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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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Do I Need To Trim My Cat’s Nails?

For the most part, cats are independent, self-grooming pets, right down to their claws. They use scratching posts and other surfaces to keep their claws neat and healthy. While it’s not usually necessary to cut your cat’s nails, regular trims can have some benefits.

How Your Cat’s Nails Grow
Your cat’s nails are unique in how they partially retract, keeping them from touching the ground when they walk. Other animals, like dogs, have nails that wear down from walking, running, and digging. Cats, on the other hand, must scratch to keep their nails naturally trimmed.
Cat claws grow in layers. The oldest outer layer essentially dies and falls off, revealing the newer, sharper nail underneath. You may find shed nail tips around your home, especially around your cat’s scratching post.
Cats scratch to help shed their old nail tips. Scratching also relieves stress and allows your cat to mark their territory. By providing your cat with scratching posts, trees, and towers, you can keep your cat’s nails healthy and prevent them from scratching furniture.

Why Some Cat Owners Trim Their Cat’s Nails
Even when they have access to plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces, some cats still take to scratching furniture. Trimming your cat’s nails can help minimize damage. Trimmed nails are also less likely to get snagged on soft surfaces like blankets. Also, if your cat accidentally scratches you or your family members during play, clipping those sharp tips can help minimize that issue.
Senior cats are more likely to need help keeping their claws in shape as they age. They may no longer use their scratching post as much, and they can also lose their ability to fully retract their claws. As they age, their nails actually grow more quickly. If you notice your cat’s claws are becoming thick and curved, they may need regular trims to keep the claw from curling into the paw-pad.

How To Trim Your Cat’s Nails
It may take a few weeks to train your cat to tolerate nail trims. At first, you might need to get your cat used to simply having their paws touched. Give your cat plenty of treats as you practice touching their paws and pressing their toes to extend their claws.
Gradually work your way up to trimming just one claw a day, then try to do more if your cat allows. It’s best to work slowly. Pushing your cat’s limits can lead to a traumatic experience and may cause a setback in your progress. If your cat’s claws are overgrown and need immediate maintenance, you can take your cat to the vet for a trim.
Nail clippers are quick and easy to use. You simply snip off the hooked end of your cat’s claw. There’s no need for them to be very short. Some cat owners prefer a nail grinder because it trims the claws gradually, nearly eliminating the chance that you’ll cut the nail too short.
If you trim too much, you can hit the quick, or the blood vessel that runs through the nail, and your cat’s toe will bleed. You can practice using either tool on an uncooked piece of spaghetti before trying it on your cat.
Unlike your cat’s front claws, their hind claws do wear down through walking and climbing. You may only need to trim your cat’s front claws if you just need to reduce damage from scratching. For older cats, it may be necessary to trim all four paws.
You can use over-the-counter anxiety aids to help your cat stay calm during trims. If you’re still having a hard time, your vet or groomer can trim your cat’s nails for you.