Trimming Cat Claws
Trimming your cat’s claws is a valuable skill that you can learn easily and teach others to do after you have learned it. Routine trimming can prevent claw overgrowth, claws curling into the pads, infections, and walking trouble. Claw trimming should be done every 3-4 weeks. It is best to train a cat when they are still young as they will be more accepting and less fearful but we understand that this is not always possible.
Training your cat to allow claw trimming is a gradual process which involves patience and understanding. The first step in this process is to get your cat used to the presence of the claw trimmer. I would like for you to place a claw trimmer or claw trimmers in his favorite sleeping locations and places that he is known for hanging out. Strategically place some canned food or a few treats by each pair so he makes a positive association with them. I like to do this for one full week prior to actual trimming practice.
I prefer to use a small claw trimmer instead of the larger ones as a cat can be scared of larger claw trimmers. I also find that the smaller claw trimmers are safe and work more effectively for cats.
Start by getting your cat acclimated to you touching his paws. Touch his paw for 1 second then reward him with a treat or a spoon of canned cat food. Work up to touching his paws for 2 seconds and so on. I recommend that you work up to him allowing you to hold his paws for 5-10 seconds. Supply treats continuously or allow him to eat canned food for durations longer then 2-3 seconds. This should be done for 5 days to a week before moving on. I do not ever recommend the use of a cat mask or cat muzzle for claw trimming because it is too stressful.
Next you want to gently extend his claws. You can extend a cats claw by using your thumb and forefinger to apply a small amount of pressure on the toes. Extend them then immediately follow up with a treat. Repeat this exercise and increase the amount of time that you can keep his claws extended. Start by having his claws extended for 1 second, then 2 seconds, then 3 seconds and so on.
Work up to him allowing you to have his claws extended for 5-10 seconds. Supply canned food while you are extending his claws or supply treats continuously for duration longer than 2-3 seconds. This should be done for about 5 days to a week.
The next step is to introduce the claw trimmer. Allow the cat sniff the cat trimmer then supplement immediately with a treat. Allow him to sniff it, rub on it, lick it, and even bite at it if he decides to. Any contact between him and the claw trimmer will get him used to being around the claw trimmer. This can be done for around 5 days or so or until he feels completely comfortable with the claw trimmer.
Work on trimming just one claw, immediately followed up with praise and a treat. Trim one claw then allow him to take a quick break. I like to trim just the tip or a little after the tip to avoid the blood vessels and nerves which are usually indicated by where the red color starts on the claw.
Work on the second claw and follow up with another treat. You can give the cat canned cat food for the rest of the claws so he is distracted from you trimming his claws. You can eventually get to the point where you can do a whole paw at one sitting but you want him to get used to the procedure gradually.
A cat burrito technique may be required or recommended for claw trimming if your cat is feral, scared, or aggressive. A modified scarf technique or a one hand cat wrapping method may also be utilized which depends on the specific situation. I recommend having another person to trim the claws so one person can handle the cat effectively. I do not like to scruff the cat for claw trimming as this can stress the cat out even more than he already is.
I recommend using a clicker along with trimming and cat treats. A clicker device or a pen can be clicked immediately after a desired behavior but before a treat is given. The clicker device communicates to the cat that you want him to continue what he is doing or that he is doing exactly as you want. In this case, the cat is being patient and not negatively reacting to what you are doing. You can take as much time with each step of the training as you want since each cat is a unique individual. You also do not want to rush any part of the process since cats learn at different speeds.