For those of you who understand how you’re supposed to clip cats nails, but just can’t for the life of you manage to do it on your cat as he or she seems to hate getting his or her nails cut, this article is for you.
And I’m guessing it’s not because they don’t know how to do it. If you’re at your wits end like Jean said she was, my guess is it’s because your cat isn’t co-operating, and in those cases, hopefully some of the tips I’ll be writing about will be able to help.
I’d like to start off by discussing why cats actually hate getting their nails cut before jumping into how go go about trying to trim a cat’s nails that hates getting claws trimmed, as I’ve seen some people question whether it hurts cats to have their nails cut. Let’s start there.
Why Do Cats Hate Getting Their Nails Cut?
Contrary to how cats sometimes yelp, squirm, and run away from you when you do try to cut their nails, the process of trimming a cat’s nails is not painful for a cat unless you clip their nails wrong.
If you’ve seen the guides, like this absolutely amazing one for instance, you’ll know that you’re essentially supposed to cut about two millimetres away from the “quick” or the pink part of the nail.
If you’re timid, make sure you give the pink of the nail a little more clearance, so you don’t hurt your cat.
Again, my guess is you already knew this, and you weren’t even getting near that portion of the nail – heck maybe not even onto the nail itself – before your cat squirmed and yelped, then struggled to run away from you while you tried to cut his or her nails.
At this point you likely gave up to try another day, but when that other day swung around, the same process of the cat yelping repeated itself.
So what’s the deal? Why do cats hate getting their nails cut if what you’re doing is not even painful?
The answer is likely (though please do correct me if you think I’m wrong) – it feels uncomfortable and weird.
Cats typically hate their paws touched to begin with.
If you have a cat who won’t even let you touch his or her paw and you’re doing your best to try to cut his or her nails, needless to say, you have your work cut out for you.
Some of the tips I’ve included, therefore, have a lot to do with getting a cat used to his or her paws being touched in the first place, as well as getting comfortable with a bunch of other things that may be making the situation of getting nails clipped feel awkward and uncomfortable to a cat.
Let’s get into those, and if there’s absolutely any other ideas you have on making clipping nails easier to do on cats who hate getting their nails trimmed (especially for those that dislike their paws touched in the first place), please take a moment to leave your ideas in the comments below.
If a pet parent made his or her way over here, it’s pretty obvious your comment would absolutely help him or her, as this is a tough cookie to crack, and the more tips you can try, the easier it should make the process.
How to Cut Your Cats’ Nails When They Won’t Co-Operate & Hate It
Training That Will Make Trimming a Cat’s Nails Easier
1. Touch your cat’s paws regularly throughout the day to get him or her used to the sensation.
Since a lot of the issue around getting nails cut, in my experience, has to do with cats hating their paws being touched, try touching your cat’s paws throughout the day as often as possible when he or she is relaxed so they get used to the sensation, and no longer find it so alarming.
You can do this when your cat’s asleep, when your cat’s relaxing, basically any time you find your cat calm, try to touch his or her paw, stroke it, and even hold it and gently squeeze every so often.
If you manage to do that with no struggle or upset, you’re making progress.
To push progress, you might also want to try to press down on your cat’s paw in a manner you would need to do were you to snip a cat’s nail. All without any trimming.
The more used to the sensation the cat is, the easier the actual trimming will be.
2. Train your cat to be more used to being picked up and held
This is another thing a lot of cats really disdain initially because they’re so unused to the sensation.
While I have cats who absolutely disdain being picked up, I also know that over time, with repeated picking up and putting down, I’ve been able to get them to acclimate to the sensation.
My advice when it comes to this is to do it often, but for very short periods of time, and if you can, reward their good behaviour and lack of resistance with things like snacks or play straight after.
The reason I say do it for a short period of time, maybe a second or two at most initially, then increasing over time, is that it’s a lot easier for them to get used to being held if they feel you’re going to put them down after just a few moments.
Each time you hold your cat, it’ll be less alarming than the last. Especially if you do it while he or she is calm and not actively trying to play.
I don’t advise trying to pick up a cat who’s feeling playful, it’s much easier for them to become more used to the sensation if they’re calm prior to you trying to pick them up.
Tips on How to Actively Trim a Difficult Cat’s Nails
1. Try different cat nail clippers to see if your cat has a preference to one over the others.
I haven’t actually done this for my cats when it comes to nail clippers, but when it comes to brushes and grooming, I’ve definitely done this to figure out which my cats prefer, and it make one heck of a lot of difference.
When it comes to nail clippers, I personally use standard scissor style nail clippers. I feel like I’ve had the best luck with those, and my husband prefers them to others as well.
If you have a moment, please take the time to leave a comment naming the type of nail clipper you use and if you find your cat is fine with it/likes it over other types. You could really help a pet parent out with this advice.
2. Try holding your cat upright in your lap to see if he or she is okay with that position.
The best position, in my experience, for trimming nails is probably if you’re sitting upright in a chair, then hold your cat away from you, as though he or she is a teddy bear, one hand propping up your cat’s arms by placing them underneath and holding them firmly to you.
