Feline Nail Trims: Tricks and Tips

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 watch TV or read with you.

  1. Feline QuickGently press your cat’s toe to extend the nail. Look to see where your cat’s quick ends – you should be able to see it through the nail. It looks like a light pink 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 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 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. We all know how cats can hold a grudge! 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 is an effective restraint tool.

There are a couple of different methods you can try. The first is a gentle scruff (all that extra loose skin behind their heads) while laying your cat on its side. Just gently grasp your kitty’s scruff, then slowly lay her on her side. Scratch her head (or belly if she’ll let you!) while your helper clips her nails.

You can also try the towel wrap – a.k.a. the kitty burrito. Check out DVM360’s easy how-to or VetStreet’s Towel Wrap in 5 Steps to see how it’s done!

For more detail on how to actually accomplish the nail trim, 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

How-To: Trim Your Cat’s Nails

There are lots of videos and how-tos out there showing you how to trim your dog’s nails – but what about your cat? Cat owners know well that a cat making muffins on his owner is a happy cat, but the owner is not always a happy owner. Those claws hurt! Thankfully, trimming your cat’s nails is something you can do at home, quickly and easily.

Feline Quick
All cats have clear nails, so the quick should be visible.

Cats have clear nails, making the pink “quick” easy to see. That’s the sensitive part inside the nail that contains the nerves and blood vessels to the nail and which bleeds if you cut it. You’ve probably quicked yourself if you’re a nail-biter or cut your nails too close to the skin. Sometimes even we, the expert nail trimmers, can cut the nail too short and make it bleed on dogs with hard-to-see quicks. It’s still possible to quick a cat if you cut too far up the nail, but that’s less likely to happen if you are careful and look for the pink quick.

You can trim your cat’s nails using a regular human nail trimmer. Cat nails are usually thin and flat, so you don’t need any special tool to get around them like with dogs. Cats also are often much more tolerant of having their feet touched.

Because of their smaller size and tendency to laze around, if you have a patient kitty, sometimes you can trim your cat’s nails by yourself without needing a second person to help you restrain or distract them.

That being said, not all cats are easy. Sometimes you will need someone else to help because your cat won’t sit still or won’t let you touch its feet. Sometimes you will need larger nail clippers – cats nails shed in layers, so the older a cat gets, the thicker its nails grow since the cat is usually not using its claws as much or wearing them down as effectively. This can lead to nails growing into your cat’s paw pads, so it’s especially important to make sure you’re looking regularly at your cat’s nails and toe pads as it ages.

This polydactyl cat has 6 toes on her right front paw!

Most cats have 18 nails to trim – four toes on each front foot, plus a dewclaw a few centimeters up on the leg (think of it like a thumb!), and four toes on each hind foot. If your cat is polydactyl and has extra toes (usually just on the front two paws but not always!), then be sure you look between the extra toes as they often have nails there, too!

To trim your cat’s nails at home, just follow these easy steps.

  1. Have your materials ready. You will need:
    • Nail clippers (standard sized human nail trimmers are usually sufficient)
    • KwikStop or other styptic powder in case you quick your cat (found at most pet stores but corn starch works in a pinch!)
    • Treats for distraction and for when you’re finished (treats should be “high value”, like spray cheese, tiny flakes of canned tuna or other extra-yummy favorites)
    • Adequate lighting so you can clearly see the nail and steer clear of the quick
    • A helper person if you have one
  2. To restrain your cat for its nail trim, you can try a couple of different things –
    • For cooperative kitties, place your cat in your lap or on a waist-level table; rear end facing you, head facing away from you. Gently hug him into place with forearms and proceed to trim nails.
    • For wiggly or scared kitties, grab a helper to assist you with one of these options:
      • Helper person holds your cat in their arms using treats, chin scratches, or gentle head taps as a distraction while you trim.
      • The kitty burrito wrap (achieved using a towel or thin blanket)
      • Helper gently scruffs and lays kitty on its side, gently holding both back feet also if necessary
  1. Pick a foot to start. Sometimes starting with the back feet is best so your cat can learn that this isn’t scary and doesn’t hurt but you don’t have to risk your cat trying to bite you if he decides he doesn’t like it.
  2. Gently press your cat’s toe to extend the nail. Look to see where your cat’s quick ends – it looks like a light pink line or triangle in the middle of the nail. Trim a couple millimeters just in front of the quick. (This can be harder if your cat is older and has those thicker nails, so it’s best to play it safe and just trim the super sharp ends, about 3mm off the tip)
  3. Trim the rest of the nails on that foot, then proceed to the remaining feet.

