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How To Trim An Unwilling Cat's Claws

How To Trim An Unwilling Cat's Claws

Do you find that attempts to cut your cat's claws rarely end well? How to trim a cat's nails that won't let you is a common problem that can cause both cats and owners misery. Luckily we've got a few proven strategies to ensure that when trimming is needed it's a quick, stress-free process.

How to trim a cat's nails that won't let you

Invest in a pair of clippers that are designed for use on cats - they will be lighter than those used on dogs, as a cat's claws are thinner and smaller. Check that your clippers move easily and that they're comfortable for you to handle.

Prepare your environment

Cut claws in natural daylight if possible. If not, make sure you work in a well-lit room. It's important that you can see the small blood vessel that runs down the inside of each claw. Only the end of the claw, beyond the blood vessel, should be cut. Cutting the blood vessel (the quick) is painful for the cat and must be avoided. Ideally use a cat grooming table or table with a towel or non-slip pad on it, so that you can trim comfortably. If you intend to use a towel or cat suspension device, have that close by. Also have treats ready, as your cat (and you) will both deserve a reward once the job is done.

Enlist a helper if possible

Using an additional person to help restrain and calm the cat makes the claw-cutting process easier for all concerned.

Restraint methods

Gentle, effective restraint is vital when considering how to cut a cat's nails that won't let you. Restraint should be the minimum necessary, used for the shortest time, to get the job done. Cats don't enjoy having their nails trimmed and will rarely sit quietly whilst you work. In most cases, one of the three methods detailed below will work. If they don't, or if your cat becomes too traumatised, it's best to take them to the vet and let them complete the procedure.

Holding the cat

This is a two-person job. One person places the cat on the table and wraps one hand around the cat's chest, with the other hand around the cat's tummy. The second person then picks up a paw, and gently presses each toe in turn, to reveal the claw. They should then clip across the end of the claw in a single movement. Only trim a small amount at a time, to avoid cutting too much.

Use a towel

It may be easier to wrap the cat in a towel, leaving one paw out. Cut the nails on that paw, then rewrap the cat, exposing a different paw.


It's possible to buy a sling with four holes in it, one for each paw. The cat's legs are placed in each hole. The sling is then raised and suspended on a rail, leaving the cat's paws dangling. You can then cut the claws with the rest of the cat effectively immobilised. We don't recommend scruffing (holding the cat by the scruff of the neck) as this is uncomfortable and traumatic for the cat.

Reward your cat once trimming is complete

Claw cutting is an unpleasant event for any cat - once the procedure is complete, shower your cat with love and treats. In most cases, one of the methods above should result in success. If not, we recommend professional claw trimming from a veterinary nurse or groomer. Some cats really do find nail trimming traumatic and may need to be sedated.

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