Kitten’s Got Claws.
How to Trim Your Cat’s Claws

Never trimming your cat’s claws is like never cutting your fingernails.  You don’t want your cat to end up like that freakish man from India whose fingernails are curling talons of horror do you?  Come to think of it, even HE cut his nails in 2018. So grab some trimmers – we’re going to cut some cat claws.

Meet Ernie.  The subject of today’s medical lesson. Ernie is a 100% purebred stray cat. A genuine feral, tortoiseshell, mutt, polydactyl cat.   She’s very rare.

I’ve owned many ( many = 3) cats and never declawed any of them.  I’ve come close, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I try not to judge anyone who has their cats declawed, because I know how utterly infuriating it is to buy a piece of furniture that cost 3 weeks pay only to have a cat look you in the eye as it tears massive hunks out of it. Repeatedly.

Happy with its handiwork the cat usually strolls away with a wiggle in its walk, tail straight up in the air, presenting you with its anus.

I found Ernie on our front porch a few winters ago, curled up on my wicker furniture, covered in a dusting of snow.  She was gone by the morning but came back every night.  After months of taming, cajoling and calming I finally got that little cat into my house, only to discover she’s a polydactyl.   That’d be a cat with an unusual amount of toes.  Many toes.  A LOT of toes.  Which of course means … a lot of claws.  Go ahead.  Go back to the picture above and take a look at how big her paws are.  That cat could take out a pot bellied pig with one swipe.

I knew for my furniture to have any  hope in hell of making it, I had to start trimming her nails immediately.  I was a bit worried that as a formerly wild cat she wasn’t going to go down without a fight, but by the time she came to live in the house she was so happy to have a warm place to live and lots of food, she’d pretty much let me do anything to her.

So now every few weeks I wrangle her and trim their claws. I did the same with Cleo until she died.  And this is how you do it …

How to Trim Cat Claws

  1. Buy some cat claw trimmers at your local pet store. You can also get them on Amazon if you prefer not to venture out into the real world.


2. Holding your cat firmly in your lap, take one of its paws and push down on their knuckle with your thumb. This will make the claw extend out.

Take a good look at the claw.  You’ll see a dark portion in the nail.  That’s tissue.  The quick.  And you DON’T want to knick it, so be aware of where it is.  If you do cut into the quick it will hurt the cat and bleed a little.  It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not nice either.

3. While still pushing down on their knuckle to extend the claw, line your trimmers up to just before the tip of the vein and clip.  You’re just taking the sharp curved end off the claw.

The younger the cat is when you start doing this the easier it will be.

For first timers.

If you’ve never trimmed your cat’s claws before, get your cat used to you handling their paws before you actually trim them.  Just sit them in your lap and hold their paws for a little bit.  The next day do the same thing but squeeze the paw so their nails pop out so they get used to that.  Once the cat is comfortable with you handling their paws you can try trimming.

Just take the tip off the first time you trim your cat’s claws.  The more you trim a cat’s claws the more their quick will recede.  So you’ll be able to trim their claws shorter and shorter as time goes by.


 Cats have a claw a little further up their paw.  The dewclaw.  Don’t forget to clip this one.

All of the cats I’ve owned have been fine with trimming their front claws.   The odd time their back nails get to be so long and sharp you have to trim them, but not as often.  These are a tad more difficult to negotiate, but it can be done.

To start trim your cats claws every 2 weeks or so. This will be enough to prompt the quick to recede and keep your furniture intact.

If you are bound and determined to grow your fingernails until they resemble a corkscrew tree, that’s your business.  Just don’t let force the same sideshow fate on your cat.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←


Kitten\'s Got Claws.<br data-lazy-src=


  1. Lou Cinda says:

    Karen, I trim my cats’ (all four of them) claws the exact same way. I still have a scratch board for them that I spray catnip on every week or two, but they still get a manicure/pedicure too! Only one of my cats, the oldest (18) doesn’t like it. She lets me do it but the noises she makes are hysterical…..

    Great tutorial….complete with injuries…

    Lou Cinda

  2. SG says:

    As the live-in staff of Natasha, 7-lb Queen of the Jungle, I read this as fairy tale, something done by wizards in a land far away. I would be gutted like a mullet if I tried it.

