Trimming Cat Nails
Trimming your cat’s nails can be intimidating, but most owners can perform this basic maintenance task safely at home with a little practice (and patience!).
Cat’s don’t naturally appreciate having their feet touched, so getting a cat to accept nail trims ideally starts when they are a kitten. Touching your kitten’s paws and rewarding them with treats can help them make a positive association with having their feet touched. This can work in older cats as well, but not every cat will accept this trade. For older cats, try feeding them while you cut their nails, so they have something else to focus on.
If your cat is not happy about having their nails trimmed (and most are not), only trim one or two nails at a time, then give them a treat and a break. It’s better to trim just a few nails a day and keep your cat happy, than to trim all the nails at once and train your cat to run away when they see the clipper!
For supplies, a young cat can actually have their nails cut with a human-style nail trimmer (but be sure to only use it for the cat!) but a cat nail trimmer is best. As cats get older their nails become thicker, and a cat nail trimmer is the only way to go. The ‘scissors’ style trimmers are usually easier to use than the ‘guillotine’ style, because you can see exactly where you are cutting. It’s good to have a styptic powder (a powder that helps blood clot rapidly) available in case you accidentally cut the quick of the nail; there are a few types you can buy, or some people use cornstarch!
Cat nails retract when not in use, so the first step to a nail trim (once you can safely touch your cat’s paws) is to extend out the nail. This can be done by gently pressing on the knuckle from above and the toe pad (also called the toe bean!) from below.
A cat nail is very similar in structure to our own nails, just different in shape. The pink quick of the nail is where the blood supply is; don’t cut this! The clear nail can be cut just like your nails.
Cut the nail a few millimeters away from where the quick tapers to a point; you don’t want to risk getting too close and accidentally nicking the quick.
Cats have four main toes on each foot, plus their front feet have dewclaws on the inner side - like thumbs! Be sure not to forget to trim the dewclaws! Cats occasionally will have additional toes; these are called ‘polydactyl’ (many toes) cats. Be sure to trim these extra nails as well!