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Healthy claws, happy cat: keys to keeping your cat’s claws trimmed

Use this guide to safely trim you cat’s claws and say hello to a healthy cat and scratch-free home.

Every cat person has been there: relaxing on the couch with their furry friend purring away on their lap. It’s one of the moments cat owners live for. 

Until that dreaded moment when your cat sits up, stretches, and lovingly digs their claws into your leg. It takes everything in you to not stand up or scream (after all, you don’t want to scare them).

This is just one of the reasons trimming your cat’s claws can be beneficial. Not only can you save you and your family from potential infections caused by cat scratches, but you can protect your curtains and couches from cat scratches, too.

Regularly trimming your cat’s claws is also great for your cat. You can help them avoid a painful claw break or a bacterial infection caused by overgrown claws cutting their paw pads. 

If you’ve never trimmed your cat’s claws at home, you may be new to how to do it, and how often. Here’s your guide to safely trimming your cat’s claws so you can say hello to a happy cat and a scratch-free home. 

Why do cats love to scratch?

Cat’s scratch for far more reasons than just to annoy you. Scratching is a self-care method for them.

Not only does scratching secrete scents to mark a cat’s territory and make them feel at home, but it also helps prevent infection by shedding the outside sheath of nail. 

They also use scratching as exercise. Just like the benefits of a good day at the gym for us, a good scratch session helps a cat release endorphins and de-stress. 

How to trim your cat’s claws

When trimming your cat’s claws for the first time, you don’t want to hurt your cat (or for them to hurt you). 

Luckily, there are ways you can create a claw clipping routine that’s safe and calm for you and your cat. 

The anatomy of a paw

It’s best to first get to know the anatomy of your cat’s paws to make sure you clip their nail safely and painlessly.

Make sure you know how many claws you should be trimming. Most cats have 18 claws (5 on each front paw, 4 on each back paw), although a condition called Polydactyly can cause them to have more. 

A cat’s claw grows directly out of their phalanges muscle, allowing it to control when the claw is extended or retracted.

Just as with any muscle, the phalanges are connected to nerves and blood vessels. You can typically see these in the pink part of your cat’s claw that looks slightly like a vein.

The pink vein in a claw is called the quick. The quick is the part you should avoid clipping. 

Be sure to trim the claws without making contact with any coloration, as this can cause your cat extreme pain and bleeding. 

Time to trim

Your cat’s claws should be trimmed every 2 weeks, or 10 days for older cats. Follow these steps to make the claw trimming process a smooth one for you both:

Prepare your clippers

  • There are 4 main types of claw clippers: guillotine, scissor style, plier's style, and electric.
  • Choose clippers you’re most comfortable using.
  • Make sure the blades are sharp to avoid mishaps or splintering!

Calm your cat

  • Claw trimming can be a stressful process for cats, so be sure to do everything possible to put them at ease. 
  • Plan to trim your cat’s claws when they’re tired. Let them sniff the clippers a bit, then place them on your lap or on a blanket in front of you. 
  • Gently touch or massage their paw while talking softly to calm them, then reward them with a treat. 

Begin the trim

  • Lightly press the paw with your thumb on the pad and index finger on the top of the paw so you can see the claw down to the colored part of the claw known as the quick.
  • This is the part you want to be sure to avoid.  
  • Cut the nail from the side a couple millimeters above the quick.
  • If you’re not sure exactly where to trim, clip off only the very tip of the claw.
  • Take breaks if needed. 

Know the signs of unhealthy claws

There are a few signs your cat’s claws could be infected or irritated and causing them discomfort. Certain signs can also be indicators of other health issues such as an immunity problem, bacterial infections, or tumors. 

If you see any of these signs, it may be time for a checkup at the vet:

  • Excessive paw licking: A cat licking its paws and nibbling its claws more than usual is a sign of discomfort that can be caused by infection or for older cats, claws that are too brittle and thick. 
  • Difficulty walking: If your cat is having trouble walking and you’re having a hard time determining why it could be due to unhealthy claws. 
  • Sensitive feet: Weak or infected claws can cause a cat’s paw to be sensitive to the touch. 
  • Nail plate deformity: The nail plate is the part of the claw that sits on the nail bed. If it seems misshapen or infected, this could indicate a health problem. 
  • Abnormal nail color: A cat’s claws are typically clear, but colors can vary depending on the breed. Familiarize yourself with the coloration of your cat’s claws so you can be aware of any discoloration that may occur. 

What about declawing?

In the past, many cat owners used to turn to declawing to nip the problem in the bud.  

But it’s been found that declawing is not a healthy option for your cat for a few important reasons:

  • Declawing is a painful process for your cat.
  • It can affect their balance and ability to jump and move.
  • After declawing, it’s recommended that you use shredded newspaper to replace your cat’s litter to avoid infection. This combined with the pain and trauma of the operation can make a cat stop using a litter box
  • Your cat may become less trusting and affectionate.
  • When your cat’s main means of defense is removed, their instincts still prevail and may make them more likely to bite.

These are just a few reasons why it’s probably better for cat owners to stick to clippers and say no to declawing.

If you’ve given it a shot and claw trimming doesn’t seem to be for you or your cat, we’ve got you covered!  We’ve paired up with Pets Best to provide reliable and affordable care for your furry family members. 

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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