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March 22, 2013

Trimming a Cat's Claws

  • iStockphoto

Trimming a cat's claws every few weeks is an important part of maintaining your pet's health and protects him, you, your family and visitors as well as the sofa, curtains and other furniture.

But if the idea of trimming a cat's claws has you biting your nails, know that all it takes is some patience and a bit of practice to sharpen your skills.

1: Stay on the cutting edge

There are plenty of tools available to trim a cat's claws; use the one that works best for you and your pet.

Some people prefer a special pair of scissors modified to hold a cat's claw in place, others prefer human nail clippers, and still others choose pliers-like clippers or those with a sliding "guillotine" blade. Whatever your tool of choice, be sure the blade remains sharp; the blunt pressure from dull blades may hurt an animal and cause a nail to split or bleed. Keep something to stop bleeding, such as styptic powder, cornstarch, or a dry bar of soap (to rub the bleeding nail across), nearby.

2: Take paws, part I

If you approach a cat with a sharp object in one hand while trying to grab a paw with the other, odds are you'll come up empty-handed. Because cats' temperaments and dispositions vary greatly, there is no "perfect" way to handle a cat while trimming his claws.

Some cats do well with no restraint at all, but most cats need to be held firmly but gently to make sure that no one gets hurt. Try resting the cat in the crook of one arm while holding one paw with the other hand. Or, place the animal on a table and lift one paw at a time. You may even be able to convince a particularly sociable cat to lie back in your lap.

3: Take paws, part II

If you've got a helper, ask him to hold the cat while you clip the nails, or just ask him to scratch your cat's favorite spot or offer up a special treat.

4: Take a little off the top

Now that you're in position and the cat's in position, put the claw in the right position, too. Take a paw in your hand and use your thumb and pointer finger to gently press down on the top and bottom of the paw on the joint just behind the claw. This will cause the claw to extend so you can quickly but carefully snip off the sharp tip and no more.

Don't get too close to the pink part of the nail called "the quick," where blood vessels and nerve endings lie. Just like the pink part of a human fingernail, the quick is very sensitive; cutting into this area will likely cause bleeding and pain.

If this happens, apply a little pressure to the very tip of the claw (without squeezing the entire paw, which would only increase the blood flow), dip the claw in a bit of styptic powder or cornstarch, or rub the nail across a dry bar of soap. Don't continue if he's too upset , but keep an eye on him to be sure the bleeding stops.

It's common to only cut the front claws, but take a look at the rear claws just in case they've gotten too long or their sharp tips hurt you when your cat leaps on or off your lap. Since most cats fuss more about having their rear claws clipped, start with the front claws.

5: Take it one at a time

If you aren't able to trim all 10 nails at once, don't worry. Few cats remain patient for more than a few minutes, so take what you can get, praise your pet for cooperating, then be on the lookout for the next opportunity—maybe even a catnap—to cut things down to size.

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