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How to Trim Your Cat's Nails

A cat may need its nails trimmed to keep them from splitting or breaking, and you may find it productive to trim off the sharp points of your cat's nails if the cat is prone to kneading, scratching, etc. Trimming a cat's nails is fairly easy once you get your cat accustomed to it. Read on for detailed instructions.

The ASPCA strongly discourages "declawing" a cat, which can cause nerve damage as well as emotional distress in a cat. Instead, trim a cat's claws every few weeks and provide scratching posts or surfaces.

Preparing Your Cat

Pet your cat's paws

Most cats are naturally a little skittish about having their paws handled, so begin by helping your cat get accustomed to it. Wait for a time when your cat is relaxed and lounging. Begin gently petting its paws while simultaneously petting the cat in its favorite spots (the back of the neck, under the chin, where its back meets its tail, etc.). Do this for each paw you plan to trim.

The cat might pull its paws away, or even get up and walk away. Let it go; don't force it to do anything, but continue to gently pet its paws when you have the opportunity. Whenever you handle your cat's paws, reward it with treats and praise to help build positive associations.

Hold Your Cat's Paws

Hold Your Cat's Paws

Once your cat is comfortable enough to allow you to rest your hand on its paws without pulling away, start to gently hold its paws in your open hand. Place your hand over the cat's paw, then flip your hand around so the bottom of the cat's paw is on the palm of your hand. Keep rewarding the cat with petting and treats; give the cat a new, special treat that will only be associated with cutting its claws.

Massage Your Cat's Paws

Massage Your Cat's Paws

After your cat grows accustomed to you holding its paws, start holding the paws and massaging them with your fingers. Gently massage your fingers over the tops and bottoms of each paw you plan to trim. Reward your cat with more treats and praise.

Look Closely at Your Cat's Nails

Look Closely at Your Cat's Nails

Eventually, you should be able to gently squeeze the paws (applying most of the pressure on the pads) to push individual claws out without upsetting your cat. When your cat's claws are extended, you'll see the thick part of the nail, and, towards the cat's toe, a pinkish area inside the nail, called the quick.

The quick is the living part of the nail and contains blood vessels and nerves, so cutting a cat's nail to the quick is quite painful for the cat. Never cut a cat's nail close to or with flush with the toe; your aim is to clip off only the sharp point.

Look carefully at where and how large each quick is - through a clear nail it will look like a small pink triangle. Each of your cat's nails will be similar, so even if the cat has dark nails, look to find one clear nail as a reference point for the others.

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