    • Whitney W. says:

      My 20 lb. Benevolent Overlord, Henry, is also making me wonder about this story here. And the other comments. Who are these people? Where do they come from? Are they absolutely SURE that they’re talking about CATS? As Henry reminds me often, he doesn’t need to be a “Benevolent” Overlord.

  3. marilyn says:

    oh karen my kitty is a she-devil. satans spawn! she even looks evil with a black stripe right down the middle of her face. she claws the furniture all the time but i dont think i could hold her long enough to even get the clippers positioned! and a scratching post? pshaw!! why use a scratching post when there is so much furniture to defile! but i am going to try…i will keep you posted…or you can come and visit me in the hospital. lol

    • Karen says:

      Try the towel trick that someone else mentioned. (wrap she-devil in a towel first) Although .. if I tried to wrap Cleo in a towel she’d probably scratch my eyes out in a Kung Fu like manner, then run away. ~ karen

      • Tina says:

        I wrap Bob (the apprentice kitten) in a towel to do his mani-pedis but it’s amazing, as soon as I start to wrap him up, he develops 12 legs! It’s terribly inconvenient!

        Someone suggested making a body wrap to go around his entire body and across the front, then hang him (put straps on the wrap) from a hook in the ceiling or over a door. That leaves the legs free to trim but he can’t go anywhere. He can’t do anything but hang.

    • Vicki says:

      I have one of those, too. We have tried everything and finally decided to just have his nails clipped at the vet.

  4. Mary Werner says:

    Great Post and helpful. My solution is to keep them outside but we live in Florida! Aluminum foil works like a charm when you tuck it onto the place they want to stretch and scratch. But they do know when you remove it for company – smart cats. After one shredded 5 of my 6 leather dining chairs, she got declawed and was never allowed out again as dogs would get her. (Didn’t know about aluminum foil until the last chair.) Dogs have still gotten 3 of the clawed cats that didn’t manage to get up a tree. Not my dogs and we have LOTS of trees in our yard. They would have been ok if declawed and inside but what kind of life is that? I still take in strays, fix them, buy heater beds for odd cold nights and feed them twice a day since I love birds too!

  5. kerri says:

    What a cutie! I had a kitty with many toes once too. She lived for 27 yrs! Maybe more toes = more years. Anyway, now I have 4 cats. 2 I found abandoned on the side of the road in a box.. terrified.. about to be eaten by god knows what being the tiny, adorable morsels they were. And one abandoned by her mother out in the cold. All were about 4 or 5 weeks when I found them. The fourth was just rescued from an old lady who made him too fat. None of these cats will part with their nails! If I see anything uncomfy, I’ll suffer to help.. otherwise, the cats have spoken. I need a steady supply of couch covers, but they’ve spared the rest of the furniture, thank gawd..

  6. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Such a beautiful kitty!! And how lucky you are that his nails are clear and not black so you can see the quick easily. It’s even more scary when you have to guess. I’ve accidentally clipped a quick or two in my life and it’s horrible (mostly for me). My pets yell and then bleed all over. Meanwhile, I’m nearly blinded by tears and guilt and they are running around like banshees leaving me a bloody trail to clean up. Try to clip their nails after that — oh the terror for them (and me).

    Excellent tips, Karen. Hilarious as always!

  7. magali says:

    another little tip that I would add: if you are scared that you can’t see the quick properly, put a flashlight behind the nail. I have a mini one that I use just for that.

  8. Nicole2 says:

    What an absolutely gorgeous cat Ernie is! A real stunner. And I volunteer at the local animal shelter, so I see all sorts! And I LOVE polydactyls, I think they’re so neat.

    To protect your furniture, pet stores sell this double sided tape that pretty unnoticeable. I put it on the back of the chairs, where my cat liked to scratch. She absolutely hates it, so now she only uses her scratching post.

  9. Jessica says:

    We have two cats – a 4 year old Maine Coon (Misha) and a 1-year-old tabby stray (Pint, for Pint-sized) that I found in my backyard.

    Pint, despite being born wild, has never had a problem getting her nails trimmed and will sit in my lap and purr happily during the whole process.

