Introduction: How to Trim Your Cat's Claws

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In this instructable I'm going to cover how to trim your cat's claws safely and easily. I've been doing it this way for six years with Big Dee, and two years with Lu and never had any issues. :)

We trim their claws because they're inside only cats and they have a tendency to play rough with each other and us, as well as occasionally using the couch and other soft furnishings as scratching posts. Dee's claws also grow super quick, and if I let them go too long, her claws make a clicking noise whenever she walks, which can be really frustrating at three in the morning. :P

I do not recommend trimming a cat's claws if they spend time alone outside. They need their claws for defense and climbing.

This technique is best used from the time a cat is a kitten, but can also be taught later on through training involving treats and other bribes. I've also included a helpful towel trick that you might need if your cat is really not excited about claw trimming.

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

You will need:
  • a cat
  • claw trimmers
  • a towel or old blanket (optional)
  • styptic powder (optional)

As far as claw trimmers go, I really like these cat claw clippers. I've had the same pair for years and they're great for two reasons:
  • very sharp, and they cut quickly with not a ton of time spent lining them up
  • really quiet, unlike larger spring loaded trimmers, so you don't have any loud noises to spook the cat.
Styptic powder is a good thing to have around if this is your first time trimming the cat's claws, or if you have an animal that fusses and moves around a lot while trimming. It will help stop the bleeding if you trim too far down. Cornstarch is a great substitute if you don't have styptic powder on hand.

Step 2: Assume the Position!

Sit down on the edge of a couch, bed or chair so you can place the cat on your lap.

Have the cat recline in your lap facing away from you. This is the ideal position because the feet are facing away from you, and you can easily move your arms to hold the cat and their legs down gently while you trim one of the paws. Less chance you'll get mauled this way!

It's a good idea to try this sitting position out before trimming, and perhaps bribing with treats if the cat sits there nicely. Make sure that you stay calm and quiet during this because if you get upset or worked up, the cat will too.

Step 3: Trimming Time

Once the cat is in your lap and calm, it's time to start.

Hold the trimmers in one hand and the cat's paw in the other. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently press on the cats toes so that the claws extend one at a time.

Once the claw is out, have a look at it. It will mostly be clear, but a few millimeters into the claw (right after the curve), you will see it begin to get cloudly on the bottom side. That cloudy area is the quick. The quick is living tissue and you should avoid it at all costs. Cutting down to the quick will cause pain to the cat, as well as bleeding.

I tend to only trim 1-2 millimeters off the claws at a time. It is better to trim small increments often than take off too much and cause injury.

You'll trim the back feet in the same way as the front. The only tricky claws to trim are the "thumb" claws on the front paws. Too get them out where you can cut them you'll need to use your whole hand and be a little ambidextrous. :D

Step 4: Trimming When the Cat Is Anxious or Uncooperative

If you find that you're having a hard time trimming your cat's claws - if they're upset and wiggling all over the place, or maybe just trying to kick you to death with their back feet, using a towel or blanket is helpful and will keep the cat from injuring themselves or you.

Wrap it around the cat firmly, leaving only their head and the paw you're trimming sticking out of the towel.

This will help keep them from fighting too much.

Make sure to reward your cat afterwards if you do it this way - chances are it stresses them out much more than you think! Give them catnip, treats or wet food and lots of pettings to help calm them down after.