Not Sure How Often to Trim Your Cat's Nails? Here's What Vets Recommend

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Somewhere between taking a much-needed bath and having to have their teeth brushed lies another activity many cats may not be too fond of – getting their nails trimmed. Even though this tedious task, which usually involves me chasing my youngest cat around the house while trying to coax him with treats and toys, is necessary, many pet owners, such as myself, still may be confused with the specifics of it. For example, how and how often should we trim our cat’s nails? And why is it so important to remember to do so? To help us learn more, POPSUGAR connected with two veterinarians.

How Often Should I Trim My Cat’s Nails?

Overall, there is no set time frame when cat’s nails need to be trimmed as each cat is different. “There is no specific guideline as to when to trim a cat’s nails, as each cat has a different rate of nail growth,” advised Shadi J. Ireifej, DVM, DACVS, owner and chief medical officer of VetTriage. “But eventually you will be able to gauge how often it needs to be done.”

Dr. Ireifej recommended that pet owners trim their cat’s nails when they are able to see the nail during retraction, and especially when their pet begins to scratch on household items around the home. Dr. Ireifej explained that your cat may not be intentionally behaving badly but may actually be trying to trim their nails.

How Should I Trim My Cat’s Nails?

When trimming your cat’s nails, it is important that you have the right tools. This will help make your job easier and your cat’s experience getting their nails trimmed more pleasant. Dr. Ireifej said nail clippers made specifically for cats are a good option. “Alternatively, files made for felines can also be purchased and utilized,” he said. “Styptic pointers or powder should also be on hand in case the nail is cut too short and bleeding occurs.” If you do not have either readily available, Dr. Ireifej said household flour can be used to help aid in coagulation and hemostasis.

It is also important to remember to create a calming environment for your cat while you do this, as some cats may not enjoy the process. “Do not punish your cat or raise your voice if your cat is becoming upset,” said Michelle Burch, DVM at Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. “If you cannot trim all of the nails at one time, then stop and allow your cat to calm down.” Giving your cat treats in between trimming each nail may also help quell their nerves and might even help them associate nail trimmings with positive feelings.

Why Is It Important to Trim a Cat’s Nails?

No matter what kind of nail-trimming routine you develop with your cat, it is just important that it gets done as it is an easy way to keep your cat both happy and healthy. For instance, Dr. Ireifej shared that whereas feral and outdoor cats are able to shorten their nails through climbing and hunting outdoors, indoor domesticated cats are not able to do the same, which can cause both injury and damage. “Nails that are too long are thought to not only be uncomfortable for the cat but also make them more prone to inappropriate behavior like scratching on doors, furniture, and other household items or surfaces,” he said.

Not to mention it could also be the catalyst for some pretty painful accidents. “Maintaining the length of your cat’s nails will help prevent overgrowth, which can cause damage to the paw pads or become stuck in fabric, resulting in injury,” Dr. Burch said.

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