Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My name is Ford. I’m a 3-year-old cat, and my daddy rescued me from a parking lot when I was just little. I didn’t need to be bottle fed, but that’s all they’ve been able to tell me. I don’t remember much about that time. My problem is that I hate to have my claws trimmed! I hate it!
My adopted sister Dinah gets her claws trimmed and she doesn’t mind so much. She tells me she doesn’t like it, but she usually just sits quiet for mommy when she does it. But not me! I yank and squirm and growl and sometimes even bite to get away when they do it! My mommy and daddy tried to get me used to having my paws touched when I was little, but I’ve always gotten very upset. They can touch my paws if they want, but when I see Dinah getting a trim, or when I see the kitty-claw-clippers come out, I run!
The problem is my claws get so long that I often get them stuck in things like furniture, humans’ clothes or carpet. When that happens, I start to panic when I can’t get my claw dislodged right away. Then my mommy or daddy has to come give me some help, otherwise I just yank and yank until I rip whatever’s got my claw stuck!
My mommy and daddy have lots of cardboard scratchers in the house, and I like those, but it seems like it just makes my claws sharper. They bought special cat-claw trimmers that have a guard so they don’t cut too short, and even though Dinah’s claws look like they just cut the pointy tip off, I don’t want them to do it. I don’t care about the special treats I get for it, no siree!
But I also don’t like getting stuck or ruining their stuff. They know I can’t help it, but it’s still a problem. What should we do?
~Ford & Dinah
Dahlia: Well, Ford, if it makes you feel any better, I hate having my claws trimmed, too! I almost never let Mama trim my claws, and if she does manage to start, she may do two claws before I run away. Of course, I’m squirming and hissing after the first claw.
Siouxsie: Even though Mama got Dahlia used to having her paws handled at a young age, she still doesn’t like trimming. Silly girl!
Dahlia: Siouxsie, cut it out! I’ve had a really bad weekend! Shots, a fight with a stray cat, back to the vet the next day for that ’cause he bit me right on my elbow joint, and then sitting in kitty jail in the car for hours and landing in this whole new space. *sniffle*
Siouxsie: I had to move, too, you know! That’s why I’m here to swat you.
Thomas: Be nice, Siouxsie!
Dahlia: Anyway, back to this claw trimming business. It sounds like your mommy and daddy did everything right, so it’s not their fault. Some of us cats just never get comfortable with having a trim.
Siouxsie: The first thing your mommy and daddy should do is to check and see if they’ve positioned you properly for your trim. It usually works best if they let you sit on a table, facing away from them, and hold you with their non-dominant hand. Then they can trim claws with their dominant hand. This page from the Cat Doctor website has some photos of how to position your cat for a nail trim.
Thomas: You’ll also be less stressed if your mommy and daddy feel calm and in control–rather than nervous or worried–when it’s time for your trim. It’s easy for humans to get uptight when they believe you’re going to fight and hiss and bite to get away. But if they can find a way to be peaceful when they trim your nails, that will help, too.
Siouxsie: Mama used to get all uptight when she had to give us worm pills and stuff, and that just made us fight even more. But as she got better and calmer at giving pills, it got a lot easier for all of us.
Dahlia: The best thing your people can do is trim one or two of your claws at a time and then reward you with a treat and lots of affection and love. That way you’ll start feeling better about having your nails trimmed, because there’ll be something yummy and lots of petties when you’re done.
Thomas: If you squirm while your mommy and daddy are working on your claws, they should reposition you as shown above, and then do one more claw. Eventually you’ll get tired of fighting your way out of being repositioned and you’ll learn to put up with it.
Siouxsie: Here’s a secret, Ford: If you just let the humans do the trimming, it’ll take a lot less time and it’ll be a lot less stressful and traumatic for you. Seriously. That’s the attitude I’ve adopted. When I let Mama have at it, it only takes a minute. Then I can jump off her lap, give her the slant-eye, and start grooming myself with indignation!
Dahlia: If even after all this, you still won’t tolerate the nail trimming, your mommy and daddy can take you to a professional groomer or your vet and get the trim done there. If it’s not your humans doing the clipping, maybe you’ll feel better about it.
Thomas: The groomer or vet can show you his or her technique, which also might help your humans make it easier on you.
Siouxsie: For those of you who haven’t trimmed a cat’s claws before, or who would like a refresher course, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Partners in Health has an excellent video demonstration here.
Dahlia: Good luck, Ford. We hope this advice helps you and your people make claw trimming a less stressful time for you!