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.

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104 Comments

  1. Colette says:

    I clip my cats’ claws when they are sleeping, generally they wake up a little and start purring before carefully tucking all their paws under their considerable bulk so that I can’t find them (they think I’m really dumb). Sometimes I just get the very sharpest bit at the tip (one of the cats tends to start kneading before he realizes what’s happening which makes it harder to line up the cut right) and have to re-clip every 7 days or so, but I’d rather have to clip more often than cut them too short

  2. Korrine Johnson says:

    I really need to try clipping my kitty’s claws but instead I put that double stick tape all over my furniture. So classy looking!

  3. Tonia says:

    We currently have 7 cats and none of them are declawed. We’ve lost one leather chair that was almost completely destroyed, but otherwise we’ve been pretty lucky. Four are from a litter that a feral had in our backyard and they have never completely socialized so they don’t get their nails trimmed. We bought one of those scratching posts that is supposed to work like an emery board. Not as good as clipping but better than nothing. The others don’t really mind it.

    I think if you feel you must have a declawed cat, then consider adopting one already declawed. When my sister was looking to adopt I was surprised at the number of cats in our local shelters and rescue groups that were declawed.

  4. Tina says:

    I too had a polydactyl kitty with enormous mitts; fortunately I taught her from a young age to endure the nail clipping. I’d hold her belly up in my lap and she’d purr and fall asleep while I trimmed her nails.

    I had a cat with a variety of deformities and one of them was her claws were deformed and very difficult to trim without causing cracks up the claw that would bleed. I decided to have the 3 deformed claws removed and, boy, did I ever regret making that decision. The sight of her little claw-amputated toes was horrid and the pain she experienced just broke my heart.

    You are correct that training young ‘uns is much easier but I’ve found that a lot of petting, brushing, and treats in between nail clips will work on the older ones too.

  5. Sally says:

    My Oh Ren Ishi Kitty (named for Luci Lu’s character in the Kill Bill movies) looks JUST like your cat and is also polydactyl! I spent a week installing beadboard wallpaper in my hallway -don’t judge me – I’m a turtle – and came down one morning to find it shredded! Word to the wise…it makes for great scratching. I bought the world’s most hideous and expensive cat condo, covered it in cat nip, and hoped for the best. Turns out, she loves the condo but would much rather destroy wallpaper. I was searching the web for plans for a diy tiny guillotine when I stumbled across your post. Lucky Ishi 😉 Joking…love my cats but will give trimming a try. Wish me luck!

    • Karen says:

      Sally – Good luck! It’s not so hard. Bit of a pain to do every every couple of weeks though. A few other people suggested “soft paws”, but I’ve never had much luck with them. Worth a shot. Glad you found my site … ~ karen

  6. Mandi says:

    I laughed so hard at the furniture clawing description. I relate to it all to well.

  7. Heather says:

    just so everyone knows declawing causes arthritis and leads to biting and aggression which can be dangerous especially for children. declawing is actually illegal in much of the rest of the developed world not only for the cats protection but as a public health concern because of the aggression it can create. if you like nice furniture maybe you shouldn’t have added a feline to your family. also letting a cat outside depletes the bird population and destroys the natural ecosystem.

  8. billy sharpstick says:

    Claw removal is just evil and unhealthy for the cat.
    We currently have eight cats. I use the claw trimmer that looks like scissors with small rounded notches in the ends like in Karen’s picture. They are about 2 1/2 inches long. (Dollar Tree has them sometimes.)
    Do this in a room with good bright lighting in front of you. First, I put the cat down on the floor on a towel or rug so they have secure footing. Kitty is generally in a sitting position, but occasionally they hunker down. I kneel over them and close my feet behind me so they can’t back out. If they start to squirm, I tighten my feet a bit to reassure them that there is no escape. I gently raise one foot at a time, press under the paw with index finger to extend the claw. Carefully place the trimmer over the claw and slowly trim the tip. I usually don’t trim any more than an eighth of an inch off the end. It is fairly easy to see the quick on cats. It is an opaque part at the base of the claw. Cut only on the transparent part. (I have one cat that has a totally black claw on one paw. I am extra careful with that one because I can’t see where the quick ends.) I’ve never cut into the quick, but I suspect I would never be allowed to do this again with that cat. It helps to end the session with a treat s future sessions go more easily. I’ve done this successfully with all of our cats, even a couple who were rescued ferals and I’ve done it to cats at friend’s houses. As for the rear claws, that’s a bit trickier. On the more jumpy cats, I wait until they are sleeping, gently sneak up on them and trim one or two claws before they wake up and get pissy. On the more mellow ones, I can hold them on my lap sideways, back against my stomach and trim the paw that is on top, then roll them over and do the other foot.
    It is good to have good scratching posts made of sisal rope or carpet scraps. I make these and screw them to the wall so they are secure. This helps keep them from clawing the furniture, but it does not dull the claws. It actually helps them shed the old layer off to reveal a new razor sharp tip. You’ll know when it’s time to trim again! That usually occurs around 3 AM.

