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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I adopted an adorable tabby from the shelter 3 months ago. She is afraid of everything and spends much of her time in hiding. I can pet her but I can’t hold her. She won’t trust me. Here’s the problem. Her claws are getting very long and they must get trimmed. I can’t do this , if I try to hold her she gets mad and wants to claw me. I can’t get her to the vet because I can’t get her in a box to take her out of the house. What to do? Help?


Siouxsie: Well, it seems like you’ve got two problems here, Adele. First, you’ve got a cat that’s scared of everything. Second, this scaredy cat needs to have her claws trimmed. The order in which you deal with these issues is crucial to your relationship with your kitty.

Thomas: It sounds like your cat is either still suffering from “shelter shock” or that she was mistreated earlier in her life. If so, your first task is to help her feel safe and comfortable in your home. This requires patience, of course, but there are some other tools you can use.

Dahlia: We’ve found that natural remedies and pheromone diffusers are the best treatments for cats in this situation. By using a product like Comfort Zone for Cats (also called Feliway), which mimics the “happy cat” pheromones of calm and relaxed cats, you can help to de-stress your kitty.

Siouxsie: “Shelter Shock” and “Past Abuse for Cats” flower essences are natural remedies that you administer simply by adding a drop or two to your cat’s water. This product is sold by CatFaeries, a company with whom we’ve done business before and been very satisfied.

Thomas: While you’re helping her get used to her new environment and understand that she’ll be loved and not hurt, get some scratching posts and scratching pads. She can use these to groom her claws until she trusts you enough to let her hold you and perhaps even trim her claws.

Dahlia: If it’s any consolation, I absolutely hate having my claws trimmed! But I’ve been able to keep my claws in shape by using the wonderful scratching post Mama bought for us. Sisal is the best material for scratching posts because it has an ideal texture for digging in and stretching.

Siouxsie: Scratching posts need to have a wide base so they don’t fall over and should be tall enough for your kitty to get a good stretch.

Thomas: Cardboard scratching pads are inexpensive and they’re great for cats that prefer horizontal scratching surfaces. You can find them at almost all pet stores and online pet outlets.

Dahlia: If your cat’s need for a claw trim is so urgent that it can’t wait for her to adapt to her new environment, consider contacting a professional groomer or your vet’s office to see if they can recommend someone who could come to your home and trim your cat’s nails.

Siouxsie: The benefits of having a professional do the job are twofold: First, the pro will have handled difficult kitties before and because they’re experienced in the art of claw trimming, they’ll get the job done quickly.

Thomas: Second, your cat won’t blame you for the trauma of the nail trim. If you’re trying to build her trust, the last thing you want to do is traumatize her with restraint and unwanted attention.

Dahlia: If you want to do it yourself, have your vet demonstrate safe restraint techniques like the “burrito” method (rolling your cat up in a towel) that will enable you to keep your cat in one place and keep yourself safe from being scratched.

Siouxsie: You may need a second person helping you early in your cat’s nail trimming career. The second person will be the restrainer, holding the cat in the burrito or keeping her in one position long enough for you to clip her claws.

Thomas: If you want detailed instructions on how to trim a cat’s nails, you can read this page or this one (which also talks about how to get your cat into the towel.

Dahlia: Pawprints and Purrs has an article on methods of restraining cats, which you might also find helpful.

Siouxsie: If you want to see it rather than read about it, Cat Henstridge, the Pet Street Vet, has made an excellent short video on how to trim a cat’s claws, which you can find at the end of this post. And she’s got a lovely accent … for a human.

Thomas: We hope this helps, Adele. Please let us know how things turn out!