When it’s time for that monthly manicure, some cats sit quietly as their claws are lovingly clipped, while others run as far as they can the moment they glimpse those scissors. Regardless, it’s important to maintain your cat’s claws, as overgrown nails can snag, break, or even curl back into the paw (polydactyl, or extra-toed, cats are particularly prone to this). Here are some step-by-step instructions, as well as tips & tricks for getting the most out of your nail-trimming experience.
Selecting the Scissors
Not all nail trimmers are created equal. It’s important to buy a pair that is specifically designed for cats, as opposed to ones for dogs or humans. However, it’s not essential to pay for the more expensive types of trimmers. You can find ones that are spring loaded and require less force to trim, but they are bulkier to handle. There are even electric trimmers that file down the claws instead of cutting, but are often loud and scary to unaccustomed cats. However, a nice, small pair of metal trimmers will do just fine, and because they’re cheap, you can buy a new pair when they finally get too dull.
Preparing the Cat
The key is making the nail trim as pleasurable as possible for all parties involved. If you can, leave the scissors out or next to your cat’s food bowl a day or two before, so that the cat doesn’t immediately associate them with the act of trimming.
Have a treat ready (but hidden) for after, so that the cat is rewarded by something tasty, instead of being rewarded by immediate escape.
When you’re spending leisurely time with a lazy feline, take the opportunity to gently massage and touch your cat’s paws. Especially if your cat is squeamish or gets defensive during trims, this will help acclimatize your cat to the sensation of someone else controlling their claws. Keep these sessions short and in between regular petting so that it slowly becomes part of relaxation!
Step 2: Use the scissors to trim the nail being sure to avoid the quick (see diagram). It’s better to cut less of the nail than accidentally trim too much.
Step 3: If you do accidentally get the quick, don’t panic! Your cat is less likely to freak out if you don’t. Calmly apply some styptic powder or baking soda to the nail to stop the bleeding. If the nail is still bleeding after a few attempts to stop it, call the vet.
Step 4: Trim each nail individually. Usually, the back paws don’t need as much maintenance, and may only need trimming every other month. But always check to be sure.
Tips & Tricks
It’s less stressful for your cat to have its nails trimmed at home instead of being taken to a vet or groomer (unless it’s part of a larger vet or grooming appointment). If you’re unsure of trimming, or you own a particularly reluctant cat, here are some tips for success:
- Practice several times on an “easy” cat first. Ask friends and neighbors if their cat is a pro at nail trimming (one that will sit calmly and not react at all to the procedure). That way, you can master the technique before trying on your own.
- It’s important to complete the trim as quickly as possible, while still being accurate and careful. Again, practice makes perfect!
- For cats that run away or become aggressive during trimming, make sure you leave the scissors in your cat’s favorite places so that they become less associated with the act of trimming.
- Start with trimming one nail and giving a treat reward. Then don’t trim again for a day or two. Only when your cat sits still for one nail, should you begin trimming two in a row. It may seem like a pointless effort—the nails grow back before you’ve finished trimming them all!—but patience will pay off.
- Nail trims may never be as easy with some cats as it is with others, but you can work up to a point where your cat will allow you to complete one paw at a time, and you’ll walk away unscathed!
- Always provide scratching posts for your cat. The more places your cat is allowed to scratch, the better he or she will be able to maintain their claws on their own.