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  Cat filing its nails
  Unfortunately, your cat can't file
its own nails.

Part of sharing your life with a feline family member includes learning how to care for their nails. Trimming your cat's nails is the easiest way to prevent unwanted scratches to both you and your carpet or furniture. It won't happen overnight so have patience and be consistent with positive reinforcement only.

Cat getting a treat.
Always use positive reinforcement (rewards) when training your feline.

Training Your Cat

If you decide to adopt a kitten start getting them used foot handling from day one. If adopting an adult cat, use the same techniques but go a bit slower and allow more time for trust-building.

  Cat Foot Handling Technique
  Hold your cat's paw with one finger on the top of the toe and another on the paw pad.
  Cutting a Cat's Nail

When the kitten or cat is relaxed, pet their legs once or twice to gauge their response. If they are not bothered then pet their feet and then attempt to touch their paw pads. If this is their limit then stop for the day and repeat several days in a row until eventually their reaction lessens as they learn to trust.

The next step is to be able to hold their paw, as the picture below shows, with one finger on the top of the toe and another on the paw pad. Push down to visualize the claw. With time, they will get used to this action and allow you to touch the nail with nail trimmers (the next step).

When your cat becomes comfortable with touching their feet, only clip one or two nails at a time. The noise may startle them and they will need a break. Don't expect them to sit still for trimming all nails immediately.

Cutting the Nail

When trimming, start with the tips only until you are comfortable with how much you can cut without hurting the cat. If they are cut too short, the area that holds the blood supply and nerve to the nail, called the "quick," will be cut and can be very painful and may bleed. If bleeding does occur, baking soda or flour may be used to clot the blood.

If you have an older cat that has not had regular nail trimming, their quick may extend further out into the nail so you must inspect where the quick stops in your cat before cutting.

Nail Trimming Equipment

Choose nail trimmers based on ease of handling for you and the size of your hands. There are several different types to choose from including guillotine, scissor handles, larger open handles and regular human toe-nail trimmers.

Cat Nail Clippers Scissor Handles Cat Nail Clippers Guillotine Cat Nail Clippers Open Handles Human Toe Nail Clippers

Soft Paw Application

Soft Paws are a product created as a safe and effective alternative to declawing cats. Application is simple. Just fill each nail cap with the provided non-toxic adhesive and slide it over the nail. If you have a declawed cat demonstrating unwanted behavior, contact us to schedule a "paw evaluation" with Dr. Moran.

We recommend trimming nails as frequently as necessary, training cats to use horizontal scratch pads or sturdy scratching posts (you must let them choose which they prefer) and if desired, Soft Paw nail cap application. We have listed some links of interest below to learn about cats and their nail health.

We are always here to help, so please call us at (317) 844-2287 if you would like more information about Soft Paws, training assistance, or to schedule a nail trim.

About the Author

Nicole Martell-Moran, DVM, MPH is Chief of Staff at the Cat Care Clinic in Indianapolis, IN. A graduate of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Moran is an active member of International Cat Care and the American Association of Feline Practitioners.