    Misha, on the other hand, definitely DOES NOT like having her nails trimmed. My boyfriend and I have to hold her down together, and even then, she’ll growl and hiss and try her best to scratch. Once she realizes she can’t scratch, because we’ve got all her paws, she bites – and hard too, enough to draw blood. I’ve tried using welding gloves to hold her and the force of her biting through that has brought tears to my eyes. Now we put a towel over her head so she can’t see what’s going on, and that seems to work a bit better. She still growls and squirms but she doesn’t try to bite as much.

    Even with regular nail trimming, we’ve had some furniture casualties. I’m currently making protective covering for the sides of the couch because we just can’t bring ourselves to de-claw Misha.

  10. Susan says:

    Yuck! I had 2 cats at one time…. One was my daughters cat, one was a stray that I was a sucker for. I had the nails ripped out of the daughters cat cause she was staying and the stray …who stayed forever, I might add, never got her nails removed, cause she may have just up and leave one day. The one without nails was so much better on the furniture, arms eyeballs etc. she also was a fierce and mean street fighter. Those back feet were wicked. Thanks but I will stick with my lumbering sweet Newfoundland dog. No cats for me.

  11. Brenda says:

    Great post Karin, familiar with the program seeing as I am bordering on the OK versus Crazy Cat Lady number. I find if your scratching post is high enough for the cats to stretch up they will use it more, I make my own with cardboard tubes and sisal rope…still need to clip however.

  12. Tracy says:

    My sweet docile kitty becomes Hell Cat when it’s time to clip her nails; you’d think I was trying to force her to watch Threes Company re-runs or to eat dog food by the amount of screaming she puts out.

    But the best think I ever heard to do was to get a nice big towel and wrap her up in it while you clip her claws. I take out one paw at a time, clip it, put it back in the towel and get another. I don’t get any scratches and she stays relatively calm!

    • whitequeen96 says:

      “force her to watch Threes Company re-runs . . .” He he, I’d run screaming too! I couldn’t even stand them the first time around.

  13. Christine says:

    My cats, past and present, have all been fully clawed. For self preservation I have developed my own technique. I get them when they’re sleeping! This serves two purposes. First, I can usually get one paw done before they are fully alert and it’s much easier. Second, they wake me up for every-freaking-day-at-Four-in-the-morning. It’s nice to turn the tables every now and again.

    I use people toenail clippers that are nice and wide. I’ve also used nail covers (Soft Paws) with varying degrees of success. Even though my cats have destroyed my wall to wall carpeting, my bar stools and my brand new chair and ottoman set, I can’t bring myself to have them declawed. I love those stupid brats, razor sharp needle claws and all.

  14. Violet says:

    And be sure to keep some styptic powder on hand for the times you do accidentally nick the quick. You should be able to find it in the same section as the nail clippers in any decent pet store. Or you can buy online. Dunno if there are different brands, but the one I use is called Kwik Stop. :)

  15. deanna says:

    I HAVE to send this to my daughter! Yesterday, she sent me a video of her new cat – who just discovered the art of screen door climbing (that is only funny the first time!)

  16. Diane says:

    Ahhh the fun of nail clipping. I’ve been doing this for years, I’ve had cats all my life but during my adult life I’ve had only indoor cats, much to their dismay.
    I have declawed the last two cats as they were costing me more money in furniture than in a year’s worth of food and vet bills. But I still trim the back claws every so often. They don’t like it, never have. So I sit on the floor with the cat belly up between my legs. I pin one back leg under mine so he knows moving is pointless and then we trim. I get to dominate my cat for about 5 minutes a month and he dominates me and my home for the rest of it. Fair trade I figure. ;)

  17. nancy says:

    I just use regular people clippers! But you can’t flip them on their backs. Even the best cat will not like that. My cats use scratching posts really well, you just have to squirt them a few times when they are in the wrong place and have several cat scratching selections around (sisal mats, posts, and cardboard things).
    I used to have a tapestry sofa and a cat that would go to town on it, and he never damaged it at all. A Mystery.

