Trim Cat Claws

by Michael
(London, UK)

This is not my cat - ingrown nail - nice photo and cat - photo by caitlinburke (Flickr)

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This is not my cat - ingrown nail - nice photo and cat - photo by caitlinburke (Flickr)

It is time for me to trim cat claws. I am ashamed to admit that my old lady cat has an ingrown cat claw. This happened because I became distracted and sloppy regarding watching my cat for signs of health problems. She is healthy but she is old at 18 years of age. That is somewhere near the top end of cat age unless the cat is exceptional.

A few months ago I started to notice that she made a noise when walking on hard surfaces. In the past this was caused by a piece of wood cat litter being caught between her toes. I would remove it and all was well.

This time, very belatedly, I regret to say, I noticed that her claws have grown too long. One of them has turned all the way around and is rubbing on the side of the paw pad. She does not appear to be in discomfort but appearances can deceive. The "clacking" sound as she walks on hard surfaces is the sound of the nail hitting the surface first. The length of the nail also pushes the toe upwards slightly. This is visible from above.

In any event it is time to trim cat claws and remove the ingrown claw (only one is actually turned under). Her claws wore down with use until recently. Overlong claws are definitely associated with older cats as they are more sedentary, using their claws less. This prevents the claw being worn down with use.

Vigilance is required as overlong claws can puncture paw pads, which can lead to an infection.

Trimming claws can in fact be a routine for cats of any age as it blunts the claw. People who are a bit frightened of claws will benefit from this. Trimming claws looks relative straightforward but there are potential obstacles.

Firstly, my lady cat (Binnie) is a bit grumpy these days and doesn't like people fiddling around with her claws. She is going to uncooperative, I know. Secondly I am dealing with one or two extra long claws complicating the matter. Thirdly, I can't find the cat nail clippers - can I use human nail clippers? The answer is no. Of course, human clippers will work on cat claws but they tend to crush and cut the claw preventing a clean cut. The edge of the claw is liable to be left ragged as the layers of the claw are exposed. Also without the proper equipment what is a slightly tricky process is made more difficult.

So it is off to the veterinarian to buy some cat nail clippers. There is one within walking distance. As I know she will resist, I intend to employ my girlfriend to restrain her with a towel. I think assistance is useful in mini-operations such as this but it clearly depends on the cat. Some will accept it placidly, others will complain from the beginning.

A decent level of precision is required to avoid cutting off too much of the nail and cutting into the area of the nail that is alive (the "quick"). The simple answer is to cut off the very end of the claw, about 2 millimeters. Although the quick of the claw is visible.

Well there you have it. Work to do. The reason why I am going to do it myself rather than give the job to a vet tech is because it isn't that difficult and I will be doing it regularly from now on. I had better get proficient at it as fast as possible.

Ingrown cat claws are something that can be a little hard to spot. It is one of those things that should be part of a check list for the older cat. Checking for fleas and mites when grooming a cat is another, I think.

Here is a video on trimming cat claws:


Michael Avatar

From trim cat claws to cat health problems

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Trim Cat Claws

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Jun 30, 2010 Poor Bigfoot
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Dorothy. Good luck with the trimming. As you describe it something has to be done about that dew claw, but still I pity the poor Bigfoot who has never tried it before. Make sure the big boy gets an extra treat for this... 😉

Jun 29, 2010 Many Toed cat
by: Dorothy

My boy Bigfoot is a pain when it comes time to trim, so I avoid it at all costs. The biggest problem now is that his seventh toe on the left is a dewclaw that never touches the ground. It is curling like it wants to grow back into the foot. Spooky that. I really want to at least get that one trimmed up, as he does a good job on the rest with all his scratching posts. However, he has no shame in biting if he doesn't like even how you are petting him. Grumpy little fellow. Now that I've had him close to a year, it happens less and less now that he's trained me. He's mostly a little love-bug who loves kisses and likes to sleep curled up in any crook of my body that is available.

The two person advice is the best. I'll give it a go. Last resort, have the vet do it and don't watch!

Thanks for all the advice!


Jun 12, 2010 Cat Claws
by: Maggie Sharp

Glad to hear you cat is going well, Michael. Keep in mind that some cat do like to chew their claws, so while the claw may appear damaged, it's possible that it is not. This can also happen from simply scratching something... In what way does is the claw damaged?

I used to clip Chilli's claws while he was asleep, he didn't mind them being clipped while he was awake, but cats do squirm sometimes and I didn't want to risk injuring him.

Jun 12, 2010 OK
by: Michael

HI Finn, the bite was not that bad - a small puncture wound!

She seems fine now (12th June about 4 days later). I need to do a follow up session to inspect etc.

I have noticed one of her claws is broken or appears broken. Her damaged pad appears to have healed nicely.

Jun 08, 2010 "Resistance is futile"
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Good thing you had it done. With an old cat that has never had a trimming before, a bit of trouble is to be expected. Was it a deep bite?
In time Binnie will learn that this is just another crazy human idea and that "resistance is futile, so let's get it over with". At least I hope she will. 😉

Jun 07, 2010 Done
by: Michael

An update. We did the front paws today. One claw was ingrowing and it had damaged the paw pad. She yelled at me and bit me when I trimmed it or cut a large chunk of it out. It was quite traumatic really!

But she seems fine now. I am watching and waiting to see if the damaged pad heals. It is not infected.

I'll have a go at the hind legs next.

