Trimming Your Cat’s Nails (For Beginners)

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There are plenty of moments of happiness when it comes to owning a cat, but few owners would disagree that trimming their nails does not fall into this. Apart from being one of the more unpleasant tasks, things can go wrong and it’s hardly the most enjoyable experience for your feline friend either.

Trimming Your Cat's Nails

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be overly stressful. Sure, things can go wrong, but if you approach it in the correct way life can be much more stress-free. Failing that, it’s certainly not a crime to visit a professional groomer or even a vet – so this really isn’t a topic you should be getting in a tizz’ about.

Following on from the above, let’s answer some of the most common questions in relation to trimming your cat’s nails.


What do you need to trim your cat’s nails?

They say that a good workman should never blame his tools, but in the case of nail trimming for cats this advice should go out of the window.

In short, you do need good-quality equipment. It starts with trimmers of good quality; meaning that they have to be sharp. As well as this, make sure they are concave at the edge – this will make it impossible to crush the nail.

In some instances you might not necessarily need trimmers though. If your cat has short nails some owners will turn to a file or a pumice stone and just keep them in order. In fact, some people will even turn to a Dremel to get the job done. These approaches are much safer as you can’t destroy the nail but again, they will only be applicable in some cases.


How do you trim your cat’s nails?

Once you have got all of your equipment in order, it’s time for the deed itself.

Like most unwelcome activities you perform with your cat, the first step is to arm yourself with sufficient treats. It goes without saying that this is never going to be a positive experience for your cat, but you can sure make it much easier for them. After completing each nail, provide them with a reward.

The biggest mistake you can make whilst trimming is cutting too much off the nail. In terms of quantifying “too much”, you need to avoid the quick of the nail. This is the area which is pink, with all of the blood vessels and nerves based underneath.

At this point we should also mention that you need to watch out for the retractable claws and ensure that you cut these. If you push on the top of their foot they will soon peek out and allow you to complete the full job.

Due to the potentially stressful nature of this task, you don’t have to do all of the nails in a day. In fact, some owners might just do one per day, in a bid to make life much easier for both cat and owner.


What if your cat has deformed nails?

Unfortunately, not all nails are equal. In fact, particularly in older cats, you’ll find that deformed nails can throw your trimming routine out of the window. Older cats usually have nails which are thicker and longer, making the whole process that little bit harder.

In these cases, you also need to clean all of the grease that has accumulated in the nails. Something such as diluted chlorhexidine solution will suffice here, or failing that, basic pet shampoo will as well.

You should also be aware that thick nails are a telling sign that something might be wrong with the cat and the general advice is to usually take them to the vets as a matter of urgency. With that being said, in some cases it might just be following previous trauma (for example, if they have torn the nail in the past), so it’s not always a cause for immediate concern.


What should you do if your cat has black nails?

Something else that can disturb your trimming routine is if your cat has black nails. The problem with this is that you can’t see the nerves and blood vessels (or the quick of the nail), meaning that it’s quite easy to cause damage if you are not careful.

The basic advice to take on board here is to concentrate on the hook. This is the area which is triangular and as there are no nerves based here, it’s completely safe to cut. If you think that you need to cut more of the nail away, try adding pressure to the part of the nail you are looking to target. If your pet seems to experience the pressure, it’s a sure sign that there are nerves based there and you shouldn’t proceed. If you don’t, it’s a good indication that it’s safe to trim.


What should you do if the nails start bleeding?

Unfortunately, there will be accidents. Some owners might be completely lucky and not experience such misfortune, but we’re going to assume that over your cat’s lifetime the nails will bled at one point.

On the plus side, it’s rarely a major problem. Your first step should be to clean the area of question; a clean bar of soap will suffice, or some owners may turn to something such as styptic powder which is also known to do the job. Both options will be able to seal the vessel and as such, prevent it from bleeding anymore.

From a practical point of view, you don’t need to do much else. However, it’s worth mentioning that as well as the bleeding, your cat will have probably experienced a little pain during the process. It means that they are likely to be nervous next time you pull out the trimmers, so this should be taken into account next time. Most owners will simply increase the quantity of treats that are gifted to their cat, and on most occasions this is sufficient to regain their trust and at least tolerate the practice.

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