How to Clip Cat Claws

posted: 05/15/12
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Clipping cat claws can be a bit trick.
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The idea of manicuring your cat's claws may have you reaching for a hockey goalie's mask, but there are ways to make it less traumatic for both you and your pet. Yoda, my one-eyed brown tabby who'd been mauled before I adopted him, was so skittish about having his paws touched that he'd slash or kick to get away. He cooperated after I gently stroked those paws between clippings with a dash of catnip. This worked so well that Yoda eventually began lifting his forepaws, like a dog, for a trim and a treat.

Cats' claws need trimming about once a month. If they're not clipped, your cat can scratch and hurt you, even in play. Before beginning the procedure, make sure your cat is relaxed. Hold her on your lap, gently restraining her with one arm, or wrap her in a towel. Make sure she is facing away from you. Cats retract their claws, so you'll have to gently press each toe pad to get her to extend them.

Clip only a tiny bit at a time from the curved end. This will prevent a painful cut to the quick, the pinkish portion that is actually a vein containing the blood supply and nerves. If you cut this accidentally, dip the claw in a little styptic powder (available at pet stores) or cornstarch, or rub it across a dry soap bar.  This will help stop the bleeding.

Depending on her patience, you may be able to trim all of Kitty's claws at once, but more likely, you'll get just a few nails in a session.

Never use scissors on your cat's claws. Instead, use special feline clippers, designed to secure the claw while you cut it; you can also use regular human nail clippers. Allow your cat to sniff the clippers so she'll be familiar with this strange instrument before you begin to clip.

Kittens that are routinely handled for grooming, including claw trimming, grow up accustomed to the task. Get your kitty used to having her paw held while you massage the toe pads and she'll be more cooperative at nail clipping time.

If your cat is an indoor dweller, you do have to clip her claws. Otherwise, her nails will become a hazard. Unclipped claws can curl back into the pads of her paws, injuring her feet and making walking uncomfortable. Too-long claws can damage your drapes, furniture and yourself, too. You'll know the nails are overgrown if you hear a clicking sound when your cat walks on a tiled floor.

Cats that live or spend time outdoors use their nails more, and need longer claws for climbing, balance and defending themselves. Their more active lifestyle wears those claws down naturally from contact with sidewalks or other rough surfaces. So cutting their claws isn't necessary.

Giving your cat a scratching post will not trim her nails. But it will help remove the fraying outer sheaths, which need to come off. These grow constantly and encase her smooth, sharp claws underneath. Cats instinctively stretch to exercise and scratch to shed those outer nails, so provide a variety of options -- corrugated cardboard scratch pads, sisal or carpet-covered scratching posts -- to keep her from self-manicuring with a few strokes to your coffee table.

To make certain your cat's claws don't accidentally snag you or your furnishings, vinyl nail caps can be applied to her claws. Available in kits and an array of colors, they're attached with nontoxic adhesive, covering the tips of her nails. Harmless and accepted by most cats, nail caps last four to six weeks, which is about the time it takes for your cat's claws to grow out. You'll still need to clip your cat's claws, but with nail caps, her claws won't accidentally snag your linen jacket or drapes between trims.

If you cannot face trimming your cat's claws, leave it to the professionals. Your vet or vet technician can clip Kitty's claws during a routine visit. When taking your cat to a groomer for a bath, specify a manicure as part of the treatment.

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