How to clip a cat’s nails

While most cats do not like having their nails trimmed, with some patience it is a task you can complete at home. It’s best to start trimming nails in young cats so that they get used to the process.

How do you safely clip a cat’s nails?

Cats will likely require restraint when their nails are clipped. It is best to hold cats in your lap and drape your forearms over the cat’s neck and hind end. While this can be done at home, it’s recommended owners first learn to trim their cat’s nails from a veterinarian or veterinary technician.

Cats have retractile claws, so gently squeeze the toe between thumb and forefinger to expose the claw. Most cats have light colored claws, making it easy to see the pink blood vessels and nerves at the base of the nail, which is called the quick. Cut the claw approximately 2 millimeters from the quick. Place the tip of the nail in the stationary ring of the trimmer with the clipper perpendicular to the nail. Squeeze the handle to move the cutting blade. The cutting blade should be closest to you, not the cat. Be sure not to cut too short, as the nail will bleed. Nails should be cut top to bottom.

How do you avoid cutting a cat’s nails too short?

It is important to be careful to not clip your cat’s nails too short and cut into the quick, which can be painful and cause bleeding.

There are several styles of nail trimmers, including a guillotine type and a scissors type. The guillotine-type is the easiest to use in cats. The scissors-type is often used to trim the dew claw of dogs and cats.

Cut any dark colored claws in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick. It’s best to not cut within 2 millimeters of the quick. You can use a nail file to smooth the end of the nail after clipping.

Styptic powder stops bleeding when applied. It is recommended to have styptic powder on hand in the event a nail is cut too short. Without styptic powder, it may take about 5 minutes for the bleeding to stop.

How do I clip a cat’s dew claw?

The dew claw is on the inner side of the paw and often grows into the skin, causing pain for cats. Dew claws do not touch the ground and are not worn down by walking, so it is important they are cut regularly. The scissors type trimmer is best to cut dew claws.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.