Cats definitely don’t like moving around, and there are ways humans can pick up cats that make it really difficult for them to be comfortable, whether the pet parent’s trying to cut nails or merely hold him or her.
I feel that very few cats hate the feeling of sitting upright in your lap, being held in place so they’re not flailing around.
There is another option, however, if you find this position is difficult for you to cut nails in, and that’s the following…
3. Try lying your cat on his or her side and snipping the nails closest to you.
If I’m cutting cat nails by myself, I’ll often sit cross-legged on the floor, grab a kitty, lie him or her on one side across my crossed legs, then cut away at the hand or foot that’s nearest to me.
I can then flip the cat to the other side and start cutting the nails on the other side, but usually I find most cats lose patience after the first hand, so I try to do one hand at a time, if I can manage.
Over time they get used to more and more nails being cut before they get antsy, which is great.
4. Try getting a helper, one person to hold the cat, the other to snip nails.
Two people makes the job of snipping nails a lot easier if you have a problematic cat.
Usually, if a cat really doesn’t like getting their nails cut, but it has to be done, I’ll sit with the cat in my lap – holding him or her upright tight to my chest and with one hand underneath their paws, then get my husband to cut kitty’s nails. This helps a lot.
5. Try hiding a cat’s face while she gets her nails cut.
If you have a cat who seems squeamish, but not particularly hyperactive, just more flighty and uncomfortable with the idea of having his or her nails cut, covering your cat’s face can go a long way in helping the process go more smoothly.
Of course this is ridiculously difficult to do if you’re cutting nails solo, so my guess is you’d only be able to use your tip if you had an assistant.
If you have a more hyper cat or kitten, the alternative…
6. Try scruffing a cat’s nape while he gets his nails cut.
While this might not work on all cats, when you scruff many cats’ napes, holding the very loose skin at the back of his or her neck, it calms the cat, and therefore usually allows you to be able to cut at least a nail or two without causing any harm (which sometimes can happen if you try to snip a nail and your cat pulls away from you).
Obviously, again, you’ll probably need two humans in order to do this, one person holding the cat and scruffing, while the other person cuts.
Scruffing is often not advised because it alarms some cats and makes some cats aggressive. In my experience, this isn’t true of all cats, however, definitely don’t scruff a cat that seems to really hate it or become in distress by the act.
If you can get away with it, don’t scruff your cat while he or she is having his or her nails cut, especially since in some cases, if your cat hates the sensation of being scruffed, he or she may begin to hate the experience of having his or her nails cut even more than before.
Also please do the next step, under all circumstances…
7. Always reward your cat with encouragement, snacks, and/or play after you’ve snipped even just a single nail.
If you’ve made an attempt to cut your cat’s nails and had even just a teensy bit of success – like getting even just a single nail cut – reward your cat with something.
The something should be an encouraging, excited, happy, “Good job!” or equivalent, paired with a reward like play or a snack (a single piece of kibble will do).
This will help your cat learn that getting his or her nails trimmed = rewards and happiness once it’s done.
Your cat should learn to associate the experience with temporary discomfort that results in an incredibly happy experience straight after, which should make the process of trimming any cat’s nails easier over time.
When Once Just Won’t Do: Tips on Nail Cutting Over Time
1. Try cutting one cat nail while your cat is asleep.
Another pet parent once told me this is the trick she used to keep her outdoor cats’ nails cut throughout his entire life.
I think it’s brilliant if it works, but for some reason, I typically seem to struggle to do it fast enough that my cats don’t catch on to what’s going on before they’re awake and running.
If you can manage, this might be the only trick you need.
2. Try cutting one nail every day, or twice a day, to decrease the novelty of the sensation.
To get your cat used to the experience of nail cutting, you’ll want to increase the frequency of the nail cutting to as often as you can without creating anxiety.
Usually for me, this is once a day or twice a day.
The issue is if you’re trying to wait a week or even weeks before trying to cut your cat’s nails again.
I don’t think a cat can get used to the experience as easily if the nail cutting sessions are so spaced out in time.
One nail cut once a day plus a reward after, and I’d say within a month, your cat should be fine with the claw trims.
3. If your cat begins to let you cut one nail easily, increase the number to two nails, then to three, then to a whole hand.
If you started off snipping one nail because that was all you could do, and now your cat is fine with it, you can and should absolutely try to cut a second nail if your cat seems game for it.
Increase to two nails for a few cuttings, then to three if you can, then the whole paw.
Just make sure the process is gradual, and you should be able to cut all your cat’s nails in one sitting eventually.
Your Thoughts on Trimming Cats’ Nails?
Have you ever struggled to trim a cat’s nails?
Was it with one cat, multiple cats? What were their ages? Did the process get easier for you and your cat over time?
What tips do you have for those looking to trim their cats nails who struggle to do so because of how much their cats seem to hate the process?
Do you have any other advice for pet parents who need to trim their cats’ nails, but struggle to do so?
Please share any tips, advice, stories, and experiences you have on this topic in the comments down below.
Again, your advice will likely be so incredibly helpful for others in this situation.