Most indoor cats need their nails clipped every 2-3 weeks and many of us avoid the task. The result of avoiding this important task can be shredded upholstery, nails caught in material while scratching, and long, brittle nails that split or possibly grow into the pad, usually requiring medical attention. A lap cat who loves to knead and has long nails can really hurt when penetrating human skin!

To begin the training, you’ll need nail clippers, treats, styptic powder and most importantly, patience. It will take time for him or her to learn; in fact, when done right, it is not uncommon to take at least 3 or 4 weeks. Ideally, training should start at a young age, but can be introduced at any age. Before beginning the process, find a treat he or she covets the most. Use this treat only when training and avoid using it as your daily “maintenance” treat. The most coveted treats are great motivators and positive reinforces for training. Choose a time to train when your cat is relaxed or possibly sleeping or lounging on or near you.

Begin by gently touching or gently messaging his or her paws for a few seconds at a time. Use a treat to reinforce good behavior by giving the treat before they pull their paws away. Do this for a few days or until they consistently accept your touch without pulling away. Alternate all 4 paws throughout this period. Next, because their claws are most likely in the retracted position, manipulate the retracted paws out by gently pressing the top and bottom of the end of the paw. Again, alternate paws, giving treats when they do not pull away and practice this for at least a few days or more if necessary.

Introduce the nail clippers in the same way. Get them used to the nail clipper sounds and movement by clipping an object such as a toothpick or spaghetti near him or her. Let them explore the clippers too, and reward them with treats for calm and comfortable responses to the clippers. If at any time during the training process, they become stressed, stop training and try the next day. You may need to go back to a previous step that was successful before trying to reintroduce the next step.

Once they are consistently comfortable with the above steps, start by clipping one nail. Avoid clipping the quick, which is the pink area of the nail and helps supply blood to the nail. Always have styptic powder on hand in the event the nail is clipped too far back and the quick is cut, which will bleed and is painful. Always reward with treats after each nail. Eventually, you will be able to clip more than one at a time. If they begin to show signs of irritability, discontinue and try again the next day. If continued stress occurs, seek the advice of your veterinarian before continuing the training.

Millerton Veterinary Practice. 199 Rte. 44 East, Millerton NY 12546. (518) 789-3440