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Nail Trimming

Ideally, handling of paws and nail care should be started when the kitten is young. At this age, training will be easy if one remembers to be gentle and patient.

The scratching post is an important piece of cat equipment. Kitty uses the post to scratch and sharpen the nails, but the act of scratching also helps remove dead pieces of toenails (sheath). This is how the wild cat cares for his own nails!

First baby steps--nail care means regular trims!

Start slow....Gently hold Kitty's paw in one hand and with your thumb on top of the paw and forefinger on the pad gently squeeze your thumb and finger together. This will push the claw clear of the fur so it can easily be seen. You will notice that the inside of the claw is pink near its base. This is living tissue that you do not want to cut. Trim only the clear tip of the nail.

Do not clip the pink quick, or the slightly opaque region that outlines it. This will prevent cutting into areas that would be painful or bleed. The desired effect is simply to blunt the claw tip. Many different types of nail trimmers are available in pet stores.

If by now you're rolling on the floor laughing because you know your cat isn't about to let you trim her claws, here are a couple of guidelines that will help make this a possibility.

Patience and Preparation

Rushing into a full-scale claw trimming is a foolhardy move unless you're really into operatic drama and traumatic events. As you well know, cats hate to be restrained. And they don't like you fooling with their paws! After all, their claws are a major tool for survival, and Kitty may consider your motives suspect.

This is where preparation comes to the rescue. For approximately a week before her manicure, get Kitty accustomed to having her paws handled. While petting and soothing her, start massaging her paws, especially on the under side. Gently press on the individual pads at the base of her claws. You may want to give her treats to reward her for not protesting (or as in the case of my own cat, to distract her from doing so). The point of course, is to make the process reassuring so that she will eventually feel comfortable enough to let you handle her paws without protest. It can be very helpful if someone in the family or perhaps a friend offers to gently cradle a wiggly cat while you are focused on this exercise.

Next, be patient. Don't attempt to trim all her nails at once. Trim one or two at a time, reward her with affection or food, and then let her do as she wishes. Cats are not strong on patience or restraint. Eventually trimming will become a completely accepted experience. The best time to trim your cat's claws is when she is relaxed or sleepy. Never try to give a pedicure right after a stressful experience or an energetic round of play.

Your cat should be resting comfortably on your lap, the floor, or a table. Clip about halfway between the end of the quick and the tip of claw. If your cat becomes impatient, take a break and try again later. Even if you can clip only a claw or two a day, eventually you'll complete the task. (Because cats do little damage with their rear claws and do a good job of keeping them trimmed themselves (by chewing them), many cat owners never clip the rear claws. Others trim their cats' rear claws three or four times a year or have them done by their veterinarian or a professional groomer.