  9. billy sharpstick says:

    As servant to eight cats, I agree with your method, but have found that sitting on(over) them works better. I’ve written it up long ago:
    I use the claw trimmer that looks like scissors with small rounded notches in the ends. They are about 2 1/2 inches long. (I’ve hear that the squeeze type fingernail trimmers also work well.) Do this in a room with good bright lighting in front of you. First, I put the cat down on the floor on a towel or rug so they have secure footing. Kitty is generally in a sitting position, but occasionally they hunker down. I kneel over them and close my feet behind me so they can’t back out. If they start to squirm, I tighten my feet a bit to reassure them that there is no escape. I gently raise one foot at a time, press under the paw to extend the claw. Carefully place the trimmer over the claw and slowly trim the tip. I usually don’t trim any more than an eighth of an inch off the end. It is fairly easy to see the quick on cats. It is an opaque part at the base of the claw. Cut only on the transparent part. (I have one cat that has a totally black claw on one paw. I am extra careful with that one because I can’t see where the quick ends.) I’ve never cut into the quick, but I suspect I would never be allowed to do this again with that cat. It helps to end the session with a treat s future sessions go more easily. I’ve done this successfully with all of our cats, even a couple who were rescued ferals and I’ve done it to cats at friend’s houses. As for the rear claws, that’s a bit trickier. On the more jumpy cats, I wait until they are sleeping, gently sneak up on them and trim one or two claws before they wake up and get pissy. On the more mellow ones, I can hold them on my lap sideways, back against my stomach and trim the paw that is on top, then roll them over and do the other foot.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Declawing is illegal in some provinces and I expect it would be difficult to find a good vet that would even consider it. It’s really amputation after all. Sorry if this has already been brought up.

  11. Reg says:

    Please don’t even consider declawing a cat. It’s a painful mutilation that can cause pain and resulting behavioral issues for the rest of the cats life. It should be banned. Regular nail cutting, soft paws, scratchingosts and boards can all help direct your cats away from your furniture. If you really feel strongly about scratching, don’t get a cat.

  12. leo muzzin says:

    I am going to suggest that my son get a nail trimmer like the one you have for his african grey parrot. the cat nails and the parrot nails are almost the same size and shape so it should work. Can you elaborate please on your trimmer…. i.e. why you chose that one, does it stay sharp, where you got yours etc. thanks .. Leo

    • billy sharpstick says:

      Most pet stores have that trimmer. Be sure you get the cat size one! I find them at Dollar Tree sometimes. I keep one or two in the car and give them to people I train. Most people are surprised how well most cats tolerate this.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Leo. I can’t remember, but chances are I either got it at Petsmart, or one of the smaller pet stores. I’ve had it since I can remember and it’s still sharp. They’re probably around $10 from a pet store. I have a couple of them actually in different rooms so if the mood hits me I can just open a drawer and get on with it. Vet offices carry them too. ~ karen!

  13. Angela says:

    I have a purebred Maine Coon I adopted when he was two. He is six now. He doesn’t like to be brushed, much less have his claws trimmed. I always get injured when I try to trim his claws so it’s a chore we both hate. And he’s vindictive – he will swat at my ankle and draw blood after the deed is done. He’s the only cat I’ve ever had that wasn’t declawed. I love him but he’s the last cat I will ever have.

  14. Joanne says:

    My cat, Max would assume the bite position when I clipped his nails.
    If I was making him feel uncomfortable he showed me so via the pressure of his teeth on hand. So I never cut the quick and Max never broke skin.

  15. Megan Geiger says:

    I do all four feet every time, for my hardwood floors sake. When my cats take off running around the house like a ghost is riding their tails their little claws can make scratch marks. I trained my cats to extend all claws when I lift them up high, then my husband comes around and nips them all down and off they go. Its so much easier I think and gives my arms a workout.

  16. Alena says:

    I think Dremel is a much better tool. You can’t cut the quick and it will leave nice smooth nails. I have been cutting all my greyhounds’ nails for years with Dremel – I recommend the cordless one because it’s easier to carry it with you and use it once a moment presents itself. The corded one restricts you to being plugged it so it’s not so convenient.
    Every Home Depot will have one.

  17. Cussot says:

    I used to do my monster cat’s claws one at a time. In other words, I’d sneak up on him, get one claw done with no fuss, then wait an hour or two before attempting another one. That way neither of us got stressed out. Sometimes it took a couple of days, but it wasn’t a big deal.

    Nice, clear photos, Karen – very impressive. That cat could be a paw model.

  18. Kasia says:

    Huh. My kitty, Henrie, LOVES being on her back, her choice or mine. I’ve never met a kitty that liked tummy pets like she does! She’s insatiable, I bet she would enjoy it hours on end if I could do it that long! I don’t need to trim her nails, as she was declawed when I got her.

  19. judy says:

    could this method be used on a chihuahua dog? Adopted this dog 3 or so months ago and she is the opposite of what the shelter told us. Young-no- spayed-no- house trained-no-chews half her coat off-yes- escapes under a 7 ft fence-yes- brings back a new crop of Virginia chiggers with each adventure- absofluckinglutely! We are a mass of bites and nothing kills chiggers. They appear to be an alien species. backing up- her claws are really long and I don’t drive anymore so if they are going to be cut it will be me who has to cut them. Anyone want a small very sweet dog? Comes with toys, food and our sincere sympathies, also hundreds of dollars of all the flea and tick products that don’t kill chiggers.

  20. Amy says:

    We’ve found just one fabric that cats can’t claw through. Microfiber. It’s evidently woven too densely for them to dig their claws into. So that is a requirement for any upholstered furniture we have. We have 3 cats, I clip their claws once a week, and our furniture is hole-free. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for our looped wool rug…

  21. Tamara Stromquist says:

    One important step to add for a successful trim is besides having a good hold on the paw is to pin the leg into the cat’s body so it can’t be snatched back. Pistol Petey once yanked his foot away just as I clamped down on the nail & it’s taken a LONG one- or two-claws at a session to win back his patience.
    As for clawing the furniture, my newest rescue, Sugar Plum, got lucky and has her own upholstered office chair which I got for free in my bank’s parking lot when they redecorated.
    She also considers it her bed.

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