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Should You Trim Your Cat’s Claws?

Many dogs need to have their claws trimmed now and then, particularly if they are not very active or only walk on soft surfaces like grass, which does not wear the claws down naturally in the same way that walking on hard surfaces does. However, when it comes to cats, it can be hard to tell if their claws are getting overly long and are in need of a trim, as cat’s claws are naturally sharp even when they are an appropriate length and in good condition.

If your cat manages to draw blood every time they are kneading in your lap, the chances are that you have wondered if there is anything you can do to resolve the issue-but should a cat’s claws be trimmed, and how it can be done without turning into a fight that ends in a lot of scratches and a very disgruntled cat? In this article, we will answer these questions and provide some solutions.

Normal, healthy claws

Cats have retractable claws, while dogs’ claws are always extended, and so you may only see the full extent of your cat’s claws when they are kneading or using their scratching post. Like your own nails, the claws have a quick, which is rich with nerves and blood vessels and that can be very painful if damaged, and in cats with white claws, the quick is usually easy to see if you shine a light on the extended claw.

However, in cats that have black claws, the quick can be harder to see, unless your cat will permit you to gently press their toe to extend the claw and allow you to shine a light behind it.

The outer layer of the claws sheds naturally from time to time, which is why you may sometimes find claw sheaths in areas that your cat has been, but the claws themselves should be solid, healthy-looking and not flaking, cracked or weak.

Identifying problems

The most common issue that can occur where cats and their claws are concerned is ingrown claws, and this generally only occurs in cats that are very sedentary or elderly, and that do not exercise much and may also neglect their own grooming.

An ingrown claw is a claw that has grown so long that it curves around and pokes into the soft, fleshy pad of the paw or the toes, and this can of course be painful for your cat, and may lead to them picking or chewing at their feet to try to resolve the issue.

An overly long claw can also lead to an infection where it pierces the footpad, which in turn can cause more pain and problems for your cat.


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The natural urge to scratch

Cats need to scratch and flex their claws, and this is a natural instinct like wiggling the fingers or clicking your knuckles. All cats will seek out surfaces that feel good and provide some resistance to scratch against, and if you are lucky, this will be a scratching post and not your carpet or furniture!

This scratching process helps to remove the sloughed-off sheaths of the claws and neaten the ends, but it does nothing to make your cat’s claws blunter and less sharp!

Should you trim your cat’s claws?

Unless your cat’s claws have grown overly long and are at risk of becoming ingrown or causing other problems for the cat, it is generally fine to leave the claws well alone. However, if your cat’s kneading is more traumatic for you than it is comfortable, there is no problem with simply nipping the end of the claws to make them a little blunter, and less sharp.

If your cat is elderly or infirm and otherwise has overly long claws, you will likely need to trim them every few weeks, to avoid ingrown claws. However, only the front claws curve and can potentially cause problems-the claws on the hind feed grow straight, and so rarely cause an issue.

This means that even if you need to trim the front claws, the back claws will usually be fine left alone.

How to trim your cat’s claws safely

If you do decide that you need to trim your cat’s claws, your approach to this is vital! You can of course take your cat to a vet or a groomer to do it for you, and this may be a good idea if your cat is hard work or likely to make a big fuss!

However, if your cat will tolerate their paws being touched-and this is something that you can get your cat used to by giving them mini-paw massages-you may be able to clip the ends of the claws at home without too much hassle.

First of all, identify where the quick of the claws are, and only nip off the minimum amount of the ends of the claws, keeping well clear of the quick.

Wait until your cat is relaxed or even asleep, and you may be able to trim their claws without them noticing-although if they start looking a little suspicious partway through, you may need to continue another day!

Gently push the toe to extend the claw and then just nip off the very end of it, so that the tip is blunted without being cut overly short.

If you accidentally nick the claw’s quick, this is likely to bleed a lot and really put your cat off letting you do it again, so be very careful!

Remember that it is likely to be only the front claws that you need to clip, and so disregard the back claws unless they are clearly causing problems.


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