Cat claw clipping, a quick and easy how-to guide

Training your cat

If possible, start training your cat to accept cat claw clipping even as a kitten. Training older cats is not quite as simple, but it CAN be done. Try gently stroking and holding your cat's paws as often as you can. Getting him used to having his paws held is really helpful if not downright necessary before you try to do the actual trimming. Be sure to reward your cat with a special goodie immediately after trimming.

The best time to trim your cat's claws is when he is relaxed or sleepy. I like to give my cat Spooky a nice catnip party first, for two reasons; first, catnip, when sniffed, excites cats, and he can then work off a bunch of energy before grooming time, and second, when he is through rolling in it, he eats it and catnip, when ingested has a calming, relaxing effect, which makes any sort of grooming much easier.

Where and How to do cat claw clipping

When cat claw clipping, many people hold the clippers at right angles to the nail,cutting across the nail. This tends to make the nail more subject to splitting. It is better to hold the clippers in a vertical position (up and down) so that the claw is trimmed from bottom to top instead of across the nail.

This position helps prevent splitting but you have to feel confident for your kitty to be able to relax, so just make sure you are comfortable and have a good view of the claws as you work. Make sure that wherever you choose to work is very well lit. It's sometimes be difficult to determine where the quick is without adequate lighting.


Special cat claw clipping tools and kits are available from pet stores, and usually include a small scissor style cat claw clipper. These are nice, but if need be, a sharp toenail clipper for humans will work just as well. Not just for cat claw clipping, but as a general part of your pet first aid kit, you should keep styptic powder on hand. It is very handy in case you accidentally clip into the quick and need to stop the bleeding. I find that putting my cat’s harness on him prior to the manicure helps him settle down and aids in keeping him stationary for long enough to complete the task.Goodies. Don’t forget the cat treats ! If kitty knows a nice reward is forthcoming, he is far more likely to let you do his nails.

Ready, Set, Go!

Position your cat so that he is resting comfortably on your lap, the floor, or on a table. I prefer the kitchen table for cat claw clipping. It works well for the positioning as well as the light. Adequate light is essential. Holding a paw in one hand, support the bottom of the toe pad with your fingers, and use your thumb to press on top of that toe gently, to expose the claw.

Notice the darker tissue on the inside of the claw. That is the quick. Avoid this when you trim the claw. If you cut into it will cause your cat pain, bleeding and it will be harder for him to trust you again. If it happens though, do not panic, and remain calm. Your attitude projects itself to the cat, and the calmer you are, the calmer he will be. The bleeding should stop by itself in a short time. If not, just use that styptic powder from your pet first aid kit. You can just dip the nail into the styptic and proceed with your cat claw clipping without a lot of fuss. If you make a big deal out of it, so will your cat.

Start your cat claw clipping approximately halfway between the end of the quick and the tip of claw. (See diagram below) If your cat gets anxious, try not to force him. Just take a break (you may need one too!) and try again later. Even if you can get only a claw or two a day, you will eventually be done and it really does get easier with practice. Clipping the back claws is not often even necessary, since they naturally get worn down faster even on indoor only cats.

Finishing the manicure

After you are all done for this session, even if all nails did not get done today, offer your kitty the goodies we talked about before. The sooner he begins to make the connection between cat claw clipping and tasty treats, the sooner he will accept the procedure. If he is nervous or upset, gently stroke his face near the corners of the mouth, which is very calming for cats, or stroke the head and down the back. Speak sweetly and calmly to him and tell him he did good. Praise and goodies go a long way toward harmonious human/cat relations.

If for whatever reason you find that doing this yourself just isn’t working out, you may ask at your pet store or vet’s office about nail clipping services. Always follow your heart and do what is less stressful and easier on both you and your feline companion.
Trust and friendship are the most important parts of any relationship, especially between cats and their humans. My best to you all.
~Raven, The Cat Lady


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