How to Trim Cat Nails

Table of Contents

As a cat owner, you probably know that grooming your cat regularly is important. While brushing their fur and cleaning their ears are essential, some people forget trimming their cats’ nails. However, regular nail trimming is just as important as other grooming tasks.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about trimming your cat’s nails, including how to hold your cat, how often to trim their nails, how short to cut them, and a detailed step-by-step guide to help you get the job done safely (for you and your cat).

Why is it Important to Trim Your Cat’s Nails?

  1. Trimming your cat’s nails can prevent damage to your furniture, carpets, and other household items. When a cat’s nails are too long, they can easily scratch and cause damage to surfaces in your home.
  2. It can be painful for your cat if their nails grow too long and begin to curl under, making it difficult for them to move around comfortably.
  3. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed can help protect you and others from accidental scratches. Cats are playful creatures and can sometimes get overexcited during playtime, leading them to accidentally scratch their owners or other animals.

Do Cats Need Their Nails Trimmed?

Yes, cats do need their nails trimmed regularly to maintain optimal mobility and hygiene. In the wild, cats use their claws for various activities such as hunting, climbing, and self-defense. Domesticated cats, on the other hand, spend most of their time indoors, and their nails can overgrow and lead to many problems.

How to Hold a Cat to Trim Nails

We cannot emphasize this enough, however, know that when it comes to trimming a cat’s nails, proper handling is half the battle.

Not only does proper handling make the process easier and safer for both the cat and the person trimming the nails, but it also keep the cat calm and relaxed throughout the process.

Approach your cat calmly and slowly. Allow them to sniff and become comfortable with you or whoever is going to trim its nails. Once your cat is relaxed, hold it in a comfortable and secure way.

Use a handling technique such as “scruffing” method, where the person gently but firmly grabs the loose skin at the back of the cat’s neck with one hand while supporting their body with the other.

Another option is the “burrito” method, where the cat is wrapped snugly in a towel or blanket, leaving only their head and paws exposed.

Calming an Anxious Cat

If your cat is a naturally anxious cat, giving it treats, toys, or using pheromone sprays or diffusers designed to reduce stress in cats can help keep it calm.

How to Trim a Cat’s Nails: Step-by-Step

We need to do some quick prep work. Fortunately, this shouldn’t take too long. We just need a few tools.

Tools Needed

For a proper nail trimming session, you’ll need the following:

  1. A pair of cat nail clippers. Please don’t use human nail clippers.
  2. Styptic powder. Styptic powder can help stop bleeding in case you accidentally cut the quick of the nail.
  3. A towel or blanket to burrito your cat.

Recommended Cat Nail Clippers

cat nail clipper

The most common types of nail clippers for cats are scissor-type and guillotine-type clippers. Scissor-type clippers have a small, curved blade that cuts the nail from one side, while guillotine-type clippers have a hole where you place the nail and a blade that comes down to cut the nail. Choose a clipper that feels comfortable in your hand and is the right size for your cat’s nails. For reference, get a paid clippers similar to the ones in the image above.

Step 1: Press Gently on Your Cat’s Claw

hold a cat's paw

So you have a good grip on your cat, right? Now, hold one of your cat’s paws and press gently on one of your cat’s claws/beans to extend the nail. Look for the translucent tip at the end of the nail, which is the part that needs to be clipped. Avoid cutting into the pinkish part of the nail (quick) as it can cause bleeding and pain for your cat.

Where is the Quick on a Cat’s Nail?

An illustration of a cat's nail quick
Credit: East Port Vet

The quick on a cat’s nail is a pinkish part inside the nail. It contains blood vessels and nerves and is sensitive to pain. When trimming your cat’s nails, it’s essential to avoid cutting into the quick, as it can cause pain, bleeding, and discomfort for your cat. The goal of trimming a cat’s nails is to clip only the translucent tip of the nail, which is not sensitive and does not contain any nerves or blood vessels.

Step 2: How to Hold the Clippers

Hold your cat's paw and press gently
Credit: Gustavo Fring

Hold the cat nail clippers with your dominant hand and ensure they are sharp enough to make a clean cut. The clippers should be held parallel to the nail and perpendicular to the toe. Additionally, ensure that you are holding the cat’s paw gently but securely to avoid any accidents.

