Can I Really Cut My Cat’s Nails?
Nail trims for cats are not nearly as scary as they sound. While the best time to teach a cat to tolerate nail trims is kittenhood, older cats can learn as well. Start by getting Kitty to tolerate having her paws and toes played with while you are holding her. Make sure she gets used to having the pads of her paws pressed so that the nails are exposed. Choose a time when she is naturally relaxed, such as right after mealtimes or after naps. If she enjoys being cuddled in a blanket, do this as well. Choose a quiet place away from the distractions of children, other pets, or outdoor activity. Next show her the clippers. Let her smell them, pet her with them, and give her a treat as a reward.
Once she learns that neither clippers nor toe handling is scary, get her used to the sound of the clippers. While you are holding her, use the clippers to “trim” a piece of uncooked spaghetti. Each time she hears the click, give her a food reward. Once she accepts the sound without reacting, press the pads of her paws, and clip the spaghetti at the same time, and reward her with a treat. This teaches her that the sound and pressure combined are neither scary, nor painful, and ends in a tasty reward. Do this many times until she is very at ease with the process.
Now you are ready to trim the nail. Relax - your cat will sense any underlying anxiety. Clip only the white part of the nail, and give her a treat. End trimming sessions on a positive note. If she’s happy and lets you keep going, progress to the other nails. Give a treat reward each time you clip. If you feel her becoming tense or stressed, end the exercise before things escalate. Never force the issue. Do not struggle, raise your voice, or use force. Remember to only clip the white part of the nail - the pink part, or quick, contains nerves and blood vessels. If you accidentally cut the quick, you will see some bleeding. Have some styptic powder handy just in case. This can be bought at any pet store, and apply to stop the bleeding. If this happens, end the exercise. And don’t beat yourself up! Trimming nails is much harder than it looks. Try again when everyone is calm. Your veterinarian’s office should be more than happy to teach you how to do this on your own.
The more often nail trims are done, the easier they will be for everyone. Set a goal for every two weeks to keep growth down and quicks pulled back as much as possible. Always end nail trims on a positive note, and reward with treats and praise!