How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails
By Mary Mathews
Remember, if you don’t trim your cat’s nails, they will find some way to scratch them down on their own… most likely on your furniture! (This is less of an issue for outdoor cats).
Trimming nails, like bathing can be a really fun, easy process if you know how.
Steps to trim your cat’s nails:
1. Get your cat accustomed to having their feet and nails handled; whenever you’re snuggling, take a moment to massage each paw.
2. Turn on a strong light. Trimming your cat’s nails in good light will help you see the “quick” (the part of the nail containing nerves and blood vessels). Cutting into the “quick” is painful and will cause bleeding.
3. Have everything ready before you start. Cats don’t like restraint, especially for long periods.
4. Place your cat in your lap, and gently hold one paw.
5. Unsheath your cat’s retractable nails by placing your index finger underneath one toe and your thumb over the top of the same toe. Squeeze your fingers together gently. As you do this, you’ll see the toenail protrude; it will remain extended until you release your hold.
6. Trim each nail just beyond the point where it starts to curve downward, using pet nail trimmers specifically designed for cats.
7. Start gradually, clipping a few nails in one sitting, using positive reinforcement such as petting or treats as you clip.
8. If bleeding occurs, apply pressure to the tip of the nail using styptic powder or a substitute such as baby powder or cotton balls.
9. Work up to trimming the nails on all four paws in one sitting.
Cats usually have five nails on each front foot and four on the rear, although they can be born with extra toes. The nails on extra toes tend to become ingrown and should be trimmed more frequently.
This is often a job for two people (one to hold the cat and one to trim the nails). An alternative to this method is to do it when they are asleep.
Avoid punishment or negative reinforcement if your cat protests the pedicure as cats generally don’t respond well to this approach. Try again when you sense that your cat might be more cooperative.
Ideally, if you get your cat while they are still a kitten, make handing the paws part of the petting ritual. Begin to press on the pad to express the claws, just as you would if you were trimming. When kittens are asleep, they usually won’t wake up or object to this. If your cat loses patience and you are not finished, do the rest another time. It is far better not to force it. And always pet your cat and tell them what a good kitty they are afterward, even if they are asleep!
Personally, I wrap my cats in a warm towel, snugly (but gently), which keeps them from moving while trimming. I take a few seconds in between each nail and pet them as it makes it more enjoyable for both of us. Also, when I am done, I give them a treat to reward them for how good they have been.
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