How to Cut a Crazy Cat's Nails

Keep your cat's nails trimmed to prevent damage to furniture or people.
Keep your cat's nails trimmed to prevent damage to furniture or people. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

To keep your cat from scratching you or your furniture, trim its nails to keep them blunt. Trimming your cat's nails also prevents potential health problems for your cat such as keeping a torn toenail from getting caught in fabric or carpeting. While necessary, your cat may not enjoy this procedure, especially if it is a bit aggressive or anxious. To perform a nail clipping on your cat, keep it calm and take measures to soothe it before and during the procedure.

Things You'll Need

  • Cat pheromone diffuser
  • Calming flower essences for cats
  • Pet or human nail clippers
  • Towel
  • Cat treats

Use a diffuser, containing a calming cat pheromone, in the room you plan to clip your cat's nails. The chemical smell, undetectable to humans, mimics cat facial pheromones. This odor puts your cat at ease, calming it. Let the diffuser sit for a few hours before you clip your cat's nails in order to fill the room with the scent.

Put a few drops of a natural, calming flower essence for cats in your pet's water. Found in pet stores, these natural remedies contain extracts from plants which serve to relax your cat and relieve anxiety. Place the liquid in the water about an hour before you clip your cat's nails.

Place your cat on a soft towel on a flat surface. While you can hold some cats on your lap for this procedure, a particularly anxious or aggressive cat should be held on a table or other piece of furniture to prevent being scratched. Put your arm around the cat to restrain it. Hold the nail clipper in your other, dominant hand, and allow the cat to smell the clipper.

Lift one of your cat's front paws slightly with the hand you are using to restrain the cat. Using your index finger and thumb, gently press down on each toe's knuckle, located just behind the claw, to expose the nail you will clip. Once exposed, place the nail clipper perpendicular to the tip of the nail.

Clip the tips off of each of your cat's nails, including the "thumb" on the side of your cat's front paws, called the dew claw. When clipping the nails, look at the nail to see the quick, which is the pink part of the nail containing blood vessels and nerve endings. Aim to clip about two to three millimeters below this area to prevent bleeding. To avoid cutting the quick, clip just the sharp tips of the nails if you are unsure of how low to cut.

Offer your cat a food reward with its favorite cat treat after clipping one to two nails at a time. This will positively reinforce the experience of having its nails clipped and will help calm the cat. If the cat becomes overly stressed or aggressive after clipping a few of its nails, stop, let the cat go, and try the procedure in a few hours or the next day. While you can clip the nails on the back paws, in addition to the ones in the front, a very aggressive cat may fuss if you do this; you may want to try doing this in a separate session.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep the nail clipper sharp to prevent shattering the nail when clipping and causing your cat pain.
  • Ask a friend or family member to assist you in restraining a particularly aggressive cat. Have them pet the cat, prevent it from biting, and try to soothe it while you clip the nails.
  • Give your cat a scratching post to help keep its nails naturally filed, so you can trim less often.
  • If you cut the nail too close to the quick, it will bleed. Stop the bleeding by rubbing styptic powder or cornstarch on the bleeding tip of the nail.
  • Examine your cat's nails weekly to prevent them from growing into the bottom of the paw pad.
  • Very aggressive cats may require the use of a special restraint bag or muzzle, found in pet stores, when clipping the nails to prevent them from biting or scratching you. Unfortunately, the use of these devices may also scare the cat so it will associate nail clipping with a negative and traumatic experience.

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