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How to Safely Trim a Cat's Claws

#1: White Tip of Cat Claw

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#2: Cat Claw - Blood Vessels

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Parts of the Cat's Claw

You know how on your fingernails, the white part of the nail is OK to cut, but if you cut too close (or into) the nail bed (the pinkish part), it can really hurt? And if you've ever cut too close and bled, then you know how painful this can be.

Well, cats claws are very similar. There is a "dead" part of the claw, the tip, that is just like the "dead" part of our nail, which doesn't hurt at all to trim. See photo #1 on the right.

Then there is the part of their claw that has blood vessels in it, which if cut is painful to your cat. See photo #2 on the right. Stay well away from the pink or dark part of the claw when trimming.

If your cat has whitish or light colored claws, then it's fairly easy to see where the distinguishing area is. If your cat has very dark or black claws, then it's not so easy.

Another photo of a cat claw

The red arrow shows where the pink part of the claw starts. When clipping, clip only the very tip. Stay away from the pink area.

The red arrow shows where the pink part of the claw starts. When clipping, clip only the very tip. Stay away from the pink area.

Cat Not Wanting Paws Touched

This cat looks very unhappy, and all I'm doing is trying to trim claws. Some cats don't like having their paws messed with.

This cat looks very unhappy, and all I'm doing is trying to trim claws. Some cats don't like having their paws messed with.

Getting a Cat to Cooperate

Some cats really don't like having their claws trimmed. Actually, they don't like you messing with their paws at all. On the right, you can see a photo of one of my kitties, Sampson, objecting to me touching his paws. He's usually the most laid-back cat ever...but really doesn't like his paws messed with.

If you have a cat like this, it may be helpful to have one person "scruff" the cat, while the other person trims the claws.

Scruffing is simply firmly grabbing the cat by the "scruff" of the neck (top of the neck). This is the same place a mama cats picks up her kittens by.

Exposing the Cat's Claw

In order to trim a cat's claw, you must first expose the claw. See the photo below. With your hand, holding the cat's paw, use your bottom fingers to press on the pad of your cat's paw. With your thumb, press at the base of the cat's joint or claw. This causes the claw to extend out, exposing it. You can do it the other way, thumb on pad and fingers on top.

Once the claw is exposed, you can safely trim the very tip of the claw, taking off the sharp point.

In the photo below, is me with Miss Kitty. She's 13 years old, and has been with me since she was a kitten, so she's more used to me messing with her paws and is much more tolerant of having her claws trimmed.

If you get a new kitten, I suggest trimming the claws regularly to get them used to it. It makes it much easier to continue once they are adults.

Exposing the Cat's Claw

Gently press on the space between the cat's big foot pad and toe pads, and the claws will become exposed. This action is normal for cats and is similar to what happens when they stretch or when they scratch on items and their claws pop out.

Gently press on the space between the cat's big foot pad and toe pads, and the claws will become exposed. This action is normal for cats and is similar to what happens when they stretch or when they scratch on items and their claws pop out.

Claw Trimmers

There are many different type of claw trimmers on the market. I will talk about a few of them, along with what I like and don't like about each.

Scissor Trimmers

Scissor Trimmers

These type of claw trimmers are my personal favorite. Since I foster kittens and cats with a rescue, I've tried a lot of different types of claw trimmers.

The ones I own, look like the pair pictured on the right with red handles, only mine have black handles.

What I like about these:

  • Inexpensive
  • Stainless Steel
  • Comfortable Handles
  • Small Curved Blade - Easy to trim cat's claw without risk of cutting cat. Also the curved blade allows the claw to be captured easily without slipping off
  • Sharp - These do a GREAT job! I've never had an issue with them, they cut great. They work on kittens, and I've trimmed cats up to 17 lbs. with these.

Scissor Trimmers in Use

Here you can see me trimming Sampson's claws using my favorite scissor trimmers. The right part of the claw in the photo is the white "dead" part of the claw.

Here you can see me trimming Sampson's claws using my favorite scissor trimmers. The right part of the claw in the photo is the white "dead" part of the claw.

Kitten's Claws

Kitten's claws are trimmed in the same manner as an adult cat, however on a kitten, you can use regular nail clippers. Be sure to clip the claws on their sides, not top and bottom.

Kittens claws are more pliable than an adult cat's and so small, that this works for them.

Scissor Trimmers - Large Handles - Spring Action

Professional Pet Nail Trimmers - Large Handles

If you like the idea of the scissor trimmers (above) but you have very large fingers that won't fit into the holes of the less expensive kind, then you may want to give these a try.

The cutting action is similar to the scissor trimmers above, but they have bigger handles.

These are also a good option if you have arthritis, because they have a spring action which makes handling them a little bit easier.

Guillotine Claw Trimmers

Guillotine Claw Trimmers

OK, I have to admit that this style of claw trimmer "used to be" my favorite style cat claw trimmer...until I tried the scissor trimmers.

What I like about these:

  • Easy to operate - spring action
  • Cat's claw is "trapped" within the small hole while you cut, so very low risk of cutting the cat
  • Sharp, claws cut easily

What I don't like about these:

  • A little pricier than other styles
  • Sometimes hard to get a cat claw into the cutting hole, if you have a squirmy cat
  • If you have a very resistant cat, and you have their claw into the hole, ready to cut, but then your cat pulls their paw back, the claw is trapped and is pulled on by however much force your cat is using to pull back their arm. I haven't had any injuries caused by this, but it just doesn't seem like much fun for the cat.

If you have a cat that does fairly well with getting their claws trimmed, or if you're very good at holding your cat still during the trimming process, these do work well.

One time, I thought, "Well, the nail trimmers work so well on kittens, I'll try the larger toenail clippers on my cat."

This turned out to be a bad idea.

It actually worked OK on a few claws, but then on one of them, when I "clipped" the claw, the pressure from the nail clippers flattening the claw, actually SPLIT the claw. Nail clippers are not the right shape to cut a pet's claws. My cat ended up with an infected claw, which took some time to heal (and yes, I did treat my kitty for the infection).

So please, don't try this. It's not worth the risk of possible injury, and not worth saving a few bucks.

The reason nail clippers work on kittens, is that kittens claws are so small and so thin.

Regular scissors fall into the same category as the nail clippers.

If you try to cut a pet's claws with scissors, there is a very good chance you will split the animal's nail which can lead to infection, and pain.

Please use the proper tools when trimming your pet's claws.

Favorite Cat Claw Trimmer

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Amber Killinger (author) on October 29, 2016:

I've been using that same pair of black-handled scissor-type cat claw trimmers that is shown with the black and white cat for several years now and they still work great! I think I've had them for at least 4 years now.

Lynn Savitzky from New Jersey on May 29, 2015:

This is very helpful. I'm trying to work up enough trust in myself to attempt this next time my cat needs a trim.

Subhashchandar on December 20, 2014:

Having never tried these but (have heard) of them before, I was seurrispd and delighted. I had no idea they actually look like a cute little paw-doh! Me!

PhetsyDutchko from West Point, CA & Shelby, NC on January 23, 2012:

Very thorough--good job explaining the topic in everyday, easy to understand language.

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on January 22, 2012:

It takes a lot of practice to do this at home. I've always clipped my own cats' (and dog's) claws at home. For my large dog I use the guillotine clippers and for my cats, your not-recommended human toenail clipper. I haven't had any problems with them but I am quite careful. Thanks for all the advice.

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