Nature provided cats with ample places to keep their claws sharpened and filed down, on surfaces such as tree bark and stone. But indoors, where many cats spend their lives today, there are few claw-trimming opportunities. That's where you come in -- by keeping your cat's claws a safe and comfortable length, and setting up a regular scratching spot. When her nails are kept clipped, their naturally pointed tips will be replaced by straight edges that cause far less damage to furnishings.
How frequently do you need to clip your cat's claws? It depends on how quickly they grow, and how much time, if any, your cat spends outdoors. Keep an eye on her claws by making a "claw inspection" part of your regular grooming sessions. If left untrimmed for too long, the claws can grow into the cat's paw pads, causing pain and possible infection. If this happens, she will need veterinary attention -- but you can easily prevent this situation by monitoring her claws and tending to them regularly.
Before you attempt to clip your cat's claws yourself, get a lesson from a pro. Watch closely as your veterinarian trims the claws and talks you through the process step by step. Perhaps the vet can demonstrate, then let you take a turn while he or she supervises.
Once you know the ropes, follow these guidelines at home:
- Start with a sturdy nail clipper or a clipper specially made for claw trimming. Most pet supply stores will carry them.
- Hold your cat firmly in your lap. If your cat is squirmy, you might want to enlist someone else to help hold her while you trim.
- Take a paw in hand and gently press the paw pad; this will make the claws come forward.
- Before clipping, take a moment to examine the claw -- note where the pinkish part (the quick) ends and the white part (the tip) begins. You want to trim only the white tip, which is made up of dead cells. Cutting this part of the claw won't harm the cat. Keep a safe distance from the pink quick, which contains nerve endings; if there's any doubt about how far you can go, err on the side of safety and stay very close to the tip.
- Snip off the white tip quickly and cleanly.
Continued on page 2: Scratching Post Options