Hygiene Kitty Kare Korner Nails/Scratching

How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails

How to cut a cat’s nails.

Let’s remove the scary from trimming your cat’s nails. I’ll explain why it’s important and how to do it.

Orange cat in shed.
Jack scratches wood inside of a shed.

Reasons to Trim Your Cat’s Nails

Remember, trimming the tip of a cat’s nails isn’t painful, and is good for him for these reasons:

  • Comfort. Long nails that click on the floor or stick in the carpet are uncomfortable.
Cat nails
Lily the kitty shows her nails.
  • Your Safety. Unintentional scratching occurs if nails are too long and they can’t be retracted. Also, when jumping, the nails on the back legs automatically come out. If the cat you’re holding jumps to the floor, she may unintentionally scratch you.
  • Nail Health. Cats scratch things to keep their nails healthy, and remove the dead parts of the nail. Nail trimming sometimes removes dead pieces of the nail too.
  • Cat Health. Sometimes, cats injure their toes or nails and it’s VERY painful for them. Frequent trimming helps you keep an eye on their nail, toe and foot health.
  • Usage. Remember, for outdoor cats, nails are for hunting, fighting and climbing. They don’t need to in your home, so it’s a great idea to trim them down, and help them navigate in your home.
Orange striped cat scratching tree.
Jack goes outside and enjoys nature’s scratching post.
  • Your Furniture’s Safety. A trimmed nail helps cats not seek out your furniture, and definitely lessens the damage. They don’t need super hard surfaces to keep their nails in tip top shape, so they’re more inclined to scratch a softer corrugated box over the hard corner of your sectional.

Start to Trim Your Cat’s Nails Early & Often

The younger you start, the better it is, because the cat then just accepts it as the norm. For kittens, I usually start around 5-6 weeks, or whenever their nails are long enough to scratch me:-)

I trim my cat’s nails every 2-3 weeks, depending on nail growth. Also, remember, they love to groom themselves, and this is part of the grooming behavior. I honestly see it as a bonding experience.

Tabby cat in scratcher.
Lily going crazy in her scratcher.

How To Trim Your Cat’s Nails

Your Materials

Cat nail clipper
I have the best nail clippers! Thanks, Erica.

Definitely – Nail Clippers – Get the human ones. They are much easier to maneuver than those weirdo cat nail scissor things. With regular clippers, you have more control, and it’s easier to adjust (especially if you have a squirmer on your hands).

Maybe – Towel. I personally don’t like a lot of “things” because I feel like it interferes with the task at hand, but I’ve heard some people use a towel to wrap the cat and then trim one nail at a time.

Body Position

Option 1: For my cats, whose nails I’ve been trimming since they were kittens, I sit on the couch, and have them in my lap belly up.

Option 2: For fosters, who many times are adults when I get them, I typically leave them on the floor, squat over them with my knees, pull a paw to the side, and do it one paw at a time. This method works well when they are eating because they are distracted.

Option 3: Sneak in a trim when they are sleeping. Don’t move their bodies at all, just grab a paw at a time, starting with the legs that are face up.

Cat sleeping on scratcher.
Rhett takes a snooze after a scratch.

Trimming Time

It’s simple. Grab the paw, push on the toe bean, and the nail will pop out. You should be able to see the vein inside.

Just cut the clear part (to make sure you don’t cut the vein). If you aren’t sure, just cut the tip, because the vein typically doesn’t run to the very tip.

Try be quick about it, and don’t make a fuss, or your cat will get nervous. Be confident, focus on the goal, and get it done. Fumbling around will make your cat share in your anxiety.

I suggest offering a reward of treats or catnip after each paw or all four. Positive reinforcement works!

Orange cat with catnip.
Jack licks his catnip.

Your cat may growl and get angry because she doesn’t want to sit still. If you have to do one nail at a time, do that! Make it a routine, don’t be dramatic about it, and be patient. It takes time for your cat to adjust to new things (same as people).

Don’t Be Scared – Here Are Your Ifs

  • If you get near the vein, your cat will let you know. You’ll hear a cry or growl, and you’ll know you’re a little too close to the vein.
  • If you cut the tip of the vein by accident, it should clot within a few seconds. You can also apply pressure with a paper towel, or put flour on the nail. I’ve hit a vein tip a time or two. It typically clots before I can even get a tissue.
  • If you cut the vein and blood is pouring or not clotting, go to the ER. Basically, use common sense. I’ve never heard of this happening, but as with everything in life, I guess there’s always a possibility.

Need Help Trimming Your Cat’s Nails? That’s Okay.

People get frustrated or are scared and don’t want to do it. You know what? That’s okay. It’s no worth stressing out yourself or your cat OR getting bit. Ask your vet or a cat friend (like me) to do it.

Milo loves to play on his tree scratcher.

DIsclaimer: Nail trimming for the average cat is OK, but if you know your cat has a chronic medical condition, check with your vet to make sure the condition doesn’t impact clotting abilities.

Special thanks to my Insta friends Maggie and Lois for providing some of the models in this post.

Need help with training your cat to scratch the right things? Check out this previous post, full of tips and tricks on keeping them away from your precious ottoman.

By LizsKittyBootCamp

Hi, I'm Liz, and I'm a cat behaviorist who provides advice and insights on cat behavior.

One reply on “How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.