Cinder’s Advice: Trimming a Cat’s Nails

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: How does one clip a cat’s nails?

Meow! Meow! After I got adopted, I felt so happy to have a new home. I also felt so grateful to my new owners. In that first week, I wanted to check out my new home and to thank my new family—both at the same time.

I tried to knead the scratchy carpet, the way I used to knead on my mom when I was just a kitten. But my claws got caught in the loops of carpet fibers. I tugged to free my nail. Then tried again to knead. But I got stuck again.

Never mind, I figured, I’ll just climb on my owners. Except this time my claws got hooked on the man’s jacket. He gently worked my claws free. I thought maybe I should just stop, so that I didn’t upset my new owners. But I couldn’t! I just felt so excited! But then my nails got hooked into the lady’s jeans.

When she put me down, I retreated to my bed. All I wanted to do was show my appreciation, but instead I felt as if I were making a mess of everything. I took a nap to figure out what to do.

When my owners woke me, they surprised me by making a fuss over my paws. I wanted to do whatever they wanted. But I also kind of felt embarrassed. Was there something wrong with me? Why were they checking out my paws?

Eventually, I found out that they were just helping me. once I got used to having my paws touched, they trimmed my nails. After that, I had a lot of fun scratching things over the next few weeks without getting stuck!

Here is how to clip a cat’s nails:

  • Most cats are nervous of having their paws touched the first time. To help us adjust to the experience, pet our paws while simultaneously petting us in our favorite spots. Sweeten the deal by rewarding us with treats for letting you handle our paws.
  • Once we’ll let you rest your hand on our paws without pulling away, this means we’re comfortable. Now you can start to hold and massage our paws.
  • Eventually, you should be able to gently apply pressure to our paws, which will push out individual claws. When you look at an extended claw, you’ll see a pinkish area close to the toe. This area is called the quick. Be careful not to trim our nails too close to the quick because it’s painful and we’ll bleed. You should clip off only the sharp point.
  • Use a pair of nail clippers specifically designed for cat claws.
  • A good time for nail trimming is after we’ve eaten, when we’re feeling sleepy and content.
  • Please remember to keep reassuring and rewarding us. We like to know we’ve done well!
nail, before
cat nail before being clipped
nail, after
cat nail after being clipped

In my next column, I’ll tell you about my next adventure. Please keep watch for it!

Have cat questions of your own? Submit to: allisontalkspetsATgmailDOTcom

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42 thoughts on “Cinder’s Advice: Trimming a Cat’s Nails

  1. This is a fun post and very useful. I nearly missed half of it as It disappeared into the second column. I am glad I found it though – our Dusty needs his claws doing soon!

    I’m glad you found your forever home Cinder!

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    1. Thanks! I’m enjoying writing these advice posts and so am relieved to hear they’re fun. 🙂

      The two-column format is beyond my control. I just provide text, photos, and links. I’m glad you found the second half!

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      1. Yeah, that’s what we’ve done. Cats need to feel very secure with owners for grooming to work. I have gotten our former feral to let me touch her paws and to touch her mouth, but clipping her nails and brushing her teeth are still out of the question.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great tutorial. I am not brave enough to trim my cats nails myself but after reading this I just may give it a try! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Right now, my posts are based on my journal entries about Cinder’s life. But yes a potential follow-up article could be about whether or not to declaw. Our first cat (Lucy) came to us with her front claws removed. When we adopted Cinder, my husband and I researched the issue. We decided not to declaw any of our three cats. Instead they get spoiled with lots of fabulous scratching posts!

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    1. Being an owner of both of cats and a dog, I find there is some crossover in how one can apply advice. They do have their own needs, but there are also a lot of commonalities.

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  3. Allison, what a fun post and I like the unique perspective. Sounds strange but it think it makes the reader “get it” more because they’re seeing things from the cat’s point of view. I was just about able to cut one of my cat’s claws, the rest forget it.

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    1. Thanks! Cinder and I are pleased to hear so many compliments on the unique perspective. 😉

      When I first researched into cutting cat nails, I read that a person might just start with getting the cat comfortable with having clippers near. After that, a person could try one claw or one paw and stick with this until the cat is comfortable.

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    1. Thanks! Our blog has been publishing in-depth articles on animal welfare for a few years and now is now carrying two pet columns. Over time, I hope our visitors will see us as an educational resource.

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    1. Animals do have their own personalities! Our first cat wouldn’t have anything to do with her tails being clipped or teeth being brushed, nor will our current former feral. The other two cats are reasonably tolerant. Whew!

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  4. Trimming a cat’s nails definitely isn’t an easy undertaking! Thankfully my cats are all pretty much used to it by now. Your tips are great – especially the one about trimming after they’ve eaten. That helps a lot!

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    1. Trimming their nails after they’ve been fed was a new idea to me. But it makes sense. My former feral is much more open to petting and brushing when she’s sleepy. 😉

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    1. Thanks for the compliment on the writing style! Down the road, I’ll expand the column to include the point-of-view of our other cats. It’ll be interesting to see if I can pull off each of their unique personalities. 😉

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  5. I use to trim my cats nails AND dogs … until this one. Now I have a little Divo on my hands. He has never been hurt, never had any issues but continues to act like it is the end of the world. He has been seeing the same groomer duo for over 7 years and we all have a good giggle about it. It’s out of character for him but he has “issues” with nail trimming. I can play with his paws… I can brush him and his teeth… all sorts. just not trim his nails. Ah well $10 every month … we will manage. LOL

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  6. It was fun to read this from a cat’s perspective. My cat will occasionally get snagged on something and it does take him a while to figure it out. My sister usually trims his nails for me because, well, frankly, nail clipping terrifies me.

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    1. Our oldest cat recently had to get her neck sprayed on a daily basis for two weeks because of an infection. That eventually sent her running whenever she saw me. I’m glad she’s more tolerant of having her nails clipped. 😉

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  7. What a fun post! Great advice, especially for pet parents who get an older cat not used to having its paws handled. The three cats I have now came as kittens from a rescue and I started immediately handling their paws. Now it is no big deal having their nails trimmed weekly.

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    1. Starting grooming habits when our pets are young is definitely a good practice. For our toy poodle, we mistakenly waited until he was an adult. While he will tolerate it, I do have to coax him more than Cinder.

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