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How to clip your cat's claws

Clipping your cat's claws might seem like a daunting task. She doesn't like you playing with her toes, you're afraid you'll cut her claws too short and hurt her, and who knows how she might react to that when she's already irritated with you handling her toes? However, there are some things you can do to help ease the situation, and perhaps clip your cat's claws more easily.

When you clip your cat's claws, there are some tips to follow to make it easier and less traumatic.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Mitchell, used with permission

The ASPCA recommends that, if it's your first time trying to clip your cat's claws, you'll want to get her comfortable with you handling her paws before you do anything else with her. One way to do this is to sit with her when she's calm, settled, and maybe even sleepy, and give her treats for letting you handle her paws without struggling. The treats you use should be something that you only give your cat on rare occasions, because you want to give her a fantastic reward for letting you handle her paws. You might want to give her one treat per paw, or maybe even one treat per claw that she lets you extend. The point is to make her associate having her paws touched, and ultimately getting her claws clipped, with good things.

This is something you might want to do several times before you actually clip your cat's claws. She needs to be comfortable with you handling her paws, because any struggling might cause you to hurt her. One other thing to keep in mind is that getting her used to you handling her paws gives you a good chance to study her claws and learn where her quick is. The quick is the pink part of her claw where the blood vessels and living tissue are. If you cut the quick, not only will you hurt her, but she'll bleed. So learn where the quicks in her claws are to reduce that risk.

When you decide it's time to clip your cat's claws, gather your clippers, special treats, and a little first aid kit containing gauze and styptic powder (to stop bleeding if necessary), and put them close at hand. Make sure your cat's in the same relaxed and sleepy mood she was in when you were teaching her to tolerate having her paws handled. Take her to her favorite place, perhaps her favorite chair, or spot on the couch, or just sit with her if she's already in one of her favorite spots. She's less likely to get upset that way.

For a more in-depth explanation of how to safely and easily clip your cat's claws, check out the ASPCA's article on claw clipping here.

You can clip your cat's claws with a regular nail clipper, but you probably shouldn't. Petsmart and Petco have actual claw clippers that will make a cleaner cut more easily. They also carry the styptic powder you might need if you accidentally cut a quick. This will make the whole job easier and faster, and further reduce your risk of making a mistake.

So, now that you've taught your cat to tolerate having her paws handled, and you have all your equipment within easy reach, it's time to actually clip her claws. The first few times you do this, you may want to give her a treat for each paw, or even for each claw, you successfully clip. This may be especially important if you accidentally cut her quick, because you don't want her to associate the clippers with pain. If you're careful, this shouldn't be a problem, but it does sometimes happen anyway. Go here to read about how to handle bleeding claws. When you're finished, give her another treat as a reward, and let her go.

Remember to clip your cat's claws about every ten days to two weeks. If you've tried everything and she just won't let you do it, perhaps you can get claw covers for her, or have a groomer or your vet do it. But don't fight with your cat just to clip her claws. That's a good way to under up hurting her, and getting hurt yourself.

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