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How to Best Take Care of Cat Claws

The cat's claws, complex retractable appendages, are usually withdrawn within their sheathes above the toe pads. The cat may extend its claws when necessary in order to climb, grip, or defend itself.

 

The visible part of the claw is made up of two main parts:


  • The center of the claw, called the "quick," which contains the nerve endings and blood vessels nourishing the claw.
  • The claw's outer cover, which is made of layers of material called keratin.

 

The claw grows throughout the cat's life. It is renewed continuously as the older outer layers wear down. To facilitate this process, cats need to scratch objects made of wood or other similar materials. For cats living outdoors, there is additional natural wearing of the claws caused by digging or by walking on various rough surfaces.


Indoor cats experience less natural erosion. They may try to further wear down their claws by scratching such things as doors, wooden or upholstered furniture, rugs, bookbindings, or other such objects. Another problem occurs when claws grow too long, which may cause undesirable scratches on the cat's human "family." In such cases, the cat's claws can be clipped once every few weeks.

 

Clipping the Claws

Cats' claws are shortened using special clippers or sharp nail scissors. It is very important to clip only the tip of the claw and not to cut into the quick. The claw should be examined before a light source to clearly differentiate between the pink part - the center or quick of the claw containing the blood vessels - and the whitish clear part. Then you can carefully trim the white tip of the claw, keeping a safe distance from the quick.


It is better to clip away a smaller part of the claw more often than risk hitting the sensitive center of the claw, which can cause the cat both great pain and bleeding. If you have doubts about how to clip the claws properly, you should consult a veterinarian, asking her to demonstrate the process for you.

 

Scroll down to learn how to get your cat to cooperate during claw clipping time -

Note that the person in these pictures is using a nail clipper rather than a claw clipper designed for pets. You may find it easier to use a pet-specific clipper - click here for suggestions.

 

Getting your cat used to the idea: making friends with the paw

Cats need to feel comfortable with having their claws touched and their nails extended. So, whenever you get a chance, massage your cat’s paws gently. Start with a short time, when they are relaxed or sleepy, and after a while they will really enjoy their ‘paw massages’. If they like treats, give them one afterwards. If grooming is their thing, do that immediately afterwards. This positive reinforcement will help the process.

 

Once your cat is happy for you to do a paw massage you’re ready to try clipping. When he or she is really relaxed, start with just one claw. Make sure you extend the claw fully: place your index finger underneath one toe and your thumb over the top of the toe and squeeze your fingers together gently. As we’ve said before, it is essential that you avoid the ‘quick’; the pink part. If you cut into it, it may well stop them for allowing you to touch their paws.

 

Once the claw is cut, use your positive reinforcement (treat, grooming, scratch under the chin.. whatever works for your cat). On the next day do two claws. Then try three. If your cat is responding well, then keep going. If not, stop at the point where you know your cat has had enough and immediately use the positive reinforcement. Remember you don't have to trim all the claws at once.

 

Surgical Declawing

In declawing, the veterinarian must remove part or all of the end joint of each of the cat's toes. This surgery is very painful, causing cats much suffering for weeks. After the surgery, cats have difficulties walking and using their litter box for a time.


Some experts - and indeed many owners - claim that, in the long run, this surgery causes distortion of the cat's spine. This is because the removal of the last phalanx of the toes changes the cat's posture, making it move in an unnatural manner. It is also claimed that declawed cats are more inclined to defecate outside of the litter box in the house.


For all these reasons -

Cats should not be declawed!

In fact, in many countries around the world, including Britain, surgical declawing is illegal. In the United States, too, there is growing public demand to legally ban the surgical declawing of cats, since this procedure borders on abuse.


Before you consider having such an operation performed on your cat, think - would you be willing to have the upper joint of each of your fingers and toes amputated?




Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

Comments (18)

I found when you start clipping when they are young it is not a big deal to them. I started by petting their paws so they were use to them being touched. I declawed my cats 40 & 30 + years ago.....before I understood the horrors. I've never thought of that again! My cats never ever open their claws to me or anyone....it starts when they are young.They are the most gentle of kitties.
Thank you! I hope others will learn from your comment down the road.
I hope so, people truly need to understand you do NOT have to declaw....cats' f trained with love will never open their claws to you.
I totally agree! We know someone who removed BOTH front and back claws from their two cats and he plays very rough with the male, knowing, I suppose, that the poor thing can't hurt him unless he bites. The worst part is this guy then talks about how the cat is "damaged goods" because it has become so aggressive. Some people just should not be allowed to have cats!
"...would you be willing to have the upper joint of each of your fingers and toes amputated?" That sounds rather painful.
Occasional tedious trims > Declawing
Utterly. Thanks for the info.
This is a great article, outlining the two types of declawing. I think if it comes down to a cosmetic declaw or surrendering the cat to the Humane Society because it won't stop scratching your furniture, I would go with the declaw.
http://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/declawing-cats-positives-negatives-alternatives
F5Scout, training or teaching a cat not to scratch your furniture isn't that hard when you know how to do it (tip: providing a good alternative, in terms or location and type is key). Then there are claw covers. I really can't think about a situation where it's either declawing or surrendering the cat. If anyone is at that point, then IMHO, they shouldn't be keeping the cat anyway.
Thank you for a wonderful article. I'm ashamed to admit I had my first baby declawed over 22 years ago. When I learned what was done to him, I vowed never to put another cat through that torture. He's no longer with us, but I still cry when I think what I put him through and feel terrible guilt. I've adopted three cats since Oliver. They all are with claws. I learned to teach them all how to use scratching posts and clip their nails regularly. With gentle care and lots of love, my kitties have never shown their claws to me and always use their posts to scratch. I've recently purchased a new nearly six-foot cat tree with lots of sisal so that they can scratch to their hearts content. I'm still trying to get over mu guilt, sad to say... jlc20m
Wonderful Article! My Landlord says I have to declaw my kitten! What do I do??? I don't want to hurt her!
I think it's horrible that landlords can legally demand declawing. I would move to another place (or not take in a cat/kitten in the first place).
Just can't imagine or digest the idea of declawing, that's a pure oppression and absolute selfishness!
If someone is having worries to get their furniture scratched or slightly damaged, it would be highly recommended to keep their furniture in a good condition, by freeing their cats forever (via adoption), as such owners don't deserve to be cat keepers.
My Tiger is very good about letting me clip his nails. About once a month we have a fun grooming session that includes the nails. I started when he was gifted to me by my Doctor, he is the best blood pressure medicine I have ever taken.
 I just clipped Flaco's nails.  His sister, however, is another matter.
Both my girls absolutely hate claw clipping. I tried to start them early when they were kittens. I also have always associated it with treats and praise. All this, to no avail. They still hate it. I make it quick and painless (for me and them) by wrapping them tightly in a blanket, and pulling out one paw at a time.  
My Cole is the sweetest ,he doesn't mind the clipping but Chloe will scratch and cry like im torturing her.Now she just runs away when she sees the scissor.I always give them both treats afterward
I tried patting and touching jaspurrs paws for a week or so and now he lets me hold them so I can clip his nails? I didn't think I would be able to do but I guess patience paid off.
My Bella complained when I trimmed her nails, and tried to bat my hand away with her paws, but she never used her claws on me. She has not tried to scratch me when I have had to give her medication either.
If anyone suggested declawing I think /I/ would be trying to scratch them up.
Admittedly, the vet can clip faster than me, and stresses the cat less, so I recommend a professional if possible.
I have to sneak clipping their nail while they were sleeping. Then they get up and act like... "what have you done to my nails..Mom!!.. I have to scratch for a long time to make them sharpp!! " ;p
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