If you approach grooming your cat’s nails with trepidation, hopefully these seven suggestions will help you succeed -- quickly and comfortably.
1. Choose your clippers carefully: There are three tools available to you -- tiny scissors with claw-shaped trimming edges, a clipper with a “guillotine” blade that slides across a small hole through which you insert your cat’s claw, and a human fingernail trimmer. Try all three and choose the one that feels most comfortable to you. For best results, always keep the one you select sharp to avoid either crushing your cat’s claw or causing her needless pain.
2. Begin slowly: Before your initial attempt at nail trims, begin by accustoming your cat to having her paws handled. Start by petting her, move to stroking her paws, then to gently manipulating her toes as though you were playing “this little piggy went to market”. If she enjoys it, gradually work up to putting gentle pressure on her paw pads to expose her claws. (Since cats have retractile claws, you must gently squeeze each of her toes between your thumb and forefinger to expose each claw). While this may be a slow process, patience is key. The preparatory work you do now will make the actual act of trimming her nails much easier.
3. Ask for help: If you’re overly concerned, ask someone to demonstrate the proper technique to you, whether it’s your vet, a groomer or an experienced cat caretaker familiar with your cat. There are also many online resources at your disposal, including a step-by-step guide from Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine at www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/procedures/cats/clipping-your-cat's-claws
4. Timing is everything: Select a time when your cat is relaxed. Never attempt to trim her nails just before meals or -- if yours is a multi-cat household – while other cats are hovering nearby.
5. Relax: If you approach the procedure in a calm manner, your cat will be more inclined to remain calm as well.
6. Reward your cat: Accentuate the paws-itive nature of the experience by rewarding your cat with her favorite treat or a tasty snack, some extra loving or a round of play with her favorite toy. In fact, consider rewarding her after several successfully trimmed nails at first, then taper off as she cooperates more. Never reward her if she runs away or does something you don’t like, such as swat at you. Rewarding her simply reinforces this “bad” behavior.
7. One at a time: If your cat starts to squirm after you’ve trimmed only one or two of her nails, stop immediately. Your goal is to make the procedure agreeable not abhorrent.
If, however, your cat refuses to cooperate in spite of your best efforts, have her nails trimmed by a groomer or by your vet during her regularly scheduled office visits.