How to and Why You Need to Trim Your Cat’s Nails

There was a time when declawing a cat was the norm. This was especially true for indoor cats, so there was no need to have to trim their nails – they didn’t have any. Today, most vets will refuse to declaw a cat, claiming it is inhumane. Only if there is a certain issue related to the cat’s nails or other special reasons, will they do this. Since this is the case, now it is important to consider the need of taking care of your cat’s claws. Not only are there benefits to the cat, to have them trimmed, but for people and their personal belongings, too.

Why should a cat’s claws be trimmed?

Of course, sharp things are going to tear and damage more than trimmed will. You have your furniture and other personal belongings that can be ruined by sharp, digging nails, which is what cats like to do as a means of sharpening them. Cats instinctively like to sharpen them on whatever is around, which is why most cat owners keep scratching posts around for their cats to satisfy this  cat behavior on.

Outside of the damage they can inflict on furniture, they can also cause harm to your skin if they happen to get hold of you with their sharp nails. Cat scratches are not only painful, but their nails also harbor bacteria that can cause infection. Flea-infested cats have the potential to spread Bartonella henselae, or cat scratch disease.

For the cat itself, having their nails trimmed is very beneficial, as their nails tend to grow like shells, in layers. When a cat sharpens his nails, what he is doing is removing the outer layer of the shell and exposing the newer, sharper nails. If they are unable to remove the outer layer, the nail can become ingrown and painful.

If you are skilled at nail trimming, which does require a cat who is tolerant, you can get the job done in a short period of time, maybe twenty minutes or so. If your cat isn’t cooperative, it can take much longer, with patience, of course.

Here are some tips to help cat owners tackle the nail trimming task:

1. Know the cat’s claw anatomy

Most cats have a total of 18 claws, (five on each of the front feet, and four on each of the rear). A polydactyly cat will have more digits. Get to know your own kitty’s feet. Look at them while they’re relaxed and calm. Put pressure on the top of each to expose the nail, which this will also help them get used to this feel as you do it. Learn where the quick is. It contains blood and nerves and will need to be avoided. It is painful if the quick gets nicked or cut. The quick looks a bit pink or red tinged, due to the blood flow, and is at the base of the nail.

2. Get your cat used to being held still and having her feet touched

Cats are generally accepting of nail trims, except if you hit their quick. The main thing is, getting your cat to learn to be still long enough for you to do this. They are also not generally favored to having their feet handled, so practice holding your kitty, getting them to sit long enough to get a nail trim, and allowing you to touch their feet and toes, pressing on the toes and exposing the nails.

3. Make it pleasant

Keep treats close by and give her one often as you work. If your cat gets angry, don’t get mad or upset. Don’t yell or scold, just let her go. You want her to have favorable memories of the experience and not be frightened or give you a harder time next time. Keep your voice calm and pleasant throughout and just keep trying.

4. Work as a team

If you don’t feel you can do this by yourself, enlist someone to help you and work as a team. One can hold the feline while the other one works, however, don’t ever give your cat the feeling that she is being restrained, although that is the goal you are trying to reach with a two-person team.

5. Don’t waste time you don’t have

You need to try to be quick when trimming her nails since she won’t sit there forever. Because you don’t have much time, you don’t want to waste the time you do have by trying to inspect her anatomy or fumbling around. Make this as quick of an -in-and-out process as possible. The more you do it, the more efficient you will become.

6. Use the right equipment and use good clipping techniques

Your equipment should be in good shape so that it clips efficiently and smoothly, not tearing the nails. While someone holds the cat, go from one nail to the next on just one foot. Clip just the tip of each nail, and always clip too little if in doubt, as opposed to risking clipping too much and getting the quick – this means the very end where the sharpest part of the nails is. If you do accidently hit the quick, a powder called, Kwik Stop put on it will help control any bleeding.

This is something that will take practice, but it will be very worth the effort once you get it “nailed.” Don’t give up if you aren’t the best right away – just keep trying until you are good at it.


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