Trimming Your Cat's Nails

Here are some tips on taking the edge off kitty's claws.

If the furniture in your house resembles a well-used scratching post, you can limit future wear and tear by clipping your feline's nails regularly. (Also, consider getting your cat a good sturdy scratching post so he has an option besides the upholstery!) Periodic nail clipping may also save you from serious scratches during rowdy playtimes.

When to Trim
If your cat's claws are long and razor sharp, it's time for a trim. The period between trimmings will vary, depending on your cat's activity level and how much he scratches.

The younger your cat when you start this kind of handling, the better. It can take a lot of patience to convince an older cat to accept a "pedicure," and a mature cat's nails may need more frequent clippings than a youngster's would.

Your cat probably won't relish the nail-cutting experience, so consider trimming his nails when he's tired, especially the first few times. If possible, have someone hold your cat, stroke him, and give him treats during nail-cutting sessions.

If you've never trimmed a cat's nails and feel anxious about it, ask your veterinarian to show you how or to supervise your first attempt.

Slow as You Go
During the first session, don't cut his nails at all. Just hold your cat's paws in your hands and touch his toes and nails while you talk to him. This may be a slow start but you want your cat to get used to having his feet handled. Diving right in with the clippers could frighten him or make him feel threatened.

The second session, try trimming a few claws. In each ensuing session, increase the number of nails you cut until you can trim all of them in one sitting.

Many cats need only their front claws clipped because they keep their back claws short by chewing them when they groom. Still, check the back claws to see if your cat is keeping them under control.

Most cats sport five toes on each front paw and four on each rear paw. If you spot an extra toe or two, don't panic. That's not unusual.

Cut to the Chase ... Not the Quick
Hold your cat's paw, and gently squeeze the middle of his pad between your thumb and index finger to extend his claws. Use nail clippers with two cutting surfaces - scissors-style clippers work well.

Trim the nail at the point where it starts to curve downward, and clip only the part of the claw beyond the quick so you don't hit any blood vessels or nerves. The quick looks pink and extends from the base of the nail to near the tip. If you can't see the quick, just trim the thin curved tip.

If you cut the quick, your cat may cry and struggle to escape, and the nail will bleed. Don't panic. Just dab styptic powder on the nail tip or apply direct pressure with a tissue, and the bleeding will stop.

The best advice for beginners: Go slowly and cut a little bit at a time. Before you know it, you'll be trimming like a pro.