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I Want to Trim My Cat's Claws

"It looks so easy when my you trim my cat's claws.
  Why am I having so much trouble with this?"
  • You believe this procedure is necessary, but your cat probably does not agree.
  • In fact some cats are deeply offended by the notion that you would touch their lovely, perfectly sharpened claws.
  • You must negotiate this difference of opinion.
To be successful you must become quick and confident in your technique.
  • Watch this video. Cornell Feline Health Center
  • Study these photos. Washington State University Client Education
  • Practice on a cooperative cat.
  • Many veterinary clinics employ resident Client Instruction Specialists ("demo" kitties).  Schedule an appointment to practice your technique with one of these experienced cats.
  • Your own cat may be more cooperative in the exam room with your veterinarian there to help you. Ask to practice during your next routine exam.
  • Find a trimming tool that feels comfortable in your hand.
It is important that your cat feels that you are:
  • calm and in control
  • and that you are sure that you want to do this.
  • You ask for cooperation out of mutual respect, you do not "beg" for permission.
  • Cats read body language you can not fool them.
If your cat discovers that you can be discouraged, he will be more difficult to convince the next time you attempt to trim his claws.
  • Do not try to do more than you can successfully complete.
  • Start and finish on your terms not when your cat escapes your restraint.
  • Quick does not mean rushed.
  • If your cat squirms and you feel awkward, patiently reposition her and then trim a claw.  Most cats will become bored with this constant repositioning and ultimately adopt a "just get this over with attitude"
  • Always reward good behavior.  A food treat is the most reliable way to do this.
Portion controlled meal times make it easier to trim claws because:
  • Interacting with your cat at meal times rather than just providing a bowl of kibble enriches your relationship.
  • Controling food gives you status and a negotiating tool.
  • Storing all of your cat care supplies in the same cabinet with his food makes it easy to "find" your cat when you want to trim his claws.
  • Meal times create predictable routines that allow you to shape behaviors suited to the lifestyle in your household.
Cat temperaments vary greatly from one individual to the next.   Most will accept claw trimming as one of the many things that people do, that cats are not thrilled with, but are not worth fighting over.   There are some cats for whom claw trimming is non-negotiable, but lets start with the assumption that your cat is not one of these rare individuals.

Familiar routines are most comfortable.  I do not think that it is a good idea to ambush your sleeping cat and quickly trim a claw or two.  A sleepy cat may be more easily restrained, however if you choose nap time for claw trimming make this a pleasant and predictable routine not a sneak attack.
Debra M. Givin D.V.M. August 4, 2006
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