Claw Care: Tips to Help Keep Your Cat's Nails in Good Shape

Cutting Cat's Nails
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When trimming your cat's claws, cut off the white tip, just before where it begins to curve sharply. Avoid the pinkish quick.

Claws are useful for cats—they can be used for defense, climbing and hunting—and they need to be kept in good shape. Cats are notorious for scratching, which can help shed old claw sheaths and help keep nails from becoming overgrown, but it's also important to make sure their nails are trimmed regularly. Overgrown nails can curl in on themselves and grow into the foot pad, causing pain, and they can also pose a hazard to people and furniture.

Nail cutting can sometimes be challenging. It's often best to begin cutting your cat's nails when he is a kitten so he gets used to it. Teaching your cat to accept having his feet touched can also help make trimming easier. Most cats require nail trimming every 10 days to two weeks.

It's generally easiest to cut the nails if you hold the cat in your lap (perhaps on a towel) facing you or if you have a helper hold your cat with his feet facing you. Gently apply pressure to the top and bottom of the foot over each toe, causing him to extend that toe's claw, and cut off the white tip of the nail, just before where it begins to curve sharply. Avoid the pinkish quick you can see within the nail— it contains both blood and nerve supplies and will hurt and bleed if you cut it. If you accidentally cause the nail to bleed, apply styptic powder to the tip of the nail. If you don’t have styptic powder, gently dab the tip of the nail on a bar of soap or in a little flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. 

If your cat absolutely won't hold still, you can try wrapping him snugly in a towel with just one leg protruding and have a helper hold him. You can also try talking to him calmly to try to help relax him, as well as taking a break and trying again later. If that doesn't work, your veterinary clinic or a groomer can usually cut the nails in a quick visit at a nominal cost. Additionally, be sure to call your vet if you're unsure of how to cut your cat's nails or experience any difficulties.

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