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How To Trim Cat Claws

Updated on October 28, 2012
Hold the cat firmly, and comfortably in your lap to begin the nail clipping.
Hold the cat firmly, and comfortably in your lap to begin the nail clipping. | Source

The fact is, cats don't like getting their claws trimmed. This can cause apprehension, however, when done properly, you and kitty can escape harm-free.

I have had several cats throughout my life, and none of them have been declawed. Many of them have, however, scratched myself, the carpet, and the furniture up. I have had to face the decision on several occasions, whether or not to declaw. I have always decided not to, in favor of clipping their nails. After all, the idea of getting my own nails removed because someone else didn't like how sharp they were seemed ridiculous: I trim my nails, why not my cat's nails?

The cat claw trimmers I own.
The cat claw trimmers I own. | Source

Required Supplies: Cat Claw Trimmer

For your cat's safety, please use a nail trimmer specifically meant for claws. Claws are different from human fingernails in that they are tubular (round), and ours are flat. Cat claws are similar to bamboo in that they are hollow in the center, and split lengthwise. Cutting your cat's nails would be like using scissors to trim a bamboo shoot; there runs a high risk of splitting. This can be incredibly painful for the cat if the split reaches the quick of the claw, and can cause bleeding. Avoid any chance of making yourself a sworn enemy to your cat, and use the proper tools.

Cat nail trimmers can be found anywhere where there is a pet section (grocery stores, drug stores, pet stores, department stores, etc) and are generally between five and ten dollars.You can also order them online from Amazon; here is the one I have:

The position your fingers should be in while holding the paw.
The position your fingers should be in while holding the paw. | Source
Squeeze gently on the paw to expose the claws.
Squeeze gently on the paw to expose the claws. | Source

The Proper Technique

It's important to hold your cat in a way which is comfortable to him or her. My cat doesn't mind being held upside-down in my lap, however, I have had cat's that were strictly "right-side-up" kitties. Be sure to adjust to the needs of your cat, or you may make a lifelong enemy.

I hold my kitty upside-down in my lap, with my forearm across his chest, and wrist up between his arms. I use my hand to hold the paw; the other hand I use to clip the nails.

I like to begin with the front claws, as these are the ones most often used. As I have yet to meet a cat that enjoys getting his/her claws trimmed, I can honestly say that many of my manicure clients have gone running before I was able to get to all their nails! Does your cat scratch furniture with his/her back claws? Does your cat swat with his/her back claws? Probably not. I would say that being able to trim the back claws is just an extra bonus, and a testament to how well-behaved your cat is.

To expose the claws, take the paw between your thumb and forefinger, so the pads sit on your forefinger, and your thumb sits on top the paw. Then, gently squeeze the paw, and the claws will be exposed. This is painless for your cat, so don't worry.

Be sure you squeeze gently and firmly while you hook the cat nail clipper around the claw; be sure the claw doesn't move, and the cat isn't squirming, before you make the cut: You could accidentally injure your kitty.

When trimming your cat's claws, be careful to avoid the quick. Unlike human fingernails, cats and dogs have "living" parts of their claws. This living part is called the quick, which serves the purpose to bring nutrients to the claw so it can keep growing. The quick can range in color from pink to red (and black if it has been injured and bled-out). Consider it a pocket of blood; if you cut it, it will hurt and it will bleed and your cat will be mad.

Leave at about 3mm, or 1/8 inch from the quick. Remember; you just need to dull the sharpness of the claws, not remove them. See the following diagram:

Unlike fingernails, claws have a "living" section called the quick. Cutting the quick will be painful, and cause the claw to bleed. Be sure to leave at least 3mm between the quick and where you cut.
Unlike fingernails, claws have a "living" section called the quick. Cutting the quick will be painful, and cause the claw to bleed. Be sure to leave at least 3mm between the quick and where you cut. | Source
Squeeze the paw with one hand, and trim with the other.
Squeeze the paw with one hand, and trim with the other. | Source

When and Where to Trim Your Cat's Claws

  • Trim them about every 2 weeks, or every week if you see them actively sharpening their claws.
  • Trim them when your cat is relaxed; have they recently eaten, or just woke up? If you don't mind disturbing their nap, you can always grab them as they are sleeping. These times are when cats are the most relaxed, meaning... The safest time to handle a creature with sharp claws is when it is not full of energy.
  • Trim them in a place where the cat is comfortable. This is usually not the bathroom, garage, or kitchen. Trim them somewhere they feel comfortable enough to sleep, such as the bedroom or living room.
  • Don't worry about catching the clippings in a garbage can; they vacuum easily. Holding your cat over a garbage can is usually more trouble than its worth.

Best of Luck!

Trimming your cat's claws is safe and easy, if done properly.
Trimming your cat's claws is safe and easy, if done properly. | Source

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    • kathleenkat profile image
      Author

      kathleenkat 5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      Thanks! Yeah, one of my cats loves getting her hair brushed. The other one, hates it. Sometimes we have to choose our battles ;-)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Very good information on triming a cats claws. Cats don't like a lot of things we try to do to them. We do have a cat that loves to be combed. If he gets a matt in his hair he will cry until we comb or cut it out. Voted up on your hub.

    • kathleenkat profile image
      Author

      kathleenkat 5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      Thanks! Yes, regular clippers can work, but they are a lot more risky to the cat.

    • movingout profile image

      movingout 5 years ago from Georgia

      Never realized the nails were tubular. I've always used nail clippers, but after reading this, I'll be purchasing the proper equipment! Very informative, voted up!

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      LOL...aren't pets divine...they know how to show their displeasure. I agree the clipping is painless if done right and mine appreciates not sticking to everything ( he is one of those silly cats that hasn't learned how his claws work and often gets caught on stuff) Good part is he rarely scratches furniture! :)

    • kathleenkat profile image
      Author

      kathleenkat 5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      That is probably true; mine will do just about anything for a treat. One of my cats, when I clip his claws he makes this "moaning" sound which I can totally tell is fake; I think he's just uncomfortable with me doing it, and doesn't like it. But it does not hurt him.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I clip my cat's claws and he doesn't really enjoy it but he lets me do it easily enough. He always gets treats after (I suspect the treats help him forget)

    • kathleenkat profile image
      Author

      kathleenkat 5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      You are welcome, and thank you very much for the feedback :). My cats are indoor-only, but I got into the habit of trimming their claws because when they were younger, they clawed the furniture. Now, they are pretty mellow, but my black kitty gets into "play mode" and ends up scratching me by accident (or so I like to believe it's not on purpose...). Or, he'll be sitting on someone's lap, then he'll get all-of-a-sudden really excited, and dig his claws into their legs when he jumps up. Trimming is in the best interest for my skin :)

    • Angelladywriter profile image

      Claudette Coleman Carter 5 years ago from Media, Pennsylvania

      You are brave. I don't know if my cat Midnight, would hold still long enougsh for me to do that. I purchased her from Pet Smart and they really do not want cats to be declawed or trimmed because if they are allowed outside, the cat will have no protection for themselves. Midnight is not allowed to go outside and she has been pretty good about not scratching my furniture. I have numerous scratch pads and posts around my house. I did enjoy your suggestions in case I need them in the future. Thanks again for the information.