Clipping Cat Claws

Clipping cat claws is routine to a groomer or veterinarian, but if you'd like to learn to clip your cat's claws yourself, here's how you do it.

Cat claws gripping a basketDo these claws need clipping?
Image © iStockphoto | Mehmet Salih Guler

To Clip, or Not to Clip?

Indoor Cats

Claws that are too long can curl back into a cat's paw pads and injure the foot (not to mention damage furniture and carpets) so indoor cats' nails need clipping regularly.

A scratching post by itself won't stop claws from getting too long.

Outdoor Cats

Cats allowed outside need longer claws to help them climb, defend themselves and get themselves out of trouble.

Their claws wear down naturally from their more active lifestyles, so clipping an outdoor cat's nails isn't generally necessary (but keep an eye on them anyway, just in case).

Handle Your Cat’s Paws Early

Cats resist having their paws touched, so get your cat used to this while he's still young by handling his feet often.

You could do this as part of a regular grooming session - stroke the feet and squeeze the toes so that the nails extend outwards.

Build up gradually until you can handle all four feet in one session. Bribery can help! Reward your pet with a treat after each foot-handling session.

While you're doing this, look at each claw.

See the pinkish section of nail? This is called the quick, and the pink line is a vein. Don't cut this part! Damaging it would hurt the cat and make the claw bleed.

The transparent tip of the claw is the part you can clip – but only cut the first 1 to 2 mm (one sixteenth of a inch). If in doubt, less is better.

Clipping Cat Claws – How to Do It

  • Invest in a pair of proper claw clippers
  • Hold the paw firmly and press on the base of the nails to extend them
  • Clip the nails downwards (shown below), not from side-to-side. Clipping sideways makes the claw more likely to split
  • Work quickly and confidently. If you're nervous, your pet will be nervous
  • Practice by cutting just one or two claws the first few times
  • Build up to clipping all the claws on one paw
  • Increase until you can clip all four paws in one session
Vet clipping cat clawsVet cutting cat claws the correct way
Image © iStockphoto | Robert Lopshire

Clipping cat claws is an art. It takes time for both you and your cats to get used to it but with patience and kindness you can succeed.

A Helpful Footnote (No Pun Intended!)

One of our readers, Paul, shared an unusual but effective idea for trimming claws that he came up with when he was trying to keep his cat still. Hop on over there and check it out.

Related Pages

Some of the articles and newsletters on this site may contain links to products I think you may enjoy. If you purchase through these links I receive a small commission, but there's no extra cost to you. Find out more on the
Affiliates Disclosure page.

Have You Discovered Our Newsletter?

If not, why not? Subscribe to our email newsletter, Meezer Musings, to stay in touch, be the first to see new information and pages as they come out, and read the things we only talk about in the newsletter.

Learn more about it on our Newsletter Sign-Up page.