Feline Nail Trims: Tricks and Tips

The ever dread NAIL TRIM…. Don’t fret, we’re here to help! Read on for some toenail tips and tricks.

Know Your Feline’s Feet

It’s best to get your cat used to having its feet touched when it’s a kitten, but it’s possible to start the process at any age. When your cat is calm, start with holding her paw in your hand for a few moments. Work up to her letting you gently press on the last knuckle of the toe to extend the nail. Gently press each toe and hold for a moment. The more comfortable she is with the foot handling, the easier the trimming should be. It’s a great thing to try if you have a lap cat who likes to relax and watch TV or read with you.

The Trim

  1. Feline QuickGently press your cat’s toe to extend the nail. Look to see where the nail quick ends – you should be able to see it through the nail. It looks like a light pink triangle at the base of the nail,  that ends at a thin line in the middle of the nail. Trim to just a few millimeters in front of the quick. (This can be harder if your cat is older and has thicker nails, so it’s best to play it safe and just trim the first 2-3mm “point” off the tips if you’re unsure.)
  2. Cats nails shed in layers. We don’t typically notice this on healthy cat nails because of all of that good “claw sharpening” they do on their scratching posts helps to peel off those top dead nail layers. But as kitties age, they often have arthritis or other issues that cause them to be more sedentary and not scratch as much. This causes the nails to become thickened with dead nail layers and can lead to ingrown nails, cutting into their toe pads. Ouch! We recommend checking older kitty toes monthly to make sure they are looking healthy and have not ingrown.
  3. You may need to give a small treat between each foot or give your cat a short break between each foot, especially if she dislikes being restrained or having her feet touched. It’s best to keep things as calm as possible, so it’s better to do one foot every day or so until they’re done, rather than making it a stressful struggle. Patience is key.
  4. If you have a polydactyl (extra toes!) kitty, be sure to look BETWEEN all of the extra toes. They can have nails growing there!

Feline Restraint

As noted above, a time when your cat is relaxed is the best time to trim your cat’s nails. Sometimes you can just let them sit on your lap or next to you on the couch. Sometimes they need a little more restraint. You’ll want to have a helper if that’s the case with your kitty.

Feline Scruff
Scruffing your cat may look mean, but it actually isn’t painful if done right, and can be an effective restraint tool.

There are a couple of different methods you can try. We recommend starting with lower stress options to use the least restraint necessary, unless you have a known aggressive kitty. We recommend trying the towel wrap first – a.k.a. the kitty burrito. Check out this demo  or this article to see how it’s done!

For more wiggly or wilder kitties, you’ll need a helper. You may try a gentle scruff hold while laying your cat on its side. Just gently grasp your kitty’s scruff (all that extra loose skin behind their heads), then slowly lay her on her side, securing her back feet gently with your other hand while your helper clips her nails.

Remember to keep yourself and kitty safe. If your cat makes any move to bite or scratch, it might be best to leave those nail trims to the pros and give us a call to set up a nail trim appointment. One of our technicians can do the nail trim for you or can teach you hands-on how to best work with your pet with in-person demos of restraint and trimming techniques.

For more detail on nail trims, see:  How-To: Trim Your Cat’s Nails.

Photo Credits

  1. Feline Quick: https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/procedures/cats/clipping-your-cat’s-claws
  2. Feline Scruff: http://www.wikihow.com/Hold-a-Cat-by-the-Scruff

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