Claws 101


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About your cat’s claws

  • All cats will scratch on something; it is a natural behavior.  The goal is to give them something they want to and can scratch on so they don’t scratch up inappropriate items.
  • Trim a cat’s claws once a month.  A kitten will need their claws trimmed every other week – or when they seem to be too sharp!  You don’t have to trim all the claws at one sitting.  Always make trimming a positive experience for your cat – be sure to reward them – and it will be easy and stress-free for all of you.
  • When the cat is relaxed, pet and play with their paws, including extending their claws.  That way the cat is more relaxed and comfortable with you trimming their claws.
  • You want to offer a scratching post that is tall enough for the cat to stretch all the way up (~30 inches tall).  Some cats like scratchers on the floor and some like to “stand up” to scratch.  You should offer both horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces to your cat.  Make sure the scratching posts are stable or it will make your cat nervous about scratching them.
  • To get your cat interested in scratching the correct place, put some catnip on it and scratch it yourself.  Praise the cat if they scratch in the correct place.
  • They sell several different scratching materials – carpet, corrugated cardboard, sisal rope.  You might have to try a few to see what your cat likes.
  • You can spray citrus air freshener or “no scratch” pet spray on places you don’t want your cat to scratch.  Cats don’t like citrus.  It’s also handy to keep them from digging or eating plants they shouldn’t be in.
  • Keep a spray bottle or squirt gun handy – it’s very useful for correcting behavior you don’t like.  Just don’t spray it in the cat’s eyes.  Or you can clap your hands and say no – the point is to surprise them out of what they’re doing and correct them to something that’s okay.

How to Clip Your Cat’s Claws

A manicured cat is a happy cat! And its owner is happy, too, because a cat whose claws are clipped regularly is a lot less likely to scratch the furniture or you.  For best results, use a pair of clippers made especially for cats (but sharp nail trimmers for humans can be used).

Step 1:  Hold the cat on you lap until he’s comfortable, and then place him on his back with his feet in the air.  Press gently on the top of the foot near the base of the mail to extend the claw.

Step 2:  Hold the paw firmly with the claw extended.  Clip off only the curved end of the claw as shown.  If you clip into the thick part of the claw, the pink area where the veins are located, you will hurt the cat.  Follow the same procedure with each claw, being careful not to forget the dewclaws on the sides of the cat’s front paws.  Normally cats do not have dewclaws on the back paws.

Step 3:  If your cat yowls when you clip the claw, check to see that you didn’t cut too closely or that you are not pressing too tightly on the claw.  If not, don’t let him convince you that he’s in pain.  He isn’t.  When you’re finished be sure to praise the cat and maybe even give him a treat.  It will make the job easier next time.

Source: “Secrets of Claw Clipping” by L. Harmon, which originally appeared in the Oct 1978 issue of CAT FANCY

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