Quick Cat Behavior Tip
The Pet Professional Guild Feline Committee
- Trimming a cat’s claws can prevent damage to furniture and other household items, as well as to humans from inadvertent scratches.
- Often the biggest challenge isn’t the claw trimming itself, but teaching the cat to become comfortable with having his or her paws handled.
- The goal is to gain the cat’s cooperation with the procedure, not to figure out the best restraint method.
- There is no need to trim all the claws in one sitting; our impatience to get this done often makes the procedure stressful and unpleasant for the cat.
- Cats’ claws have a narrow hook at the end and a wide base with a pink middle called the quick, which contains blood vessels and nerves. The narrow hook part is the part to cut. Avoid cutting the quick, as it will hurt and bleed. Before trimming your cat’s claws, inspect them to identify the quick so you can avoid nicking it. If you do cut into the quick by accident, you can stop the bleeding fairly quickly with a styptic powder.
Techniques and tips:
- Be patient and prepared: Take a deep breath and be gentle and calm. Prior to starting, purchase specific cat claw trimmers that are comfortable to handle, are rubber coated to avoid slipping, and have a stainless-steel blade.
- Make it positive: Most cats’ experiences with claw trims are far from positive, which results in cats not liking them. Before starting, get some delicious, extra special treats your cat only gets during claw trims. A few examples are canned food, whipped cream, tuna fish, and anchovy paste. You can also give your cat a cuddle, brushing, or a play session afterward, depending on their preferences.
- Get comfortable: Trim your cat’s claws in a quiet room without distractions. It is important to provide a non-slip surface for your cat to stand on like a yoga mat. It can be helpful to trim the claws with the cat on an elevated surface (such as a table or a dresser). Do not restrain the cat—many cats dislike being turned on their back or restrained on their side, or even held in your lap. Instead, support and guide the cat’s body and paws. The cat should willingly participate because you have tasty treats. When choosing a time to trim claws, it’s best when your cat is relaxed, and not during play, for example.
- Start slowly and take it one step at a time: Feed the cat a special treat and trim one claw at the same time. Make sure the cat is engaged in eating the treat before trying to touch his/her paw. If your cat stays relaxed, then trim a second claw while the cat continues to eat. As soon as the cat stops eating the favorite treat and/or starts fussing, the activity ends. The first few times you trim the cat’s claws, you might get the claws on only one paw trimmed, or even only one or two claws. That’s fine! Just make sure it’s a good experience for the cat. The next time you do it, the cat will be more willing to participate, and it will progress from there.
- Ask for help: If your cat is resistant to claw trimming or to having her paws handled, a qualified training specialist can help you teach your cat to accept and even enjoy nail trims. A Fear Free certified (fearfreepets.com) or Cat Friendly (www.catvets.com) veterinary hospital is a great option.
- Claw trimmers. Stainless-steel scissors-type cat claw trimmers (two half-circle blades) with rubber-coated handles are recommended.
- Treats, a cat brush, cat toys
- Non-slip surface (e.g., yoga mat)
- Approximately two to four weeks but may take more—or less—time, depending on the individual cat.
For a printable PDF version of this document, please go to Trimming Claws.
Every cat is an individual, and behavior is complex. If you need help training your cat, seek out a qualified cat behavior professional at https://petprofessionalguild.com/Find-Your-Feline-Professional.