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How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Nails

Most cats benefit from regular grooming. That doesn’t just mean brushing or combing, but taking care of your feline friend’s teeth and claws, too. Unfortunately, cats are often reluctant to participate in some or all of these activities. Many cats absolutely hate to have their paws handled, and some will panic and become quite aggressive if you grab a foot and don’t let go. Other cats are fine with having their paws squeezed by fly into a frenzy at the sound of nail clippers. There are various ways to restrain a cat so that you can clip her nails, some more effective than others.

How to restrain a cat to clip nails? The best way to do this is to gently wrap the cat in a towel. This allows you access to her paws while preventing her from escaping or scratching you. Done with care, a towel wrap should not overly alarm the cat.

You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about clipping your cat’s nails. You know that her claws need to be trimmed regularly, but you’re not sure how to get the job done. Maybe you’ve tried to wrap your cat in a towel and it’s gone badly. Perhaps you just need tips for making the process less scary and unpleasant for your cat. Maybe you’re wondering about alternatives to restraining your cat. Keep reading, because we have the answers you’re looking for. You’ll find out the best way to restrain your cat, and how to make it all less scary.

How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Nails

The best way to restrain a cat that I’ve found is to wrap her in a towel or a pet blanket. This may be more easily said than done, as most cats don’t take too readily to being swaddled in fabric. If you try to force the issue, you may be left with an angry and unclipped cat hiding under the sofa while you dab antiseptic on your badly scratched extremities. In addition, you will probably have a towel to wash (or burn), as frightened cats often lose control of their bodily functions. Here is the method I use. It’s not 100 per cent disaster-proof, but it works well with most cats.

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The first step is to acclimate the cat to the towel. You may need to take a few days over this. Put the towel on a flat surface (I recommend one that’s easy to clean, like the bathroom floor or counter, in case of accidents). Put the cat on the towel with a dish of food in front of her, so she has to lie on the towel to eat it. Move the towel with her if she tries to get off it, or move the food. The goal is to have her on the towel while she eats.

While she’s distracted by her snack, you should gently and loosely drape the edges of the towel over her back. A super-resistant cat can often be persuaded with a really delicious treat; my American Shorthair goes wild for a dollop of chicken baby food, while my British Shorthair boy will do anything for tuna. Pat your cat’s back through the towel till she’s done, then let her walk away.

Do this again the next day but try to keep the towel on longer. Really take as much time as you need over the acclimation process. Your cat’s nails aren’t growing so fast that a week or so will make a huge difference. If you start getting frustrated, she’ll pick up on that and become anxious.

When you’re ready to roll, put the cat on the towel with about 30cm or one foot from one side. Wrap the shorter side around your cat’s neck and pull it over her body so she’s covered (her face should be exposed). Wrap the edge of the towel under your cat’s neck. Take hold of the other side and pull it over your cat. Now she’s completely wrapped up, you can start clipping.

How Do I Clip My Cat’s Nails?

In short? Very carefully! It’s possible to cause your cat a lot of unnecessary pain if you don’t do this job with the right tools and plenty of attention.

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Take your cat’s paw and very gently squeeze a toe to make the claw come out. Snip away the very tip of the exposed claw and release. Move onto the next toe.

Use a nice, sharp clipper that’s designed for cat claws. A blunt clipper or something that’s too small and weak can make a mess of your cat’s nails. It can also end up hurting your cat, meaning that it’ll be even harder to clip her nails next time.

Err on the side of clipping too little rather than too much. Clipping your cat’s claws should be pain-free, just like clipping your own nails. It’s important that you only clip away the dead, nerveless tips of the claws. Only cut the whitish, translucent area, not the pinkish quick at the base. Be very careful about this because you can really hurt your cat if you make a mistake here. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, you can draw blood and even leave a wound open to infection. I keep a container of pet-safe styptic powder on hand for my cats. This can be applied to poorly cut claws and other minor injuries. It stops the bleeding and numbs the pain.

Why Clip My Cat’s Nails At All?

Trimming your cat’s nails can be an important part of pet care, especially in older or less active animals. Most cats keep their claws in reasonable shape by scratching (which removes the old claw husks) and simply walking around or climbing things. In some cases, though, nails can become ingrown and painful. They can curve around and grow into the cat’s paw pads, which is painful and can cause dangerous infections. Clipping a cat’s nails prevents this from happening. Ingrown nails are more common in cats who have low mobility, such as senior kitties with arthritis or cats with joint problems.

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There are additional benefits to trimming your cat’s claws. Clipped claws inflict less damage to your skin if she’s inclined to be scratchy. They also have less impact on the furniture. I clip my American Shorthair’s claws weekly because this cat is a shoulder kitty. There’s no way I could cope with being climbed on if those nails weren’t trimmed. My British Shorthair is much more reserved, preferring to perch on the furniture rather than on me. He gets a “paw-dicure” only once every two weeks.

Do I Have to Restrain My Cat?

Some cats can be sufficiently acclimated to the clipper that they won’t need to be turned into a blanket burrito before you clip their nails. The key is to get the cat used to the clippers first. I train my cats by leaving the clippers somewhere they hang out (like their bed or food bowl) so they get used to the object. The clicking sound can bother some cats, but I get mine used to it by snipping dry spaghetti near them while they’re eating or relaxing.

My domestic shorthair still needs to be swaddled for her clippings, but my other cats are fine with me clipping their claws unrestrained. The key is to make sure the cat is as calm and relaxed as possible. Sit them on your lap, or near a chair or sofa, and don’t try to do more than one paw at a time. If the cat starts to get agitated, let go immediately. Provide praise and positive attention, and try again later. My BSH boy lets me do two in a sitting, but he’s unusually patient. My ASH tom can only bear to have one paw clipped at a time.

I generally prefer to avoid restraining cats unless there’s really no option. Some are okay with being wrapped up for a short time, but others get very distressed. If you possibly can, leave your cat free to flee the scene. You can always try again tomorrow.