    • Momo's Momma says:

      What’s funny is that my cat actually lays on her back in my lap quite happily while I trim her claws. I started when she was just a bitty kitten, about three months old, and she’s never had a problem being on her back for snuggles, nail trims, or lap time. I keep her head and shoulders against my stomach and give her kisses and gentle encouragement and she tolerates the clipping extremely well, unless she’s trying to bite the clippers. XD Some days she’s just feisty, though; she’s only a year old now.

      • Carswell says:

        My Siamese used to do the same thing. Laying on his back in my lap, purring his brains out and flexing his paws – which made clipping the nails easier. He loved it. But then he loved anything he interpreted as attention from me. I could have hung him upside down while clipping his claws and he would have been fine with that too I am sure.

        My current furry girl will have none of it. I take her to the vet to get her claws clipped periodically but she will NOT let me do it. It is a two person job. She won’t let me pill her either.

  18. Christine says:

    Karen, you are so entertaining as a writer that I will read a post about information that I know I will never need to know…but cheers to everything I have learned from you. Every time I walk past my magnet gate holder, I feel ridiculously proud.

  19. itchbay says:

    We started with Mr. Bob when he was young, and he actually kinda likes it. At least, he patiently waits for it to be over and he gets scritches and treats. Our rescue kitty, Little Girl, on the other hand… no, not so much.

  20. Anita says:

    I too have a cat who is perfectly fine with having his claws clipped (with people clippers, no less!) as long as he’s being cuddled normally. Why would you flip a poor cat onto his back? My cat won’t even let me show his belly when I’m holding him!

  21. Tanya says:

    I trim my cats’ nails and it makes a big difference to my delicate epidermis. One cat used to freak out when we touched her feet so I just slowly built up to it. Gave her a favorite treat, then touched her feet, then next time clipped one nail, more treats… We quickly got to the point where she sits patiently because she’s waiting for her treat. Pavlov’s cat?!

  22. Alisha says:

    Friend had a bit of a douche for a cat – Armani. Snuggles on his own time, hisses when your shadow crosses his path from 17 feet away and certainly does not like to be held. I looked after him for a few months and before she left she mentioned that he HATES his claws clipped and she’s come close to losing an eye. Only do it if absolutely necessary …

    I clipped them. No problem at all. And I’m clearly proud of it. But I’ll tell you where she went wrong. She pulled him up into her lap AND flipped him on his back AND (this is the real kicker) she used people nail clippers on him! Poor kitty. I snuck up on him while he was sleeping on the bed, snipsnipsnip, purrpurrpurr and done.

    PS You have a pretty kitty

    • magali says:

      People nail clippers are not a bad thing. That is what I always use for my cat and everything goes fine.

    • Cindy says:

      I’m into the “sneaking up on them” idea! This is very timely for me … we have been driving our two cats to a groomer for claw trims and they aren’t fond of that, and it would be nice to save the cost!

    • Wyldecent says:

      I also use people nail clippers with no problems. People nail clippers are also what they use at the cat rescue I volunteer at. Flipping them on their backs makes cats feel vulnerable so I agree that this is not an ideal position to use.

  23. devra says:

    i have always trimmed my cats’ nails … using regular people clippers, which i find easier to use. the cats have scratching posts all over the house … but they still have favorite pieces of furniture which they decide to shred. one upholstered chair in particular has no fabric on its back anymore … you can see the frame.

    nevertheless, i love my cats and will continue wrestling with them and trimming their nails.

    karen, i love your writing style and your stories and recipes. :-)

  24. Marti says:

    This struck me as sort of touchingly sweet that you go through this every 2-3 weeks to let your cats keep their knuckles. I love kitties, but I wasn’t so kind to my own in the past.

    Ohhhh, look at me. I’m all verklempt!

  25. isea says:

    if cats had a scratching post to inflict their wrath upon, would you still need to trim their claws?

    • Karen says:

      isea – Yup. Fraid so. The post will dull their nails a little, but it won’t cut the length off. Cat nails grow the same way peoples nails grow. And they grow pretty quick! :) ~ karen

    • Tina says:

      Plus very few times do cats use their back feet on the scratching post. I have one cat who loves her post, the other, my apprentice kitten, loves my leather furniture. I try to make the post more inviting by mashing catnip into it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *