How To Trim Cat Nails

One of the first tasks that will be very beneficial to any cat owner is to learn how to trim cat nails. Keeping your their nails trimmed is essential to your cat’s health. You can have your vet cut your cat’s claws or go to a professional cat groomer if you prefer, but since it is a regular task, you may want to learn how to cut cat nails so you can trim them yourself at home when they are starting to get sharp.

What is the Quick

Before you try to cut your claws for the first time, you need to understand some very basic anatomy. Inside the claw is the “quick,” which consists of nerves and blood vessels. Cutting the quick will cause the nail to bleed and be very painful for your cat.

The premise is very similar to cutting your fingernails. If you cut beyond the white tips (or break your nails too low), your finger will bleed and be sore until the nail grows back. The same happens if you cut the quick.

How to Find the Quick

When you look at your a claw, you will see a pink part in the middle. You can also shine a bright light on the nails which will help you see better too.

  • For cats with light claws, it is very easy to find the quick since their nails are translucent.
  • For cats with dark claws, it may be more difficult to see where the quick begins. The best solution when cutting black claws is to take smaller cuts near the very tip since the quick is located further back in the claw.

When to Trim a Cat’s Nails

Chance are you will notice your cat getting its claws stuck in the blankets, furniture, the cat tree, or whatever it is your cat likes to knead with their claws. If the claw is extremely curled, razor-sharp, are curling into the paw pad, or won’t retract completely, then they are too long. Ideally, you want to trim their claws before any of these occur, especially if you find the claw is so curled it is touching or poking into your cat’s footpad.

What You Need to Trim Your Cat’s Claws

Before you start, you want to get all your supplies together. You want to find a quiet, peaceful area away from other cats or pets. You may be able to sit your cat on your lap, or another option is an elevated table that is a comfortable height for you. If your cat is getting fidgety, you can use the towel to wrap your cat like a burrito and only have one paw out at a time.

  • Nail cutters or nail grinder to cut or grind the claws
  • Towel to wrap your cat in if you need help keeping your cat still
  • Styptic powder in case you cut to close to the quick and the nail starts to bleed
  • A quiet, peaceful area away from other cats if you have more than one
  • Treats to be given as a reward & promote positive behavior

How to Cut Your Cat’s Nails

Start with one paw, and follow these steps:

  1. Gently press the top and bottom of the cat’s paw to extend the claws
  2. Locate the quick before cutting
  3. Cut the nail at a 45-degree angle, and if you’re learning then just cut the tip, but do so firmly and quickly to get a clean cut. Cutting slowing will crush the claw and not get a smooth edge. You can always cut more later.
  4. Give you cat treats as you cut their claws
How to trim a cat’s nails

Helpful Tips When Cutting Claws

  • Don’t expect to cut all nails in one sitting.
  • Always have styptic powder on hand, and hope you will never need to use it.
  • If your cat is growling, shaking, panting, whipping its tail around, or seems agitated, stop and try again later. You don’t want to push it to the point where your cat goes into defense mode and bites or scratches you.
  • Forcing your cat to have its nails cut when it is very agitated will make this a challenging task going forward, and your cat will run away from you the next time you take the nail trimmers out.
  • You may find your cat to be less combative if you try cutting their claws when they are tired, relaxed, just waking up or napping.
  • If you cut the quick and cat bleeds, press and hold the styptic powder on the nail for about a minute. Try to remain calm, so you don’t freak your cat out.

Do’s & Don’t’s When Trimming Claws

Check out the list of things you should and should not do when cutting your cat’s nails. Some may seem obvious, but if one person asks the question, it is worth mentioning especially to beginners. Be sure to review the nail trimming FAQ section at the bottom too.

  • Buy a good pair of nail clippers designed for cats
  • Be patient and act calmly
  • Find a calm area where you can have complete control of your cat
  • Do give rewards with your cat’s favorite treats
  • Do cut nails at a 45 degree angle
  • Take your your time
  • Always have styptic powder on hand in case you accidentally cut the quick
  • Don’t try to do all 4 paws in one sitting
  • Don’t cut before locating the quick.
  • If your cat is fidgeting, it may take more than one attempt to press down on their paw to get the claw extended and locate the quick.
  • Don’t cut if you can’t clearly see the claw
  • Don’t crush the claw
  • Don’t cut the claw straight across

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to trim a cat’s claws?

It depends on your cat. There are some signs your cat needs their nails trimmed. Most cats do need their claws trimmed. There could be instance where outdoor cats are keeping their nails filed on their own by climbing, being on pavement, etc. or an indoor cat uses a scratching post enough to keep the claws in check. Chance are you will need to trim them.

What is the easiest way to trim a cat’s claws?

The easiest is way is to sit your cat on your lap if it is comfortable and allows it, then follow the above steps to cut your cat’s claws to complete their nail trimming.

How do you clip an aggressive cat’s nails?

You can try to condition your cat to allow you cut its nails, but if the cat won’t let you, you can take pet to a professional groomer or have your vet trim their nails. If you do attempt a nail trimming, start slowing doing just a little bit, one nail at a time.

How long can a cat go without trimming nails?

Each cat is different, but on average you should check your cats claws every couple of weeks or so to determine if they need to be trimmed. Hold the cat’s paw and gently press the pad for their retractable claws to be visible when trimming cat claws.

Can I use human nail clippers on my cat?

Although some say it is okay to use human nail clippers, it is better to get clippers designed specifically for cats. Human nail clippers may split the nail which would make it rough. Cat owners should trim cat claws with cat nail trimmers and always have styptic powder on hand.

Why are my cats claws frayed?

The fraying occurs as the sheath is shed. Cats may also chewing their claws to remove the sheath as part of their normal grooming routine. By removing the outside layer, they will expose sharper claws underneath it.

Why are my cats claws so thick?

Thick claws occur when a cat is not shedding the nail sheath. Instead of grow out and longer, the nail gets thicker. Thick claws are common in older cats. Thick claws still need to be cut so they don’t grow into the paw pad. Thick claws still need to be cut so they don’t grow into the paw pad which can cause pain to your furry friend.

How can I cut my cat’s nails by myself?

Using a towel and putting your cat into a kitty burrito is helpful if you have a fidgety animal. There are also grooming bags.

How do you trim a cat’s nails that won’t let you?

You can try to the kitty burrito option. Having a second person to pet and distract your cat sometimes is helpful. If your cat absolutely won’t let you cut its claws, you can take your cat to a professional groomer. You can also have your veterinarian trim their nails.

What happens if you don’t trim your cat’s nails?

If you don’t keep them trimmed they can curl into the foot pad which could cause a lot of pain for your cat. Cat with untrimmed claws may damage furniture. They also can get their claws stuck in items such as furniture, curtains, etc. and it is possible for your cat to injure its claw by pulling too hard to remove it from whatever it is stuck on.

Does it hurt cats when you cut their nails?

As long as you don’t cut the quick, trimming their claws does not hurt them. Cats may cry when you are cutting their nails because they don’t like to be constrained or because they are not used to the sensation of having their claws cut.

What happens if I cut my cats nails and it bleeds?

Before attempting to cut your cats nail, be sure to have styptic powder handy. Pressing styptic powder on the nail for about a minute will stop the bleeding.

Why do my cats nails peel?

Cats shed thin layers of the nail sheath to allow new nails to grow. Cats do this naturally by scratching. Be sure to have scratching posts for your pet or they will make something a scratching post. Also be sure to keep their nails trimmed.