How to Clip a Cat’s Claws Before a Cat’s Claws Clip You

Cat Claws - Clip Cat Claws

Try saying that 10 times fast. While learning how to clip a cat’s claws before a cat’s claws clip you. I bet you can’t.

Tongue twisters aside, there are razor blades on your cat’s feet and he is not afraid to use them. Cats are natural killers, well equipped to chomp and slash through prey and predators. Cats are also natural jerks who don’t give a damn about your carpet, drapes, couch and skin. This is bad news for you if you have a cat and very bad news for you if you have an asthmatic cat.

Back in the (not so) good old days, the solution to this cat scratch dilemma was to declaw. This involves surgically removing the last joint of your cat’s toes, where the claw lives. This is inhumane and highly uncool – it’s a painful procedure with a terribly painful recovery time that has absolutely no benefit to the cat at all. Don’t do it. Cats need their claws not only for hunting but also for balancing, running, jumping and defending themselves. Take away the claws, and you take away part of what makes a cat the amazing creature that it is. The solution, therefore, is to simply keep kitty’s nails trimmed to a less dangerous point.

Not convinced? Check this out:

Even if you’ve mastered medicating your cat he’s still going to be an unpredictable creature with quick reflexes and built in weapons, so the argument for feline pedicures is a strong one. However, if you don’t know exactly how to clip a cat’s claws before he gets a chance to slice you up you could end up doing more harm than good.


Why Would You?

There many benefits to clipping your cat’s claws, aside from the obvious protection of your furniture and yourself. Cat’s nails grow in layers, so when kitty is sharpening his claws he’s actually removing the older layer to expose the new, sharper one. Often though, the outer layer is not successfully shed and this can lead to ingrown nails which are painful and could grow into nasty infections. Keeping your cat’s claws trimmed not only prevents ingrown nails, but it also means you’re less likely to evict the kneading kitty from your lap due to being punctured. Happy cat, happy human. Everybody wins.


Know The Claw

Most cats have 5 claws on each front foot and 4 claws on each back foot. Of course, there are always some Cat Claws - Clip Cat Clawsspecial cases – it’s common for cats to have extra digits. Cat’s nails naturally retract when at rest, but can be extended for trimming by gently squeezing on the top and bottom of each toe.

Each claw has a quick – this contains blood and nerves that provide sensation in the claw. The quick can be identified by a pink/red tinge in the base of the claw and should be avoided when trimming – if you cut into the quick you will cause pain and bleeding, most likely to yourself as well as the kitty.

Get to know your cat’s feet, know where the claws are, how to coax them out of the paw and how to identify the quick before you even contemplate getting out the clippers.


First, Prepare Your Cat

Ideally, you should get your cat used to having his feet touched when he’s a kitten. It’s all good if that’s not possible, adult cats can be introduced to foot fondling and nail clipping just as well as babies. Handle kitty’s feet every day, practising the claw-extending squeeze until both you and your cat are comfortable, but don’t fight. If your cat pulls away, don’t squeeze or grip but follow his movement while keeping in gentle contact. Repetition is the key here – the more you do this, the more you will both be able to tolerate the procedure. As always, if kitty begins to struggle or stress just let him go and try again another time.

Claws - How to Clip a Cat's Claws

The best time for a feline pedicure is when your cat is nice and chilled. Don’t attempt to make a bouncy kitty sit still for a nail clipping, this will most likely end in tears (yours). If you want a little extra insurance, a flower essence such as Rescue Remedy can be used to relax your cat before you begin. For the sake of routine, I recommend having a designated place in which you clip your cat’s nails every time. I use my bath tub as it’s a comfortable and contained place for us both to sit and it makes cleaning up claw clippings easier.


Clip Clip

Knowing your cat and the anatomy of his claws will allow you to get this done in approximately 20 Sparrow Paw - Clipping Cat Clawsseconds flat. If you fumble around your cat will lose patience and possibly inflict some damage in trying to get away. Your cat will notice if you’re nervous or scared and will use that to his advantage; they’re cunning creatures like that.

If you’re doing this for the first time or are unsure how your cat will react, get a friend to help. One of you should gently restrain and reassure your cat while the other one quickly extends the claw and uses an appropriate nail clipper to do the clipping.

The aim here is to remove just the very tip of the claw – the very sharp bit. When in doubt it’s better to remove too little than too much and clip more often. If you do accidentally hit a quick, apply styptic powder with moderate pressure to control the bleeding and apologise profusely with treats.


Regular Clip Time

As with everything in life, regular practice at this will make a better experience for both you and your cat. Trimming every 10-14 days is a good routine to get into to ensure the health of kitty’s feet and the safety of your furniture and skin. If your cat is seriously resistant to letting you clip his claws, call upon a professional groomer or your vet to do it for you.


How do you clip? Have you been clawed? Share your success (or horror!) stories in the comments…

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  1. I love cats. Your pictures are great! I never knew that just anyone could clip cats claws. That would have save me a lot of money. I always took my cat to the vet to have this done! It’s nice to see someone take the time to teach this. Thanks for the information!

  2. You know, I was going to get my Mollie declawed (several years ago) because I really didn’t know any better. I called the vet and they said they wouldn’t do it because she was too old, and gave me a number of vet who they said would do it. That’s when I got suspicious about declawing so I looked it up. I’m SO glad I didn’t put my poor baby through that. Until you’re ready to amputate the tips of all of your fingers, then don’t even THINK about declawing your poor furry friend.

    There. I said my piece. Scratch on, Sparrow!


    1. EXACTLY. Not only is it a horrible procedure to put a cat through, imagine the pain and frustration of the recovery process. It’s actually quite difficult these days to find a vet who will even do it, I’m surprised you found two. Very glad to hear Mollie still has all of her digits intact!

  3. Wow! I always felt declawing was inhumane but I never knew the actual procedure involved removing a whole joint. How did anyone think this was a proper way to care for animals? I’m curious to know if there is a particular clipper that you recommend?

    1. Thanks Ryan. I know, it astounds me as well. Thankfully this horrible procedure is going out of fashion as more vets and cat owners realise just how much it impairs the catness of our cats. It’s ok to use normal human nail clippers for trimming a cat’s nails, but naturally this was not good enough for my precious little Sparrow. He demands the very best of everything. I’m testing a couple of different ones next time he needs a pedicure and you can bet your ass I’ll be writing a review so stay tuned!

  4. Awesome information! I really want to get a big cat (savannah or moon coon) but I have been a little worried about those claws and the damage they may inflict on our dog child. We would of course make sure that they mostly get along, but I have read cats are more unpredictable than dogs. Anyway, how would the flower essence be applied? Can it also be used for dogs?

  5. What a great post you have here, I love the name! As a cat owner, I have to say that I relate to this on a personal level. I was so wary of being clawed that I developed a reflex of knowing exactly when my cat wanted to do it to stop their evil paws.

    I wonder if they want their claws cut though, since they’ll need it to wander around and, I imagine, climb trees?

    I’d love to hear what you think.


    1. Thanks Anh! I’m sure every cat human has felt the pain of the scratch at least once.

      The idea with clipping the claws is just to remove the sharp, pointy bit at the end – the bit that hurts us. So kitty can still use his claws for climbing and doing cat things, but not for decorating their humans. It’s best to use a nice, sharp pair of clippers especially designed for claws – this is my favourite.

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