How to Trim Your Cat's Claws





Introduction: How to Trim Your Cat's Claws

About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

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.



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    27 Discussions

    Depending on the cat, it could be helpful to have a plastic garbage bag and a towel on the floor in front of the cat. This will keep the floor clean if the cat becomes upset and accidentally urinates.

    When I did this with toe-nail clippers (bought new for this purpose) it seemed to crack is claws. My cat didn't complain, but I'm a bit worried over the cracking.

    2 replies

    You shouldn't use human clippers as that's what is causing the 'cracking' or peeling of the claw, buying a pair of claw clippers like the ones pictured in Jessy's instructable is best. I've tried to use them in a pinch too and it caused the same issues on the cat's nails.

    They tend to crack a little worse when the claws are about to shed. It's normal and doesn't seem to bother mine.

    They do have files that you can get to help smooth them out, though! :)

    That photo of your cat on the bed is the most ADORABLE thing ever...such a sweet face! :) Thank you for this instructable I don't do this enough with my kitties and they need it. I noticed my son has little tiny scratch marks on his back - really small ones - and it's from our one cat climbing on him when he's asleep and happily kneeding him (with the claws out) ...ouch! So I need to keep up with this..thank you!

    The gentler and more successful you are at safely trimming and keep you cat calm. The nicer the cat will be for future trimmings. I got my cats actually extending their nails for me for the trimming. It is important to cut the nail on the side and to use a good sharp cat trimmers. It looks like your kitten trust you a lot. It is also best to start them early as kittens with the nail trimming. If you want the Vet will trim for you the next time they need their shots.

    honestly hope this works because my cat really hates claw trimming and his scratches can really hurt sometimes

    I've been trimming the claws of our cats for ten years or so. Only a couple of them whine a bit, but they've gotten used to it. I've even done it to cats that don't know me with pretty good success.
    I also use those notched claw scissors. It wasn't too clear in the pics, but they have rounded notches cut into the blades. (Occasionally available at Dollar Tree stores)
    Sometimes I try to line them up so they are in line with the claw instead of across it so it's cutting against the claw flat. I also squeeze very slowly. If you do it to fast, it snaps and can freak the cat out. The most important part of my method is to hold the cat under me, on a rug, carpet or towel so their feet are firmly on a secure surface(as opposed to a slippery wood floor). I kneel over the cat so she is between my legs, with my feet together so she can't back out. She should be firmly restrained, but not too tightly. Then I pick up one claw at a time so she still feels firmly grounded, then trim. A treat afterward helps for future cooperation.
    Usually I don't bother with the rear claws, but if I need to, the best method is to wait until the cat is asleep, quietly pick up the rear paw that is on top and trim before she wakes up completely. Later when she is sleeping on the other side, trim the other paw that is now on top.
    For an unusually antsy cat, I trim while they are eating. They will ignore a lot of abuse if they have their face in a bowl of food! (Helps if you are ambidextrous.)
    Sometimes it might take more than one session to get all the claws.

    Thanks for the info! A great Instructable! My mom did her older cats that way too. The young ones learned to accept it as a part of life and most didn't struggle.

    I have done similar trims with dogs and would like to suggest that the clippers be turned so the blades run along the sides of the nails rather than top to bottom on the nails. This allows the cut to be made side-to-side which puts less pressure on the toes. This is especially important if the animal is suffering from arthritis.

    Oh, that is a very handsome kitty. There are a couple of looks that are pretty funny. I have two other cats that couldn't care less when you are trimming their claws or brushing their teeth. The two cats that you have to roll up in a rug to cut their claws seem to like their teeth brushed and the two others that like their claws cut do not care much for having their teeth brushed. Go figure. Cats will keep you entertained and amused. They are the closest animal to sentience in my book. Cheers

    Oh no, the terrible toenail torture again, I promise I wont ever poop in the flower pot again. No No ARGGGGGG REOW!

    I have been cutting mine for years too, however I have two Scottish fold Manx kitties we created who will not let you clip their toenails without a full on battle. I have no idea why those two cats feel the way they do about having their nails clipped, but it really is a lot of work. It takes two people and a heavy rug for those two. They are quite large and muscular. One is 20 pounds and the other is 18 pounds. They too are indoor cats and if you don't cut their nails they will grow in a circle and poke them in their pads. For some reason both middle claws and their dew claws do not get worn down on the scratching post. This is a nice post, thanks!

    Nicely done instructible, and a cute kitty, too!  We've lived in Japan for many years and by far the most effective way to trim our cats' claws has been to bribe them with some Japanese "nori". Nori is the paper-thin seaweed, called "laver" in English, that you see wrapped around some varieties of sushi. It comes in sheets about letter size and is very tasty to humans and cats. Our cats can't get enough of the stuff. A fresh sheet will fold in half and break cleanly along the fold. I break the stuff into 1 inch x 8 inch strips, and while my wife cradles our cat and cuts his nails, I feed the nori into his mouth. Even though he's fussy when handled, his attention is so much on the nori he forgets completely about his nails. Even our schizoid Calico cat, who hated all men and beasts alike, could be handled this way. She knew she was being handled and would always mew loudly as she chewed telling us..... "uummmm... I know what you're.......mew, mew.....uummmm.......this is tasty!.....uummm......doing..... and you won't......uummm........delish!.......get away......uummm...mew...mew....with it!".....  But of course we always did.  Just remember to store the stuff tightly sealed as it gets soggy within seconds.

    A great way to avoid too much corporal damage is getting kitty used to 'bad threatment' from their first weeks. Ours are use that I put them - gently! - on their back, inspecting claws, teeth & palping their bodies (for older cats, checking if there are no weird things in their bellies that shouldn't have to be there). Do this to a cat that's never been handled like that and you end up with a stressy kitty and no more arms ;)

    I suggest a new pair of leaether welders gloves. Most leather work gloves if they are all leather still have short cuffs which leave your forearms exposed. My cat and I disagree about the amount of blood I should shed when his claws are trimmed, or at the vets for that matter. in fact I usually have the vet do his claws because it is not a one person job. It takes three of us and the last time I was the only one left bleeding-a new record low.

    If they won't hold still, get a medium sized towel. Any cat can be duped into lying on it with a tummy rub, then roll em up nice and snug.
    Used to do that to my cat back home.

    It's also a lot easier to trim a cat's nails when they are groggy as in they just woke up from a nap. My cat hates getting his nails cut so much that when we took him to get them professionally done, we got 3 paws for free because they literally could not calm him down enough to trim the last one.

    I trim his nails now, usually in multiple sessions. Wait til he falls asleep, trim one paw, but by that time he's awake and feisty, so I just leave the other paws til later or even for another day. :)

    Such a nice cat !
    How could you deprive this charming animal from its personality ???

    LOL !

    When I tried cutting my cats claws I wound up with slashes and cuts all over my hands X-(

    1 reply

    A pair of leather gloves would solve that. Cheap utility gloves are the ones to get, not the good driving ones. You can handle a pretty wild cat with out loosing blood. If it likes to bite you might need insulated ones. The one problem there though is that if its your cat they learn pretty fast and as soon as they see you putting on the gloves they will know what is coming.