How to Trim Your Cat's Nails Painlessly

We’re not sure who suffers more during the nail trimming ordeal - you or your cat. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

While some (oddball) cats don’t mind the occasional manicure, most cats refuse to sit still and be good patients. At the same time, many cat parents cringe at the idea of cutting their cat’s nails because they’re not quite sure how to do it.

Never be afraid of hurting your cat - or facing the wrath of Fluffy’s claws - again. Here’s how to best trim your cat’s nails.

Tools

First things first. Before you even pick up your ferocious fur ball and attempt to get the job done, you need to set the stage with the right tools.

  1. Cat Nail Clippers - You don’t need anything fancy. We prefer these simple cat claw clippers. The rounded blade helps you apply even pressure over the entire top part of the nail, which is more comfortable for your cat, and the thin head lets you see your cat’s small claws.
  2. Treats - This is the most important part of the process. Make sure you have a nice supply of your cat’s favorite treats. If they come in sticks or larger pieces, break them into tiny, bite-sized bits before getting started.

That’s it!

Tricks & Treats

It’ll take some time to get your cat used to her twice-monthly manicures, but once she’s comfortable with the tools and the process, it’ll become a much easier and faster routine.

If your cat has never had her nails trimmed before, you may want to ease into it. Here are a few tricks for getting your cat into a happy mood before starting a nail trim.

Do one or more of these each day for a week before actually trimming your cat’s nails.

  • Introduce your cat to the nail clippers without trimming her nails. When your cat is awake and relaxed (i.e., reclined on the floor or a favorite spot, looking out the window, etc.), put the nail clippers in front of her and place a treat on the end. Allow your cat to sniff the clippers and enjoy the treat. This will help her associate pleasant sensations with the nail clippers.

  • Get your cat used to you holding her paw. Hold your cat’s paw and gently massage the pads of her feet while offering her a treat. Most cats don’t like to have their feet touched, so this may take some time for her to get used to. If she pulls away, gently follow her movement for a few seconds, then let go if she continues to withdraw. Be sure not to hold on too tightly or punish her in any way for withdrawing.

  • Get used to extending your cat’s nails. Cats have a mechanism in their paws that allows them to tuck or extend their nails. Practice massaging your cat’s paw to extend her nails, all while offering treats. This will make her more comfortable with the sensation and will make you better at extending the claw quickly for a fast manicure.

  • Find the quick. The quick is the pink part inside your cat’s nail. This is where all the blood vessels and nerve endings are. You definitely do not want to cut this part of your cat’s nails or you’ll hear a howl that will send shivers down your spine. While you’re massaging your cat’s paw and practicing extending her nails (and offering treats, of course), look for the quick. It may be longer or shorter on different nails.

  • Introduce your cat to the sound the nail clippers make. The ASPCA recommends holding a piece of uncooked spaghetti in the nail clippers and cutting the spaghetti while your cat enjoys a treat. The sound can be startling to some cats at first, so breaking the ice with some positive reinforcement can go a long way.

Once your cat is well accustomed to these phases of the nail trimming process, you’re ready to move on to the deed itself.

A Pretty Paw

Hold your cat on your lap or place her on a comfortable surface at waist height for you. This could be the back of your couch, a kitchen counter, or anywhere you feel you and your cat will both be comfortable for the next five minutes. As soon as she’s in position, offer a treat.

Get in the habit of offering your cat a treat after every step in this process. To prevent overeating, make sure your cat’s treats are cut into small pieces.

With your cat’s back against your chest, hold your cat’s paw in one hand and extend her nails. Give her a treat with your other hand. Then gently trim one or two nails while she chews her treat, being careful not to cut the quick. You only have to take the sharp tip of the nail off, which is usually ¼-inch or less.

Don’t rush yourself. You can always break your manicure into two sessions - left paw now, right paw later. It’s better to take your time, cut the nail cleanly in the proper place, and give Fluffy plenty of love and rewards all the way through.

Continue exchanging treats for trims until your cat’s paws are perfectly prim.

In time, this will become a quick and easy process for you and a moderately enjoyable one for your cat, depending on the quality of treats you bring to the table.

Has your cat gotten a manicure recently? Share pictures of your gussied-up cat with us on Instagram @PrettyLitterCats.

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Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



11 Responses

mark goffin
mark goffin

January 03, 2019

ps, when you highlighted the contents, make sure your cursor is over the blue area then ctrl and right click to copy, i just did it and sent to myself including all pictures, worked for me. now you be able to print it off.

Ellen
Ellen

October 15, 2018

Tom, we’ve found that meat babyfood goes over best, as does canned tuna and bits of rotisserie chicken (without the skin). Love the warm towel idea Barbara!

BARBARA TAFURI
BARBARA TAFURI

February 06, 2018

I wrap my cat in a warm towel. He actually falls asleep. Works great!

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

January 04, 2018

Tom, if your cat doesn’t like any store-bought treats, you may want to try natural treats. Your cat may be a “clean eater” and may prefer real, whole food. My fur baby loves chicken and turkey. Of course, I always give him teenie, tiny bites without any seasoning. You can boil or bake one unseasoned chicken breast and mince it up to get a month’s worth of treats!

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

January 04, 2018

Hi Carol! You should be able to print pages using your web browser. Here are instructions for Firefox. Other browsers are very similar (when in doubt, go to File > Print): https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-print-web-pages-firefox
You can also use a service like Web2PDFConverter to save web pages to your computer as PDFs and then print: https://www.web2pdfconvert.com/

Carol Gordon
Carol Gordon

December 31, 2017

This is an interesting article. I wish I could print it for reference. Why can’tyou republish it with a link to make it easy to print? It certainly is not printable in its present format.

Tom Misuraca
Tom Misuraca

December 28, 2017

My cat is EXTREMELY finicky and will not eat any type of treat. Believe me, I’ve tried them all! Any suggestions?

Kris
Kris

December 24, 2017

I have been trimming my Simons nails for 5 years. He always gets treats whether I get to finish or not. What’s funny is that his “sister”, Buffy, was declawed when we got her, comes out when I am done and gets treats too!

Christine Rudansky
Christine Rudansky

December 22, 2017

All good ideas! Very sensible to keep Kitty calm and happy with treats, which makes the process much easier for the clipper and clippee.

Christine Rudansky
Christine Rudansky

December 22, 2017

All good ideas. Very worthwhile to soothe Kitty in a jappy mood with treats throughout the process

Eileen Yarnell
Eileen Yarnell

December 21, 2017

printable copy would be appreciated

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