Instructions and Tips for Cat Claw Cutting

"Cat claw trimming or cat claw cutting is necessary if using a scratching post alone doesn't trim or keep the front claws worn to the desired length. Be sure to cut cat toenails above the quick or pink part of the nail to avoid pain and bleeding. For dark nails cut just just after the curve to avoid any blood vessels in the nail. Be careful. If new to toenail trimming or cutting, Consider getting instructions from your veterinarian or an experienced cat owner before trimming cat nails yourself."

One necessary part of cat care is cat claw cutting. It helps to keep the claws from growing into into the paws and from scratching.  Think of claws like human finger nails that need to be cut. Start cutting your cat's nails when she is a kitten to get her used to it. If she moves around like most cats you might need to restrain your cat (see suggestion below).

The Cat Health Guide assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.  

Restraining Your Cat While Cutting Cat Claws

restraining the cat

Place your cat in your lap and use the forearms to hold down the head and hind quarters.

If you have trouble restraining your cat you could  try a Grooming Bag which will gently hold your cat for any grooming session including cat nail cutting.

Selecting a Cat Claw Clipper

the three different types of cat nail trimmers

It is fine if you want to start cutting cat nails with a human nail clipper. Other types include guillotine and scissors. Most prefer the guillotine type such as Finishing Touch Guillotine Nail Clipper for Cats (Guillotine Clipper) guillotine or human clippers. Scissors are the best choice for long cat nails that have a curl.

Only use a sharp blade when cutting nails. The guillotine type cutters have replaceable blades.

You can try a newer tool such as the frequently advertised PediPaws Pet Nail Trimmer for your cat. See our discussion below.

Getting the Cat Claws to Extract

applying pressure to the cats paw Gently squeeze your cat's paw using your thumb and finger to get the claw to come out. You can also push up the bottom of the toe to encourage your cat to extend the nail.

Cat Claw Trimming


where the quick is located on a cats toenail

Notice the difference between the pink area on the nail and the white area. When cutting the nail stay 2 millimeters above the "quick" or pink area.

Cutting the quick will cause your cat pain and bleeding.

If your cat has dark nails then cut after the curve to avoid cutting the quick.


placing human nail clippers on the toenail

The clipper should be placed perpendicular to the nail and then cut from top to bottom in one cut.

To smooth the nail you can use a human nail file.

If you use a guillotine nail cutter make sure that that blade faces you. Cut the nail from top to bottom.


Cut the Cat Dew Claw

cat dew claw

Don't ignore the nail on the inside part of the paw. These need to be trimmed to avoid the nail growing back into the foot.

What Happens If You Cut the Quick and Cause Cat Claw Bleeding

Don't panic if you cut the nail and cause bleeding. Just apply pressure with a cotton ball. You can also use a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding (used by men after shaving to stop bleeding). It should stop in a few minutes.

Pedipaws and Cats

The PediPaws Pet Nail Trimmer is another approach for trimming your cats nails. The device works with a sanding wheel that files back the nail.  The device works well when you frequently file the nails and keep them short. Longer nails take more time, making other approaches better, with the Pedipaws used to maintain the short length. Note that the device makes a noise that may be jarring for your cat until she gets used to the device. The tool costs between $17 and $20 and is a helpful tool to have in your cat claw cutting, trimming and grooming kit..

References for Cat Claw Cutting:

Washington State University
College of Veterinary Medicine

Photos by Henry Moore


Have Some Claw Cutting or Trimming Tips to Share or Questions?

Do you have a question or tips to share about cat claw cutting? Share it! We'll pick one question to answer each week.

If possible, please include a picture and include information such as breed, age, sex, behavior and products used.

We receive many questions, so it might take a while to responsd. If you have an urgent question we suggest using this online cat veterinary answer service that is available 24 hours a day.

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