- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Nail trimming may not be a favorite pastime of many cats, but it’s an important part of maintaining their overall health. Most cat owners are well-acquainted with the consequences of an errant overgrown claw, whether the victim is their arm or the couch. Regular nail trimming can help keep undesirable scratches to a minimum.
Many cat owners elect to have their pet’s nails trimmed at the vet or groomers, but this is actually something that can be done safely at home. On average, professional feline nail trimming costs $10-15. DIY nail trimming can save cat owners a good amount of money over time, and once a cat is accustomed to the process, it can be rather quick and easy.
Trimming a cat’s nails isn’t exactly the same as clipping a human’s, so it’s important to learn to how clip them properly if you plan on trying it. Some cats are resistant to grooming and don’t tolerate the process well. If this is the case with your cat, it’s best to leave nail clipping to the pros to avoid injury.
Before you start
What you need:
1. Sharp nail clippers
2. Styptic powder or silver nitrate pencil
3. Towel or blanket
5. A quiet, calm spot
Before sitting down to begin the nail trim, make sure you have everything you need on hand so you don’t have to get up mid-session.
Firstly, you’ll need the tool that you’ll be using. There are a variety of different options, from special cat clippers to regular old nail clippers (just as you would use on your own nails).
No matter which tool you use, it’s important to make sure that the blades are sharp so they can swiftly slice through the nail with minimal effort. According to the Humane Society, “the blunt pressure from dull blades may hurt an animal and cause a nail to split or bleed.”
As an extra precaution, you may want to have styptic powder or a silver nitrate pencil on hand to stop bleeding if necessary. Additionally, you will need a towel or blanket to place over your lap, and some treats for reinforcement.
Find a quiet, well-lit spot in your home that will be comfortable for both you and your cat, such as an armchair. It’s important to make nail trimming as pleasant as possible so cats develop a positive relationship with the experience of nail trimming. This will make for smoother trimming sessions in the future.
It’s easiest to build this positive association in kittenhood, though cats can become converts to home trims at any age.
The anatomy of a cat nail
Cats have a sensitive part of the nail called the “quick.” It’s a pink area full of blood vessels and nerve endings that can be seen through the translucent part of the nail.
“Do NOT cut this sensitive area,” warns the ASPCA. Just like the pink part of a human nail, it will bleed when cut into, and the experience will be extremely painful. Always take your time with the nail trimming process, and take extra care to avoid the quick.
Relaxation and acclimation
Once you’re situated with your tools ready, you can gently place your cat on your lap. They’ll first need to become acclimated to having their paws handled.
A relaxed state is key, and there are a number of ways you can help them calm down. You may want to try trimming their nails after a meal, as they can be a little groggy post-feeding. Make sure distractions are at a minimum.
“Pet and talk soothingly to him as you gradually work your hands down his legs,” advises PetMD. As your cat succumbs to your gentle touch, liberally praise them and feel free to give treats as well. This will encourage them to continue to stay calm.
Once your cat is relaxed, you can begin to massage their paws. Place pressure on their pads so their claws extend, but only do so for one to three seconds.
Next, introduce them to the tool you’re going to use by placing it next to their paws. The sound of a clipper cutting through nails may be jarring for them, so it can be helpful to prepare them for that as well.
WebMD suggests using a piece of uncooked spaghetti to safely demonstrate the sound: “While massaging one of your cat’s toes, gently press her toe pad. When the nail extends, clip the spaghetti with the clippers while still holding your cat’s paw gently.” Immediately afterward, reward them with a treat to help create a pleasant association.
With your cat facing away from you, gently press the pad of one of their front toes to extend the nail. Look the nail over to see how much of a trim is needed, and take note of the quick. Swiftly clip the sharp translucent tip of the nail and then release the paw. Follow up with a treat right away.
If your cat becomes uncomfortable at any point during the trimming process, it’s best to stop and try again another time. If your cat is still comfortable after clipping the first nail, you can go ahead and clip a second nail.
If they’re new to nail trimming all together, it’s best to leave it at that until they’re more comfortable with the process. Make sure to reward them with a special treat.
Over time, you can work your way up to longer sessions that include more nails. It’s common for cats to only want to sit still for a couple of minutes at a time, so don’t be discouraged if you can only do one paw per session.
Many cat owners only trim the front claws, but make sure to check the rear claws in case a trim is needed.
The ASPCA recommends trimming your cat’s nails every 10-14 days to maintain optimal nail health. The activity level of the cat will impact the frequency at which they’ll need their nails trimmed. A needle-like tip is a tell-tale sign that it’s time for a trim.
More about cats
- 21 Best Cat Scratching Posts
- Everything You Need to Know About Nail Caps For Cats
- How to Deal With Destructive Cat Scratching
Featured image via alexyo1968/flickr