Anyone who has ever been scratched by a cat knows how sharp and pointed cat claws can be. Apart from the fact that the claws are used for defence and to grab prey, they have other functions. Without claws, cats could neither climb trees and the like, nor could they reach for things. Claws are therefore extremely important for our beloved cats. However, it can sometimes be necessary to trim the claws, as health problems can arise under certain circumstances. You can read about what you should look out for and how to do it properly yourself.
Cat claws are special
So what makes them so special? Unlike other animals that have claws, cats are able to move extend their claws when needed. When they are not needed, they are retracted again. This works by tightening or relaxing the tendons. When the tendons are tensed, the claws are virtually folded out of special skin pockets, and when they are relaxed, they are folded back in again. In contrast to other animals, the claws of cats, which constantly grow back, do not wear out naturally, for example when walking. Dogs, for example, (usually) wear down their claws naturally when walking.
How do cats sharpen their claws?
This is why it is so important to provide an alternative way for pure domestic cats to sharpen their claws. The best way to do this is with special scratching trees or boards. Cats that are allowed outdoors usually sharpen their claws on trees and the like.
The claws must be wear down to be sharp. In the process, the outermost layer of horn (claw sheath) is stripped off when it is used up. Sometimes you can find these sheaths. The claws of the hind paws are nibbled by the cats.
Most cats stretch all the way through when they sharpen their claws, so the scratching tree must be big enough, otherwise the sofa or the wall might have to take it. Many cats also like scratching boards instead of using the carpet for other purposes. They also mark their territory, so provide your cat with plenty of scratching opportunities.
Do you have to trim every cat’s claws?
In principle, neither yes or no.. It always depends on how active the cat is, how often it uses the various scratching opportunities and how fast the individual claws grow.
As a rule, young, as well as active and healthy cats are exempt from trimming their claws. It is usually lazy, older and health-impaired animals in which the claws become too long. For example, due to pain from arthrosis, the claws can no longer be retracted and worn down so well.
Attention: Outdoor cats need their claws for climbing and defence, here the claws should not be cut. How can you tell when your pet’s claws are too long? Basically, when there are restrictions in movement. If your little darling gets caught on the carpet when walking or makes wounds for itself when grooming, it’s time to get the claw clippers or contact a professional. But also if the claws start to curl and run the risk of ingrowing.
Why it is so important!
Too long claws can cause health problems. In addition to the reasons listed above, such as the possible restriction in the entire range of movement and the risk of injury, there are also other reasons:
- Postural damage
- Claws can grow in, break off and splinter
- Inflammations can occur
- Loss of the claw
Do it by yourself or would it be better to go to a professional?
How do you cut a cat’s claws properly? It is not as easy as it is for us humans. Unlike human nails, claws have blood vessels running through them with nerve endings. This is the so-called “life” of the claw.
With light-coloured claws you can easily see the reddish area, with dark claws unfortunately you cannot see the life. Here you can put on a torch and shine it through the claw. Sometimes the blood vessels become visible this way. If not, it is better to seek professional help. Fortunately, cats usually have light-coloured claws, so the blood vessels should be easily visible.
However, if you are too unsure to trim the claws yourself for various reasons, you can visit a veterinary clinic. Claw trimming for cats costs about 10 to 20 Euros, depending on the rates of course.
However, if you and your pet are confident enough to do it yourself, you can learn how to do it properly in the next paragraph.
How to do it right.
First of all, you need the right equipment, lots of light and a special claw nipper or nail clipper.
So what is the right technique? Because cats’ claws are normally retracted, you have to “get them out” first. The best way to do this is to apply pressure to the toe with two fingers, one from above and one from below. Now the claw should be visible.
Place the claw scissors at about a 45° angle to the tip. Now work your way forward piece by piece, always cutting away about a millimetre. Do not cut to life, just enough so that your pet is no longer restricted in walking. Don’t forget to reward your pet!
Training for “Fear patients” and Newcomers
Some cats literally fall into a fear paralysis at the sight of the claw scissors. Most of the time these are cats that have had a bad experience with them.
If you now have a cat at home that is terrified of having its claws cut, specific training can certainly help. This training is also recommended for cats who have never had their claws clipped before.
Note: This training is also recommended for young cats who don’t need a manicure yet, so that they are used to it later (for this, leave out the last step, don’t actually cut).
Step 1: As a first step, let your pet hold his paw in your hand. Gently stroke the entire paw and start massaging it. The pads and claws will also become involved over time. Before you take the next step, you should repeat this exercise again and again for a while. Your pet will be rewarded extensively.
Step 2: Now it’s time to include the tool in the training, “only” showing and touching it for the first time. Show your cat the claw scissors, just let her sniff them if she shows interest. Touch the paw with the scissors, but without cutting yet. Run the claw scissors over the paw and over the claws. Repeat this exercise several times until your cat is no longer afraid of the scissors.
Intermediate step: For some cats, the noise can be the problem. You can cut uncooked spaghetti with the claw scissors next to your cat and reward him. The sound is very similar to that of cutting claws.
Step 3: Once she is used to the sheer presence of the clippers, it is time to use them. It is important not to overdo it, as there is a risk of regression in training. So only cut as many claws as your pet “enjoys”. If your pet is sceptical, take a break. (Medical training can help teach your cat a cooperation signal that lets you know when it needs a break). When you have successfully snapped, praise your cat!
Important: After each small step forward, you should praise your furry friend extensively! It is also important that you show patience. The more empathetic your approach, the quicker you will see success. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact a qualified trainer.
The claws of cats are special in the animal kingdom. They can extend them when needed and retract them when they are not needed. As a rule, cats sharpen their claws, but they can become too long, especially in older or weaker animals. Health problems and restrictions in movement can occur if they are not shortened regularly.