What To Do If Your Cat Won’t Let You Trim Their Nails

Trimming your cat’s nails is not just a job, it’s an adventure. But say your kitty actually does not WANT to have their nails trimmed. We have come across an article from Emme Chandley with some very helpful ideas.

Most pet owners are aware that they need to cutting their cat’s claws. But cats can make things very difficult if they don’t want you to cut their nails. Cats’ nails require maintenance just like human nails do and it can be tricky to persuade your cat to offer out their paws if they don’t want to.

Why Do We Need To Trim Cats’  Nails?

Leaving your cat’s nails untrimmed can cause them grow all the way into the paw pad, causing injury and pain.

Cats’ nails are extremely sharp. In the wild, this is advantageous as it helps them hunt their prey. It enables them to climb to find vantage points to stalk prey and safe places to rest and sleep. Domestic cats don’t need to have such sharp claws. Sharp claws can do some serious damage to your furniture and carpets.They are especially unwanted when your cat is kneading on your lap with their claws digging into your legs!

Additionally, cats’ nails grow very quickly and if they are not trimmed, overgrown nails go into their pads and puncture the pad, sometimes causing an infection. It’s very painful when this happens and you will need to take your cat to the vet.

Also Read: How Often To Trim Cat Nails: A Vet Explains

Why Do Cats Dislike Having Their Nails Trimmed?

Most cats don’t like having their paws touched, but it’s necessary for nail trims.

Trimming nails seems like such a trivial exercise, yet many cats absolutely hate it. If you are doing it correctly, nail trimming is not a painful procedure at all.

When the clippers close down onto the nail, there is a small amount of pressure that some cats might find uncomfortable, but as long as you are cutting in the correct place (more on this later) nail trimming will not cause your cat any discomfort or pain.

The reason is usually that cats dislike having their feet touched. When you cut their nails, you do have to get quite intimate with their paws. You need to separate their digits so that you can manipulate the clippers in between each tootsie.

This, for many cats, is just too much and their first instinct is to wriggle away from you (or lash out to warn you not to do that again!). A lot of the process of achieving a calm nail trim is about getting your cat used to having their paws touched.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Chew On Their Nails

How To Start Nail Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

1. Start When They Are Young

Cats that don’t have their paws and nails handled frequently from kittenhood often dislike nail trims.

The ideal time to get your cat used to having their claws trimmed is when they are a kitten. Touch and hold your cat’s paws frequently, and squeeze the pads gently between your fingers. Touch each toe separately. Practice pushing their nails out.

Let them know that you touching their paws is not a bad or painful experience. Give them lots of affection and reward them after each time.

Also Read: Best Nail And Claw Caps For Cats

2. Take Your Time

Move slowly and gently when trimming your cat’s nails so you don’t accidentally hurt your cat.

Remember, you can always take more off but you can’t put it back on once you have gone too far and cut a nail too short. Take your time when placing the nail clippers onto the nail. If you go too far back, you will cut into the quick (also called the hyponychium), of the nail.

The quick is where the blood vessels and nerves are, so if you cut this, it will really hurt your cat and there will be a lot of bleeding. Nails are notoriously difficult to stop bleeding, so the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution and take little bits off at a time.

Also Read: How To Safely Trim Cat Nails – A Step By Step Guide

3. Use The Correct Equipment

Cat nail trimmers are made specifically for small paw and nails.

Make sure you have the right tools. A pair of cat nail trimmers are the best option. You can buy these easily online from websites such as Amazon. A pair with a sliding guillotine is the best as it gives you a good amount of control. Don’t get cat and dog nail clippers confused either. Cat clippers are much smaller and more delicate for getting in between a cat’s toes.

Dog nail clippers are often larger and might be difficult to fit in between cat toes. Avoid using scissors as they do not have a curved blade and will apply too much pressure across the nail. Human nail clippers are also not ideal as they are the wrong shape. Make sure your trimmers are sharp and not rusty or dirty.

Also Read: 8 Best Cat Nail Clippers

4. Less Is More

Once your cat is comfortable letting you hold their paws, you can start to trim their nails. First, take your thumb and finger and softly apply pressure on both sides of the joint directly behind the claw. This causes the claw to extend, so the full claw is exposed. Now all you need to do is carefully trim the sharp edge of the nail. Be careful not to trim too far back. Quickly but carefully snip off the sharp tip and no more.

