Trimming a cat’s claws is necessary if the cat is inactive for whatever reason, usually old age, and/or because your cat is a full-time indoor cat. Cats that go out do not need their claws (nails) trimmed but I would still check.
In fact the first step is to routinely check your cat’s claws, particularly if you have got into the habit of not checking them but your cat has grown old and inactive. I should know because my late, beautiful lady cat developed one extra long claw that turned into her paw pad. I missed this but eventually saw it and trimmed it and the other claws. As you can image it is much harder to trim a claw that has grown into the cat as it hurts the cat when you fiddle around trying to get the claw into the clippers. Your cat will resist.
The best course of action is to be proactive and routinely clip claws. Clipping claws should be done accurately and quickly before your cat has time to settle and start objecting. Prepare the session well and then get started. One claw per day might be a good idea. Or to restrain your cat with a towel and have your partner hold your cat so that she does wriggle around preventing the precision required to trim claws properly. It important to avoid the nerves and blood vessels in the claw (the “quick”). You can see them so there is no difficulty in that respect. The only difficulties are keeping things still! Don’t trim until you are sure that you have positioned your trimmers precisely. And you should use tailor made trimmers which you can get from your vet although good quality, sharp human nail trimmers are OK in my opinion.
To get the retracted claw to sit up so that you can see it, press the paw gently on the top surface with your thumb while your finger is gently pressing on the lower surface. That activates the retracting leverages.
Here is a picture from the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic showing a cat’s nail that had turned into the paw pad. It prompted me to write this. This photo has been used with permission for teaching/educational purposes at Pictures of Cats.org. Thank you.
Long cat’s nail cutting into cat’s paw pad
Photo copyright Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic.
Another big benefit of getting into the habit of trimming your cat’s nails is that you won’t have to declaw your cat! Nice for both of you particularly your cat.
Other proactive measures that you can take are to install a proper, large, heavy and solid cat scratching device in a position that your cat’s frequent. Small flimpsy device probably won’t work. Scratching on this will help prevent what you see in the picture above.
The thumbs of Polydactyl cats (cats with extra toes) may have a propensity to grow claws that are not worn down even if your cat goes out because the toe is off the ground. You’ll need to keep and eye on that. Please do not selectively declaw a poly cat.
The best proactive measure of all is to trim the claws of your little kitten. Do it gently and accurately. Precision, speed and gentleness is all. But your kitten will get habituated to it and there will be little need for the precautions that I mention above when she becomes an adult.