• Adele Danskin

How to trim cat claws

Some cats, particularly outdoor cats and those that are very fond of their scratching post, often take care of their own claws through general wear and tear but if your cat spends a lot of time indoors, or is elderly, they may need some help.

Weekly checks and occasional claw-trimming prevents their claws growing inwards into their pads (much like an ingrowing toenail) which can cause pain and infection. Overgrown claws can be a sign of osteoarthritis in senior cats, so it’s worth checking with your vet in case any additional treatment is needed.

As cats use claws to defend themselves, scratch an itch or climb, we only recommend trimming them when absolutely necessary.

  • Before you do anything, check that they really need doing. Outdoor cats, in particular, need their claws for climbing and defending themselves so only trim them if they’re at risk of overgrowing. Even then, only some claws may need trimming. If your cat is one of the unusual few with an extra toe (polydactyl) then keep an eye on those claws, as they don’t touch the ground and therefore don’t get filed down naturally. The same applies to ‘dew’ claws, the claws on the inside of the legs just below the wrist.

  • Get into the habit of checking your cat’s claws on a weekly basis. If you spot any ingrowing claws consult your vet, as your cat may need painkillers or antibiotics. Also if any claws are ripped, torn or missing, your vet may need to take a look.

  • If it’s your first time, ask your vet or veterinary nurse to demonstrate how to trim your cat’s claws and check your technique. Remember, if you don’t feel confident trimming your cat’s claws you can always ask your vet to do it instead

  • It’s a good idea to get your cat used to the idea of claw-trimming from an early age, preferably from a kitten. However, kitten claws are soft, so they are usually filed instead of clipped.

  • For adult cats, use specially designed cat-claw clippers - and keep them sharp and well maintained. These are available from pet shops or your vet - do not use human nail clippers or scissors!

  • Press your cat's paw gently between your finger and thumb to unsheathe the claw. Snip off just the transparent tip of the claw; always avoid the blood vessel in the centre of the claw; and never clip higher up than the pointed tip.

  • The important thing is to avoid the ‘quick’ (the sensitive part), as if this is nicked it will be painful for your pet and will bleed. If you do catch it by accident, don’t panic. Apply silver nitrate sticks (available from your vets) to the claw and press with cotton wool for a moment. Silver nitrate may sting so it might be helpful to have someone else on hand. If the bleeding doesn’t stop then consult your vet immediately. As well as dealing with the problem, your vet can advise you on how to avoid this complication in future.

  • When you check your cat’s claws, also check the paw pads for any cuts or foreign bodies and check between the toes for any signs of soreness. Contact your vet if you find anything unusual.

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