Make sure you have something on hand to help if you cut your cat’s nails too short by accident. Styptic powder is an anticoagulant powder sold at pet-supply stores and online. You can also use an unscented bar of soap to stop bleeding.

If you accidentally cut the nail, don’t panic—it’s a very common mistake to make. Attempt to apply gentle pressure to the tip of the claw if your cat will tolerate this. Dab some styptic powder on the bleeding claw or rub a bar of soap on the nail tip. Monitor your cat closely to check that the nail stops bleeding. If it doesn’t stop, contact your veterinarian.

Never attempt to declaw your cat. This is a surgery that can only be done under certain circumstances by a vet.

Also Read: Why Declawing Is Bad for Your Cat & What To Do Instead

What To Do If Your Cat Won’t Let You Trim Their Nails

1. Employ Some Backup

It helps to have another person with you to hold your cat while you trim the nails.

Cat nail trimming is often a two-person job! Sometimes if another person is holding your cat, it allows you to concentrate on holding just their leg to steady the paw and trim the nails quickly and efficiently. Us vets are spoiled as we have vet techs on hand who are amazing at most things but really excel at safe animal restraint.

Also Read: How To Treat A Cat With A Swollen Paw

2. Kitty Burrito

Wrap your cat up in a thick towel or blanket, extracting one leg at a time for nail trimming.

If a cat is objecting to nail trimming, wrap them up in a towel or a thick blanket. This method is affectionately called the kitty burrito due to the shape it resembles. When your cat is wrapped up, you can gently expose one leg at a time and trim their nails that way. This method also helps your cat to feel secure when they are all wrapped up and cozy.

3. Staggered Approach

It will take longer, but trimming just a few nails at a time can be less stressful for your cat.

If your cat gets very stressed when you attempt to trim their nails, you can try to cut just one or two nails at a time. Two in the morning and two in the evening each day for example. This way you are get the same end result but minimize the stress to your cat. They won’t have a chance to get themselves worked up if you are only quickly trimming a few nails.

Also Read: New Cat Owner Checklist

4. Hide Their Face

Covering your cat’s face with a towel or blanket might remove some of their fear.

Some cats get worked up when they see the trimmers. If your cat will tolerate it, you can use a soft towel or blanket and gently drape it over their face when you are holding them, then trim their nails. This means that they won’t be able to see the trimmers and get stressed out and try to escape.

5. Visit Your Vet Or Groomer

Your veterinary professionals can trim your cat’s nails at the clinic for a small fee.

If you really aren’t keen on trimming your cat’s nails, you can leave it to the professionals. If you book an appointment at your local vets, they will be happy to help. Vets and vet techs can both trim your cat’s nails for you.

If for some reason your cat is extremely stressed and absolutely will not tolerate anyone trying to trim their nails, your vet can give them some sedation. This is only done in circumstances where there is no other alternative in cases where people and cats are going to get injured if we attempt without sedation. All good pet groomers will trim nails, too.

Also Read: Top 10 Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew

6. Stealth Trim While They Sleep

If your cat sleeps a little heavily, you might be able to trim a few nails while they are snoozing.

A sneaky approach is to trim nails while your cat is asleep. If you are quick, even if they do wake up when you touch their paw, you will be able to trim one or two nails. Keep doing a few nails each nap time and you will soon have them all down to an acceptable length.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Curl Into Balls When Sleeping? A Veterinarian Explains

Final Thoughts

The whole nail trimming process might seem like a daunting job when your cat objects. With a bit of time and a lot of patience, you can find a routine that suits both you and your cat, is safe, and keeps everyone happy.

Also Read: The 4 Key Benefits Of Chiropractic Care For Cats

Frequently asked questions

What to do if your cat won’t let you cut their nails?

If you are unable to cut your cat’s nails on your own at home there are a few things you can try: Wrapping them in a towel Doing it while they are asleep Asking a friend to help hold them Book an appointment for your vet to do it

How do I relax my cat to trim his nails?

If your cat gets anxious when you try to trim their nails, you can take some steps to make them feel safe and calm before you start. You can play with them and give them their favorite toy or treat. You can talk or sing to them in a soft calm voice. If they respond well to catnip, you can give them a catnip toy to chill them out.