Michael Avatar

Jun 07, 2010 To Gail
by: Ruth

Gail you did make me laugh about Sadie and her mouse RIP and I feel for you if you have to start trimming her claws. Our Ebony who had the sweetest disposition ever, turned into a right little so and so at claw trimming time.Our other cats would all quit the scene in a hurry when they saw the clippers come out,they knew she would be 'dangerous' after the job was done lol . She never did get used to it.
I don't think many of us in the UK trim cats claws, in all my years at the vets we had dogs most days for claw trimming but very rarely cats.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jun 07, 2010 I agree Finn
by: Kathryn

Yes trimming claws is by far better than declawing or shoving those rubber things on the poor cats paws.
It just upsets me that people do things for their own convenience and not for the cats sake.
There is nothing nicer than watching a cat hooking a catnip toy and enjoying a good old game with it.
A lot of people don't get a cat for the cats sake,to give it a good home.They get a cat for their own pleasure and make the cat adapt to how they want it to be.
As Ruth often says in her posts,cats are cats and not babies or toys,they like being cats,they come with the necessary equipment to be cats.
If people don't like that then they shouldn't get a cat.
But you are right,opinions differ and here in the UK most of us do let our cats be cats.

Jun 07, 2010 Trim Sadie's Claws? HAHAHA!
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

No amount of love, secure couch arm or even treats will Sadie subject herself to claw trimming. Thank goodness she's doing a bang-up job herself, LOL! I find the disgarded sheaths everywhere.

The video was good; however, I just wish it had more close-ups whilst trimming the claws in the vertical position. Even a close-up of the cat trimmer utensil would've been helpful.

We keep a close eye on her though, since she's 16 years and beginning to slow down, although the field mouse she caught the other day would disagree. RIP mouse.

Jun 07, 2010 Opinions are divided
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Kathryn. I wholeheartedly agree that providing the cats with scratchpoles or scratchboards is the first thing any cat caretaker must do. Besides saving the furniture, having somewhere to stretch out is so very important for the cat's welfare.
I know that opinions are divided about the trimming and I respect that, although I personally don't see it as problematic. With purebred cats claw trimming is mandatory before entering shows and also when visiting other cats for mating.
Both of our elderly cats are neutered and they don't go to shows, so I have to admit trimming is mainly done because of human convenience. Milly has a habbit of kneading with her claws out and in the morning that just drives my wife crazy...

At any rate trimming is a much better choice than claw caps - and of course worlds appart from the cruel declawing. And offering information about how easy trimming really is, maybe could save a few American paws from mutilation.

Jun 07, 2010 Claws
by: Kathryn

I'm with the trimming claws only if necessary brigade.If cats have the proper equipment they keep their own claws right,after all cats in the wild manage nicely without our interference.
But it's like bathing cats,unecessary too unless the cat is particularly dirty,so why put a cat through it needlessly.
This obsession of treating cats like babies or dollies is ridiculous.Cats come self cleaning and self claw caring,not many like to be messed about with.Let them enjoy their claws,it's their right.
It's only for human convenience that most people trim them.
But in Binnie's case yes her claws need to be trimmed before they injure her pads,thats a different story altogether as it's very necessary.

Jun 07, 2010 Thanks Finn
by: Michael

Thanks Finn for the good advice from first hand experience.

Jun 07, 2010 New to trimming? Don't despair.
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

If you find trimming a bit more troublesome and your cat less cooperative than in the video, don't despair. Remember Dr. Christianne Schelling has performed the procedure many times - and so has probably Charlie, the cat selected for the occasion.
What usually worry 'novices' the most is fear of clipping into living tissue (the "quick"), but looking at the claw you can clearly see a shadow where it starts. Do the trimming further out and there is absolutely no risk of hurting the cat.
Actually the risk of the cat moving with it's claw wrapped around the clippers is much greater - and that hurts for sure. So make sure you have a good hold on the cat and perform the trimming with speed. The sooner you are finished, the less likely your cat gets impatient and starts moving around.
I recommend being two for the job - especially the first time you perform it. One person holding and comforting the cat and the other focused on the trimming. This way the whole procedure gets more speedy and secure for all involved.
Some cats are comfortable sitting like Charlie does, while others hate it. Our Snow White has gotten used to the trimming by now, but only if she is allowed to sit flat on table. Front paws are easily reached that way and as to the hind paws, we usually skip them as scratching the litter box keeps them in perfect shape.
And after the trimming, remember to offer your cat a well deserved treat. 😉

Finn Frode avatar

Jun 07, 2010 Claw trimming
by: Ruth

Michael I do feel for you and if it's any consolation, old cats claws do tend to grow very quickly.We had to trim our Ebony's fortnightly and she hated it as of course when she was younger she did the job herself on trees and the garden fence and scratching posts and boards.
Yes best get the right clippers, it can make all the difference.
A word of warning for your girl friend lol Tell her to close her eyes as the bits of claw are clipped off ! Babz used to hold Ebby for me and one day a sharp bit flew straight into her eye.
She stood there and suffered until we'd finished because, old as she was, Ebby would have been off like a shot and hid if we'd stopped half way lol
Good luck with Binnie
Good on you Maggie, time enough to trim claws when you have no choice,like Michael.
I'm with you letting cats enjoy them as Nature intended for as long as you can.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jun 07, 2010 Cat Claws
by: Maggie Sharp

I've trimmed my boy's claws many times using human nail clippers, and you're right, it does crush the claw a bit in the process instead of just cleanly cutting the end off.

These days I don't trim his claws I love them too much, and so does he. =)

I didn't know about ingrown claws I'll have to keep an eye on old Cherry's claws...

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