let’s share some tips on how to make the process as easy as possible. 

Start Them Young

Ideally, you would get your cat used to having their nails trimmed when they are a kitten. There are many ways to do this to help them feel comfortable. If you have a kitten that you are trying to help get comfortably around the nail clippers, here are some tips:

  • Set the mood regularly so they aren’t nervous. Part of this could be getting your cat when they’re already calm or sleepy. Then, sit them in your lap and gently handle one paw at a time. Once they pull away, give it a few seconds, then gently press the paw pad until the nail extends. Then, instantly give them a treat. This helps teach the cat that you handling their paws is nothing to be afraid of. 
  • Another way to get your kitten acquainted with the process is to get them used to the sounds of the nail clippers. When you have them on your lap, gently massage one of their paw pads until the nail extends and at the same time, clip a piece of raw spaghetti in the clippers. This will help them get used to the sound of the cat nail clippers without being scared. 

Stay Calm

Cats pick up on our energy and if you’re nervous, your kitty will be too. If possible, never trim their nails when you’re agitated, nervous, or frustrated. Even more importantly, never yell at your cat or scold them if they don’t want their nails trimmed. This negative behavior will make the process even harder the next time you are trimming cat nails. . 

Instead, foster a space of calm to relax your kitty (and yourself). Choose the right time to approach the nail trimming when everyone is relaxed and in a good mood. 

Be Careful of the Quick

One of the most important tips when trimming your cat’s nails is to avoid the quick. This is the little pink part underneath the cat’s nail that has their nerves and blood vessels. If you cut this part, bleeding can occur. Instead, only clip the sharp, pointy party of the nail and avoid the quick. Many cat nail clippers have a safeguard to avoid cutting the claw too short. 

If you do accidentally cut their quick, you can stop the bleeding with styptic powder, cornstarch, or a dry bar of soap. Quickly rub it on the bleeding to get it to clot. You might want to have something like this handy as you trim your cat’s nails, just in case. 

Only Do a Few Claws at a Time

Kitties have 18 toes (including the dewclaws). That’s a lot of nails to trim! It’s no wonder that most cats will only have the patience for a few at a time. It’s best for both you and your cat to take breaks in between trimming and only do a few at a time. Also, don’t forget the treats in between!

Use a Swaddle or Blanket

If you just can’t seem to wrangle your little kitty long enough to cut their nails, you can use a blanket or cat bag to swaddle them and make them more comfortable. One option is to wrap them up in a little burrito using a blanket and then pull each leg out as you clip the claws. Or, you can put them in a cat carrier bag like this one. With a bag like this, you can easily pull each paw out at a time. You can even transport them to the groomer or vet for a professional nail trimming appointment for your kitty's claws. 

How to Keep Your Cat’s Claws Healthy

Now that you know some tips on how to trim your cat’s nails, let’s talk about how you can help keep your kitty’s claws healthy. Healthy paws and claws mean less pain for you, less pain for your kitty, and saved sofas and curtains!

Here are some tips on creating a safe and healthy environment for your kitty:

  • Make sure that your kitty has enough scratching areas throughout the house. Scratching is instinctual for cats and they’re going to do it no matter what. As a cat owner, it is important to encourage them to scratch a post or board by placing them where your cat wants to scratch anyway (such as next to the side of the couch). Train them to scratch in these acceptable areas by giving them a treat and words of encouragement when they do scratch in the right area. 
  • If you have a kitty that just can’t stop scratching the furniture, ask your vet about nail covers, which are tiny plastic nail caps you can glue onto your cat’s claws. These nail caps don’t stop your cat from scratching, but they do make their claws a lot less sharp. 
  • Make sure to maintain a clean cat litter box. Cats use their claws to bury their waste in the litter box and if it’s not cleaned regularly, you can increase the risk of infection in a kitty’s claws. Sometimes litter and other products can cause allergies in cats, so make sure to be aware of this when buying cat litter. 

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One of the reasons why we love our little lions so much is because of their wild nature. This wild nature includes playing with toys, leaping in the air, and running as fast as they can around the house. A cat’s claws are an important part of these wild instincts and make it possible for them to act like, well, cats! This is why it’s important for pet owners to maintain a healthy length for their cat’s claws. 

Consider trimming your cat’s claws every few weeks, or as often as needed. If they get too long, they can grow into a cat’s paw pad, which is extremely painful and dangerous. To trim your cat’s claws, make sure to stay calm, set up a natural environment, get them used to the process at a young age, and use a swaddle or kitty bag if needed. Also, help your kitty maintain clean claws by giving them plenty of things to scratch, maintaining a clean litter box, and redirecting scratching to the appropriate places (like a scratching post). 





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Christina Scamporrino

Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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Sara Ochoa

Sara Ochoa, DVM graduated from St. George's University Veterinary School in 2015. Since then, she has been at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her free time, she loves making quilts and spending time with her husband Greg and their 4 fur kids. Two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.