Cats are notoriously resistant to having their claws clipped unless they have been trained as a kitten to accept it. I don’t think anyone trains kittens to accept claw clipping.
Most cats don’t need their claws clipping. The claws of outdoor cats wear down. They might be an indoor/outdoor cat in which case the claws wear down. They may use a solid scratching post in the home regularly which certainly helps. Normal use keeps claws at a reasonable length.
The “problem” of claw clipping exists because of domestication and the relatively soft life of the pampered cat (in good homes) except in at least two situations.
- Polydactyl cats have extra digits, often thumbs, which are above the ground. They are not worn down naturally through use.
- Old cats rest and sleep much more than other cats (see picture) and their claws can quite often grow very long because they are not in contact with anything to the point where the tip of the claw curls into the paw pad causing considerable discomfort and making it much more difficult to clip.
There are, therefore, occasions when a person has to clip her/his cat’s claws. This usually presents a problem.
There would appear to be four scenarios:
- Your cat accepts claw trimming if done fast and/or in stages and surreptitiously.
- Your cat resists. You manage to trim one claw without force being used (the best way of course) and immediately afterwards you give your cat a special treat of food. Her favorite. This would be reward based training – positive reinforcement. It should probably be done early on in one’s relationship with one’s cat so the “training” can take place over a considerable time rather than desperate measures taken at desperate times (very long claws piercing the paw pad).
- Your cat resists and you give in and take her/him to a vet or ask your vet to do it at the same time as a regular appointment for a medical reason or you find a local pet groomer. However, personally, I have reservations about pet groomers. You leave your cat there, go away, come back and your cat is groomed or the nails are trimmed but….how did they achieve it? That is the 64,000 dollar question. Another problem with this method is the potentially tricky business of taking a cat somewhere in the car. Vet techs are a preferred choice for me.
- Your cat resists and you decide to use gentle and considerate force. You place her on a table. Place a towel over her and wrap her in it. Someone else holds her firmly but not too firmly. You trim the claws precisely but rapidly using the proper tool. Precision is essential to avoid cutting into the live dermis part of the claw. This is important. Immediately afterwards you reward your cat.
I used the gentle force method on my old late lady cat. It worked fine and there were no problems with her disliking me afterwards.
Conclusions? Most often a cat’s claws don’t need clipping. Caretakers of old and poly cats should check claws regularly and adopt one of the above methods if a claw or claws need to be trimmed.
- DW a regular contributor was understandably struggling with the prospect of having to trim the claws of her beautiful and elderly polydactyl cat “Bigfoot”. This page was written in response.
- An apology: The photos come from my computer and I have lost the names of the photographers. If you are one of them please leave a comment. Thanks.
- Search results on this topic on PoC.