How to Cut a Cat’s Nails at Home

Whenever your cat has a vet visit, don’t hesitate to ask for a quick nail trimming. Your vet might also be willing to give you a quick tutorial on how to clip a cat’s nails.  Most veterinarians will allow you to bring your cat in periodically just for a nail trimming, or you could have your cat’s nails trimmed at local pet stores like PetSmart and Petco or by a local pet groomer.

But you can also learn how to cut a cat’s nails at home. Trimming a cat’s nails doesn’t have to be hard if you learn how to do it correctly and safely.

How to Make Your Cat Comfortable with Nail Trimming

how to cut a cat's nails at homeSince most cats are a bit anxious and some downright afraid of nail trimming, it’s smart to take a few days before you try to trim their nails to make them comfortable.

Start to handle your cat’s paws.  Start by petting your cat’s paws, then holding their paws, then messaging their paws.  Do this slowly and over a period of days, allowing your cat to pull away when they want to, but rewarding with treats whenever they allow it for even a short time.

Let them check out the nail clippers. Get the nail clippers out a few days before you plan to use them.  Let the cat see and sniff them.  Try touching each paw with the clippers and rewarding your cat with a treat each time they allow it.  Squeeze the clippers so the cat gets familiar with the sound, and again, give your cat a treat.

Make nail trimming a positive experience.  The trick here is to get your cat to associate the handling of their paws and the nail trimming with getting a treat.  You may even want to give special treats at nail trimming time.

How to Cut a Cat's Nails at HomeWait for the Right Opportunity

Pick a time when your cat is relaxed.  The easiest time for me to trim my cat’s nails is when he’s relaxing in his cat tree.  That’s my cat, Whiskers, in the pic.  Trimming his nails while he’s on the cat tree is best because it’s four or five feet tall so I can just walk up to it and don’t have to move him or try to get him to sit on my lap.  And he’s always relaxed on his cat tree, often napping or just looking out the window.

You can find a cat tree like this one HERE. Using another elevated surface such as a padded ironing board may help as well.

The best time to trim your cat’s nails is after they’ve eaten, when they’re either getting ready or waking up from a nap, when they’re relaxed and when the house is quiet.

How to Trim a Cat’s Nails

Choose nail clippers that you are comfortable with.  You can find a nice selection of nail clippers HERE.  If you’re unsure which ones to use, ask your vet for advice.   Also make sure you have styptic powder on hand.  You can use this if you cut a nail too short and it starts to bleed (more on that in a minute).  Here’s a step-by-step tutorial from Chewy on how to trim a cat’s nails.

Grasp your cat’s paw gently and press gently on the top and bottom of the paw to extend the claws.  Cut just the tip of the nail.  If you cut too short, you may cut the quick, which is the pink part of the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels.  Cutting the quick will be painful for your cat, causing them to be even more afraid of nail trimmings, and the nail can start to bleed.

How to Cut a Cat's Nails at HomeIf You Cut a Nail Too Short

It’s best to cut just the tip, especially if you’re a beginner.  Once you and your cat get more experienced with nail trimming, you can cut the nail shorter.  But if you do cut a nail too short and it’s bleeding, put some styptic powder on your finger and press it into the nail tip, holding it for a minute.  This should stop the bleeding.

If the bleeding does not stop within a few minutes, call your vet for further instructions.  You can also use flour or corn starch in a pinch, but styptic powder is recommended and inexpensive.

How Often Should You Trim a Cat’s Nails?

A good rule of thumb is to cut your cat’s nails every two to four weeks, depending on how fast your cat’s nails grow.  Cats who regularly use a scratching post or scratching pad may not need their nails trimmed as often.  Older cats’ nails may need to be clipped more often because their nails are thicker and can cut into their pads. Clipping your cat’s nails regularly is much easier than letting the nails get too long and growing into their pads.  If that happens, they will have to see the vet and possibly get antibiotics.

You can tell if your cat’s nails are too long if they’re really pointy and sharp, if they don’t retract all the way, or if they’re extremely curved.  You’ll also notice their claws sticking to things like fabric (your furniture!) more frequently when their nails are too long.

How to Cut a Cat's Nails at HomeBe Patient and Take it Slow

Learning how to trim your cat’s nails takes practice – for you and your cat to be comfortable with it.  Try not to get frustrated and realize you may only be able to do one toenail the first time, possibly two toenails the next time, possibly a full paw the next…and so on.  It’ll pay off in the long run if you’re patient and only trim as many nails as your cat will comfortably allow.

If your cat is aggressive or really dislikes the nail trimming, you may try wrapping your cat in a towel and exposing only one paw at a time.  But don’t take it much further than that.  Forcing your cat will only cause them to be afraid of nail trimming, by you and by the vet.

Please note that I am not a veterinarian.  The information sources for this article are WikiHow and PetMD, as well as my own personal experience.  Always consult your veterinarian for advice about caring for your cat.

Is Your Cat Scratching Furniture?

Trimming your cat’s nails is the best way to prevent them from scratching your furniture.  Providing a scratching pad or a scratching post is also helpful.  For more information, read my article, How to Stop a Cat from Scratching Furniture (includes video).

For More HelpHow to Cut a Cat's Nails at Home

If you feel you need more help with calming your cat down or stopping them from being aggressive during nail trimming, I can recommend a very good resource for cat training called, Complete Cat Training Guide from This is a downloadable ebook containing step-by-step instructions on how to solve 25 real-life cat behavior problems including aggression and scratching furniture.

It also covers ways to calm your cat down, which will make nail trimming easier.  This program is $37 and comes with a full money-back guarantee.

How to Cut a Cat's Nails at Home

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