Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Clip Your Cat’s Toenails

Did you know you can trim your cat’s toenails yourself? It is really very simple and it doesn’t take much time or effort once you get the hang of it. Not only that, you can save any fees the vet would charge you for this service if you had to have them do it.
There are several types of nail clippers and I have pictured my favorites below. There is one like a garden pruner, which is suitable for both dogs and cats. While I do have one, I tend to use it only on Skye, as it can be cumbersome to hold when you have a wiggling kitten to deal with. The second one is a scissor type with a rounded spot for the nail to fit into. This is usually the one I use on the cats, as I find it the easiest to use because you can just lay the tip of the toenail into the groove in the scissor. The third one is also a pruner type, but has a stop, that can be set behind where you are cutting. This is nice, because in theory you can’t cut off too much toenail and are less apt to cut into the quick of the nail and make it bleed. The last kind of clipper is a guillotine type (not pictured) and you squeeze it to make the blade cut just like a guillotine. The issue I personally have with these is that it is a lot easier to split the nail and if you have a cat that doesn’t like getting their nails clipped it is harder to use when they are wiggling and not sitting still.

The first thing you want to do is assemble your tools. Have a towel to wrap the cat in if they tend to be nervous. Get your clipper and make sure it has a sharp blade in it. You should also have something on hand to stop the bleeding, either a styptic powder or pencil in case you cut too close to the quick. I prefer the powder myself, and put it in a little bowl, so as not to contaminate the rest of the container. Last, but not least; have a favorite treat ready for after the clipping is done (I use a small piece of cheese). This gives the cat something to look forward to, and makes them less likely to balk the next time you want to clip their nails.
I start clipping toenails when my cats are kittens and after a few times they get pretty used to having it done. I try to do it in the evening, as if they have been active during the day, now they are ready to go to sleep and are usually more relaxed. I sit them in my lap, or hold them on my lap with their back against my stomach. If you have a kitten that you think may struggle, you can also wrap them in a towel, and take out one paw at a time to make clipping easier.
I hold the clipper in my right hand and squeeze the kitten’s foot just in front of the pad with my left hand. Pressing here on their foot makes their toenails extend out past their toes and makes the nails easier to cut. Most cats have four toes on their front feet and a dewclaw, which is their equivalent to our thumb. Their back feet usually have four toes, without a dew claw. Then I hook their nail in the groove of the nail scissors and clip. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend or just want to try clipping your cat’s nails yourself, to see if you want to do this at home; an inexpensive way is to take your toenail clipper (if you don’t mind sharing) and use that to snip off the sharp ends of the toenails. I’ve use this method too, and it also works well.
If your cat’s nails are white, pay close attention to where the nail turns pink. This is called the quick and is where the nerves and blood vessels end in the nail. You don’t want to cut into this or too close to it, as it can cause bleeding and pain for your cat. I suggest you try and cut at least 1/8” to 1/4” from the quick (toward the tip of the nail). If your cat’s nails happen to be a dark color, just snip off the end of the nail, this way you are less apt to hit the quick.  
You can save time, money and gas by clipping your cat’s nails at home yourself. Not only that, it is a great time to bond further with your cat. And who couldn’t use a little more cuddle time with their favorite feline.

Ruthie Bently

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