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Clipping Your Cat’s Nails

Scratch marks on your curtains, couches, and even your arms are a common sight when you’re a cat owner. And since I’m not an advocate of de-clawing cats (you can read about this subject, “Pros and Cons of Declawing your Cat” from a previous issue at
https://thewoofblog.thewoofpack.com/2010/09/09/declawing-your-cat-pros-and-cons), the best way I can think of to deal with sharp cat claws is regular trimming and encouraging your cats to refrain from clawing on certain items.

Trimming a cat’s nails can either be no big deal, or a big production, depending on your cat and your attitude and state of mind. One of the best things you can do for you and your cat is to start them young. Begin trimming your cat’s claws when they are kittens.

You can first start off by gently holding your cat and stroking his paws. You want him to get used to being handled and having his paws touched and manipulated. Always give a treat when you do these exercises so they associate being handled with something pleasant.

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

To trim your cat’s claws, begin by doing the deed when your cat in a relaxed state, not a wide-awake, playful state. I like to trim my cats’ nails when I see them starting to get sleepy. If I’m gentle and quick enough, they barely budge during the whole process. You do not want to sneak up on them when they are sleeping to try to clip their nails, because this will startle them and they will lose some trust in you.

Be ready with extra special treats to give your cat during the trimming and afterward. You want your cat to associate nail clipping with something very positive.

Be sure to use proper clippers that are sharp. There are special animal nail clippers, but human clippers will work on cats in a pinch. You can have your cat on your lap or on a table or chair. Make sure you are both relaxed. Gently take one paw and push on the pad to extend the nails.

Look at the nail carefully and note that toward the tip, the nail is a whitish or clear color. Further in a bit toward the paw, you will see a pinkish color, called the ‘quick.’ That pink part is what you want to avoid because it contains nerves and blood vessels. You just want to trim the very end of the nail to get rid of that super-sharp tip, just before the ‘quick.’ If you cut into the ‘quick’ of the nail, your cat will feel a lot of pain and the nail will bleed a lot. Your cat will be fine, but it will bleed heavily.
If you accidentally cut the ‘quick’, soothe your cat and use a styptic pencil or styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Make sure you have towels on hand too. Keep an eye on the nail over time to avoid infection.

When you cut the nail, use the clipper perpendicular to the nail, and use a decisive, fast motion to avoid crushing or splintering the nail.

You can trim the back nails, but most pet owners find it unnecessary to trim them often. I usually don’t trim my cats’ back nails until I see them getting too long.

If your cat just doesn’t want to cooperate, you might want to try a trip to the vet or a professional groomer. They are used to dealing with all types of temperaments and may be able to quickly and efficiently trim your cat’s claws with a minimum of hassle.

Trimming your cat’s claws every three to four weeks should be sufficient. Every cat is different, so you may need to clip the nails sooner, or you may be able to go a little longer in between clippings.

Discouraging Your Cat from Scratching Furniture

One of the best things you can do to keep your cat from scratching all your furniture is to provide a tall, sturdy scratching post.

Get a scratching post that is tall enough so that your cat can stand on his hind legs and stretch his front legs up high. Also make sure that it is solid and stable. I noticed that my cats won’t use those smaller scratching posts that easily tip over. Also, they seem to like the sisal rope posts, and do not even look at the carpet covered posts.

Each cat is different, so find out what yours likes. Entice your cat to use it by rubbing some catnip onto it and giving him treats as a reward when he scratches it. 

To keep your cat from scratching the furniture, you can place tape on the areas your cat likes to claw. If you catch your cat scratching at furniture, you can spray him with water, or make a sharp noise to discourage him. Of course, that only works if you’re there. When you’re away at work, your cat will most likely do what you don’t want him to do!

Even with proper nail trimming, nail coverings, and a great scratching post, it’s inevitable that your cat will scratch at something you don’t want him to. It’s only natural for a cat to scratch. And as a cat owner, it’s something you just have to be resigned to dealing with. Besides, when I think of all the laughs and joy my cats bring into my life, a few snagged couches and curtains are just no big deal.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Hannah October 20, 2010, 9:23 am

    Very comprehensive article, do you recommend those paw socks too?

  • dog obedience November 1, 2010, 9:43 pm

    I like your ideas for discouraging scratching on furniture. It took me forever to get my dogs to stay off the couch, and it would be annoying to have to keep my new cat from messing up my futon. Solid advice.

    -James P.

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