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Updated: 25th October 2006
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Trimming Your Cat's Claws

Cat claws grow constantly, but unlike human fingernails, cats shed the outer layers of nail. You may see slices of claws lying around your home, especially on scratching posts. One of these reasons why cats scratch is for the purpose of removing these layers of nail. It's perfectly normal and is comparable to humans cutting, filing, and grooming their own nails.

Before you sit down with your cat, be sure you have a good pair of nail trimmers – this will help you be quick and accurate with the job, which will go a long way to making the experience less challenging for you both.

If you can, find a moment to do this when your cat is calm. Wait for him to wake up from a nice catnap and begin the nail clipping while he’s still very relaxed.

If you are doing this for the first time, or with a skittish cat, lower your expectations of doing a perfect job! Go slowly and snip just the sharp tip of the nail. Time and practice will teach you and your cat the techniques that are going to work best for both of you.

Now for the job of clipping: Press gently on the top of each toe to push the nail forward out of its sheath. Clip just the sharp tip of the nail, and be sure to avoid the "quick" area which contains the nerves and blood vessels. Use good lighting and look closely at your cat’s nails – the quick will be pink, while the tip of the nail is clear.

Over time, with regular clipping, the quick will recede. Eventually, you’ll be able to clip the nails shorter, to a more blunt tip.

Normally there are four claws per paw, with one dewclaw on each of the front paws. On cats, dewclaws are found only on the front paws, about where humans would have their thumbs -- they do not touch the ground. Some cats are polydactyl and have up to seven claws on any paw.

You can attempt to cut all the nails in one sitting, but if your cat struggles, don’t turn the session into a big battle. Give your cat a little treat and a lot of praise, and then try another paw again later in the day. Be patient. Eventually, you’ll have all the nails trimmed.

Every cat is different, but plan on giving your cat his or her “manicure” anywhere from once a week to once a month.

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