I live with three cats. T’Siri, Shy and Marvin, otherwise known as “The Wild Kitties.” When their nails grow to sharp points, I capture each and trim front paw nails, and every other month, hind paw nails.
Hind paw nails continue to grow for both outdoor and indoor cats. The front nails get a “trim” by kitty using a scratching post or tree, but the hind nails won’t get worn down on carpeting or hard flooring.
Train the cat
This is far easier to do with kittens than a wild adult. Shy was wild as a kitten, but he got used to it.
I set the cat in my lap, and play with their front paws. They get used to me pushing gently on their toes to make their nails stick out. This works wonders for the front nails.
For the back nails, I turn kitty on his or her back with their back legs sticking up. I have one arm under their front legs, and my hands are free to work on the hind toes. This part is easier said than done. Most cats don’t appreciate playing “kitty bear.” I occasionally pick up every cat and do this with or without nail clipping. They learn to tolerate it. Mostly.
The nail clipper
Never, never ever use human scissors or nail clippers on a cat. Human nail clippers clamp down and crush the nail, causing kitty pain. Scissors will do the same thing. Only use nail clippers made for cats, and replace them every year. Dull clippers will not serve you or kitty well.
Time to begin
If you’re timid about the first time trimming kitty’s nails, ask an experienced friend to help, or have your Vet show you how.
If your cat has black nails, it’s a little tricky. Only trim little bits off from the nail, as you can’t see the pink inside known as “the quick.” That’s a term horsemen use for the soft under part of the nail where all the nerves and blood vessels are. It’s the same as the soft spot under your own nails. Just trim off the part of the nail where it becomes narrow and hooks down. With practice, you’ll know where to trim. If you do accidentally “quick” kitty, you’ll be the first to know and the job next time will be harder.
For cats with clear nails, look at the quick. You can trim just up to it’s edge. Again, if nervous about the first time, or kitty is nervous, just take the sharp tips off until the two of you get used to it.
Use both hands for this. One hand exposes the nail while the other hand uses the clipper.
For the hind paws, kitty may wiggle, growl, yowl or hiss. Don’t worry about this. Again, one hand exposes the hind nail while the other uses the clipper. Notice on the hind nails that they are thicker than the front nails, and the “quick” is longer.
One thing to note about the hind nails- they grow slower than the front, so you don’t have to trim them as often. Yipee!
Nail files for kitty’s nails
If filing the sharp edges is desired, use a file made for pet’s nails.
Automatic pet nail files featuring a rotating, battery-operated file disk are available online and in stores. I have never used one, so I have no opinion on their effectiveness. I do know that my “Wild Kitties” won’t go for it.
Treats and lovies
Once the nails have been clipped/filed, it’s time to fork over the treats. Give high praise with your voice, scratch kitty in all his/her favorite places while feeding treats.
Eventually, kitty will associate having their nails done with treats afterward and be more amenable to letting you trim, clip or file.
What started out taking an hour with Shy now takes less than five minutes for all four paws and not a peep of sound. He knows the faster I get finished the faster he gets his treats. He may be a “Wild Kitty,” but he’s definitely not dumb.