The more you practice it, the easier it should become. And in the event your cat says “No way, Jose!” then you can always give us a call. It’s better to leave it up to the pros than risk harm to yourself or your cat.

For more details on how to get your cat used to nail trims and nail trim restraint, see Feline Nail Trims: Tricks and Tips.

Photo Credits

  1. Feline Quick: https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/procedures/cats/clipping-your-cat’s-claws
  2. Polydactyl Feline Paw: By Ventus55 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30326870

Flea Prevention

A brief overview of types of flea prevention available and how to flea-treat your pet using a topical medication

If there’s one thing that even cats and dogs can agree on, it’s this: no one likes fleas! They make your pet itchy and uncomfortable and can be a pain to get rid of. That’s why monthly flea preventives are so important. By preventing an infestation before it begins, you can save yourself and your pet a lot of trouble.

Fleas are visible on your pets as small moving black dots and are great jumpers.

No matter what flea product you use, proper application and consistency of use are the two most important points. Make sure that whatever you’re using, you’re using it correctly – both in how, and how often, you’re putting it on or giving it. Oral chewable medications can be a good choice if your animal likes treats, since most of them are beef or liver-flavored, making your pet think that they’re getting a tasty treat! Topical flea treatments can be a littler trickier, especially for head-shy dogs and cats. Topical flea treatments don’t work unless they’re applied properly, and that means that they have to come into contact with the animal’s skin. If the flea treatment is just applied to the fur, then it won’t be as effective.There are a lot of different options out there – topicals and chewables are the main categories, but there is a lot more to consider. Some products guard against heartworm or ticks in addition to fleas. There are collars, dips, and shampoos. Finding the right flea product for you and your pet can be tricky, but your veterinarian and their staff can help!

Itchy toes
Chewing on their feet can mean a lot of things, including a flea allergy!

When we flea-treat our three live-in clinic cats, we take great care to make sure that the flea treatment is properly applied, so that we don’t run the risk of having three flea-infested cats running around our clinic! The easiest way is to do it in the following steps:

  1. Get some help if your pet is wiggly!
  2. Pick a spot on the back of your pet’s neck, where they can’t turn around and lick the medication off.
  3. Part the hair until you see your pet’s skin.
  4. Apply the medication to the skin, making sure to cover one to 2 inches of skin. If your pet is large and receiving a bigger dose (which can mean more liquid medication), then you can medicate in multiple spots along the back of the neck.
  5. Use the applicator to fluff up the fur after application.
  6. Be sure not to touch the area for two hours after application, (you don’t want to get the medication on you or accidentally wipe it off), and don’t bathe your pet for 24 hours after application.

Consistent use is the other part of keeping your home flea-free. We recommend treating your pets with a flea preventive year-round, not just during the summer (“flea season”). While most products require monthly application, some newer products last up to three months, cutting the need to treat your pet down to 4 times yearly. Whichever you choose, make sure to keep it up on a regular schedule, treating your pet the first of every month, or each third Thursday, whatever works for you.

To find out more about the best flea prevention care for your pet, visit our website http://northseattlevet.com or check out our online store!

Photo Credit:

  1. Microscopic Flea: http://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/fleas/flea/