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How To Trim Your Pet's Nails

4 min read Jan 20, 2022

Trimming the claws on your cat or dog can be a challenge for both you and your pet, but it needs to be done.  So what is the best way to tackle trimming your pet’s nails without too much whining and crying? Read on for tips on how to trim your pet’s nails while making it a pleasant experience for you both.

How to Trim your Cat's Nails:

Your cat’s claws play an important role ranging from defending themselves, hunting for food, social signal and leaving a foot print for other cats.  So taking care of their claws is part of their everyday routine.  Here are a few tips for making the process successful:

  • Before you consider trimming your cat’s claws, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the process for you.
  • Early habits are best, so start early with your cat or (even better) kitten.  Teach your cat the habit of having you hold them close, gently trim the claws and it being an ongoing, safe routine.
  • Be extra patient and don’t rush through the process.  Your cat can sense your body language.  If you are rushed or flustered, the experience will not go well.  Plan it for a portion of the day that you have plenty of time.
  • Have your equipment ready.  You’ll need clippers, of course, and some special treats for your cat to reward positive behavior and response.
  • Set the stage for success.  Things you may not think about, but are great points include never trim their claws near a window where they can see birds or other wildlife; avoid areas where other pets are present; and don’t attempt to trim claws after having just played with your cat – they may think you are continuing to play and not focus on the task at hand.

You have taken care of the prep work, now it is time to get started.

  • If you are right handed, take one of your cat’s front paw between the fingers of your left hand.
  • Massage the paw with your thumb and index fingers.  If your cat tries to pull away, don’t tug or pull on the paw.  Instead, follow the cat’s movement and keep your fingers in contact with their paw.
  • When you are ready, squeeze the pad of a toe enough to extend the claw and use the clippers to trim the nail tip.
  • After trimming the first nail, release the paw and give the cat a treat – instant reward for the cat’s good behavior.

It will take time to learn this behavior, for both of you.  Veterinarians recommend working with your cat every other day or every third day on a different paw.

How to Trim Dog's Nails:

Trimming your dog’s nails is a very important part of grooming.  If a dog’s nails become too long, they can break and crack.  This is painful for dogs and can be avoided with routine trimmings.  Talk to your veterinarian before you get started and ask for a demonstration.  Now, how do you get started?

  • First start off by teaching nail trimming similar to other things he loves.  Your dog will learn to tolerate the activity if it is associated with other positives such as treats, new chew toys, the start of play time or a game, or even a walk with their best friend – YOU.   With repetition and time, the process will get better.
  • Remember to take it slow and easy.  You don’t want to frighten and overwhelm your dog by rushing through the process.  Show the dog the clippers and for the first trimming, don’t plan on doing a full pedicure.  Maybe just two paws to start out with at first.
  • The actual trimming should start with an introduction of you holding the dog’s paw and touching the claw with the clippers, but don’t actually clip.  Do this and then give your dog a treat.  Do this several times.  Again, you are teaching your dog a new behavior and repetition is key.  After your dog is comfortable with this process, you are ready to clip.  Do the exact same thing – hold your dog’s paw and place the clippers around the tip of the nail and trim.  As soon as you’re done, give the dog a tasty treat.
  • Accidents will happen and you may accidentally trim the nail too short and into the quick.  There are blood vessels and there may be bleeding.  If this happens, give your dog a few treats and once calmed down, use clotting powder to stop the bleeding.  Once the bleeding is under control, stop the grooming session and try again in two or three days.
  • Watch for signs of distress such as panting, crouching or cowering, or showing signs of aggression such as growling or snarling teeth.  If your dog show any of thesesigns, stop the task at hand and consider taking your dog to a professional groomeror veterinarian for nail trimming.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.