Looking After Your Cat's Claws

Most cats do not need to have their claws trimmed regularly because their innate urge to scratch leads them to naturally wear their claws down. Outdoor cats will wear down their claws by scratching on rough surfaces, while indoor cats should be provided with a scratching post to help keep claws short and save your furniture from being shredded. You do need to regularly check your cat’s claws to ensure they don’t become overgrown. Elderly cats often require regular claw trimming, as do cats with an extra toe (polydactyly) which does not touch the ground and therefore is not worn down. Many cats also have dewclaws (the claw just inside the wrist/carpal region) which do not touch the ground and are therefore prone to overgrowth and require regular trimming. Trimming the claws prevents them from growing inwards into the pads where they cause pain and infection.

How to Clip your Cat’s Claws

During a visit to your vet, ask them the correct way to trim your cat’s claws without causing pain by cutting too far up into the “quick” (the sensitive part). Ask your vet or veterinary nurse to demonstrate and watch their technique closely. It also helps to get your cat used to claw-trimming from an early age. You can begin by firstly performing a 'pretend trim' by applying slight pressure to your cat's toes one by one giving a food reward each time you do so. Once your kittens has got used to this you can gradually build up to full claw trimming using purpose built claw clippers It is also possible to file your kitten’s nails, which will avoid accidental pain or bleeding but may not be well tolerated as it requires your kitten to stay still for a longer time.

Check your cat's claws once a week, including the ‘dew claw’ or the claw on the inside of the legs. Claws are normally “sheathed” when a cat is resting and are therefore not visible so if they start to show when your cat is at rest then they may be too long and need trimming

To start, press your cat's paw between your forefinger and thumb to unsheathe the claw. Clip off just the transparent tip of the claw; avoiding the blood vessel within the claw, and never clip higher up than the pointed tip or you could cause bleeding and pain. If you see or feel a claw growing into the pad see your vet as soon as possible; these claws are painful to cut, and your cat may require painkillers or antibiotics.

If you cut too far up and cause bleeding, do not panic. Before you start clipping, make sure you have silver nitrate sticks or styptic powder (available from your vet) and cotton wool balls nearby. Apply the silver nitrate or powder to the end of the bleeding claw and press with a cotton wool ball for a moment. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after a time consult your vet immediately. Silver nitrate may sting, so make sure you are holding your cat firmly and safely before applying it.

Cutting your cat’s claws can be tricky depending on how well your cat tolerates the procedure. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t manage to do it contact your vet and they will be pleased to help!

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