Step 3: Cut at a 45 to 60-degree Angle

Holding a cat's paw to trim its nail
Credit: Gustavo Fring

Once you are sure of the right place to make the cut, squeeze the clippers to make the cut quickly and cleanly. Ensure that you are not crushing the nail, as this can cause discomfort for your cat. Repeat the process on the other nails, one at a time, until all nails are trimmed to the desired length.

Step 4: Reward Your Cat with Treats

A cat gets treats from its owner
Credit: Temptations

I Accidentally Cut My Cat’s Quick

If you accidentally cut your cat’s quick and it starts bleeding, apply styptic powder to the affected nail to stop the bleeding. It’s normal for your cat to be startled or distressed, but you should reassure them and offer treats to help them calm down.

Tips to Make the Process Easier

To make the process easier, try the following out:

  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly to prevent them from becoming too long.
  • Use treats to reward your cat after each nail is trimmed.
  • Work in a well-lit and quiet environment to minimize distractions.
  • Don’t rush the process – take your time and be patient with your cat.
  • If your cat becomes too anxious or agitated, take a break and try again later.

How Much to Trim Cat Nails

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to trim the nail just before the point where it begins to curl. This length allows your cat to maintain their balance and grip properly while preventing the nail from getting caught on furniture or clothing.

If your cat is very active or spends time outdoors, they may wear down their nails naturally, and you may not need to trim them as frequently. However, if your cat is primarily indoors and not scratching on rough surfaces like trees or scratch posts, their nails may need to be trimmed every 2-4 weeks to prevent them from becoming too long and causing discomfort or damage to furniture or skin.

Signs That the Nails are Too Short

If you accidentally trim your cat’s nails too short, you may notice some signs that they are in pain or discomfort. Your cat may lick or bite at their paws, and the affected nail may bleed or appear red and swollen. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to keep an eye on your cat and contact your veterinarian if the bleeding or swelling doesn’t improve within a few hours.

How Often to Trim Cat Nails

Trimming your cat’s nails is an essential part of their overall grooming routine. The frequency of nail trimming will depend on a few factors, such as their age, lifestyle, and whether they have access to outdoor spaces. In this section, we will discuss the factors that should be considered when determining how often to trim your cat’s nails, the recommended schedule for nail trimming, and the signs that your cat’s nails need to be trimmed.

Factors to Determine Frequency

  1. Indoor vs. Outdoor cats: Outdoor cats will often wear down their nails naturally through scratching on rough surfaces. Indoor cats, on the other hand, may require more frequent nail trimming.
  2. Age: Younger cats will have faster-growing nails than older cats.
  3. Health Conditions: Some medical conditions may affect a cat’s nail growth, such as hyperthyroidism, which can cause excessive nail growth.

Recommended Schedule for Nail Trimming

It is generally recommended to trim your cat’s nails every 2-4 weeks, although this can vary depending on the factors mentioned above. If your cat is an indoor-only cat, you may need to trim their nails more frequently. However, if your cat spends a lot of time outdoors and scratches on rough surfaces, you may be able to trim their nails less often.

Signs that a Cat’s Nails Need to be Trimmed

  1. Clicking sound: If you hear a clicking sound when your cat walks on hard surfaces, it may be a sign that their nails are too long.
  2. Scratching furniture: If your cat is scratching at furniture, this may be a sign that their nails are too long and they are trying to file them down themselves. Getting your cat a scratching board is a good idea btw.
  3. Snags and tears: If your cat’s nails are catching on fabrics or snagging on carpets, it may be time for a trim.

Cat Nail Clippers Vs. Human Nail Clippers

Please do NOT use human nail clippers to trim your cat’s nails.

Cat nail clippers are designed specifically for trimming cat nails. They come in various shapes and sizes but are usually small, with a curved or angled cutting edge. The cutting edge is designed to fit around a cat’s small nail, making it easier to trim without cutting into the quick – the sensitive part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves.

On the other hand, human nail clippers made to cut nails that are typically thicker and stronger than cat nails. Human clippers have a straight cutting edge and are usually larger than cat nail clippers. While it is possible to use human nail clippers to trim cat nails, it is generally not recommended as they are more likely to crush the nail rather than making a clean cut, which can be painful for the cat.

What to do if your cat won’t let you cut their nails?

If your cat won’t let you cut their nails, you should let your cat go. Grabbing your cat aggressively and trying to force a nail trimming session will scare your cat and make it even more resistant to future trims. Seriously, walk away and be gentle with your cat. Check our tips above to see how you can relax your cat before trimming its nails.