Sunday, May 23, 2010

Basic Cat Care: How to Clip a Cat's Claws

Feline maintenance extends way beyond filling a bowl with chow, popping a pull-tab on a can, filling a water bowl, and scooping the cat box. Indoor cats need help to minimize the length of their claws. In the wild, cats wear down their nails with daily hunting and scenting activities. In the home, this isn't quite so easy.

Some cats take an extreme liking to the end of a sofa. The cat will visit the same spot daily to rake his claws down a roughened fabric surface. The cat really isn't intentionally scratching to ruin your furniture. Cats naturally perform this motion to sharpen and clean the nails. Your cat is also marking that sofa with a scent from the pads of his paws. That sofa belongs to kitty. It's part of the cat's territory.


Cat owners cannot squelch instinct. However, we can perform basic feline maintenance to diminish damage from cat claws. Definitely provide a sisal-wrapped scratching post. Many cats adore the disposable, pressed-cardboard scratching posts available at pet stores. Provide a scratching area and sprinkle it with catnip to encourage the cat to use the scratch pad instead of your furniture. Discourage the continual scratching on sofa and chair sides by draping a blanket over the edge to the floor.

Teaching your Cat to Like Grooming

Clipping claws requires some adjustments on the part of the cat and the caregiver. If you're leery of tackling this cat grooming activity, start slow. Cats don't like to be messed with, but you can get your cat used to being handled. Rub your cat's feet and wiggle your fingers in between the paws. Do this on a regular basis to acclimate the cat. Break out the hairbrush and give the cat a good brushing. This teaches the cat that your care isn't scary and mean.

Some owners can hold a cat on their lap and clip claws in record time. This cat has obviously adjusted to the grooming. The owner obviously feels quite confident with the clippers. For everyone's safety, place a towel flat on a surface and wrap the towel so it opens in the back. The towel should reach the cat's neck and should be pulled tight enough to prevent the cat's legs from sneaking out.

Claw Clipping

Sit in a chair and place the cat on your lap with his belly facing up. Have a small set of nail clippers handy. Pet stores sell a variety of nail clipping devices for pets. It's much easier for a novice to control a small set of "human" clippers. You really don't need a special tool.

Fish one leg out of the towel and press a finger into the center of the cat's footpad. This spreads the cat's retractable claws. Squeeze a little and the full claw will be exposed. You'll see the pointy nail and the underlying nerves and blood vessels. This area looks pink in color. Do not cut into this "quick" area to prevent the cat from experiencing a few painful days of walking.

Hold the paw firmly with the nails extended and grab the clippers. Position the clippers over the nail end, avoiding the quick area. Clip claws with the top blade of the clippers cutting straight down on the top of the claw. The cat may jerk the foot away in response to the clipper motion. Grab the foot and continue clipping the other claws. Don't be surprised if kitty gets mad or if you need more than one session to clip all his claws. Less is more with cat nail clipping until both owner and cat learn to tolerate this necessary task.

The dew claw is located on the back of a cat's leg, slightly above the foot. This claw rarely gets worn down on a scratching post. This nail has the potential to wrap around and embed into the skin. Clip the dew claw and switch to the other front foot to clip all claws. If the cat is reacting badly, have a helper hold the scruff of the cat's neck. This often calms the cat enough to finish the clipping task.

The back legs present a particular challenge. Cats use the rear legs to gut prey. It's best to keep these tucked safely inside the towel for as long as possibly. Pull one rear leg out at a time for claw clipping. If necessary, clip the front claws and let the cat go. Ambush him later for rear claw clipping.

Cats need their claws for a myriad of kitty activities during the course of day. Your furniture can coexist with your cat with a small amount of effort on your part. Provide alternatives for the cat to scratch and clip the cat's claws regularly to moderate indoor scratching behavior.

For more information, visit the University of Washington College of Veterinary Medicine.

1 comment:

Cat Grooming said...

There are many people that think about grooming their dogs, but when it comes to cats, they assume they take care of their own grooming. Unfortunately, this can also lead to hairball problems that can cause their health to deteriorate. For this reason, the importance of cat grooming tools might be overlooked by some cat owners.

Cat Grooming

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