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Saturday 15 October 2011

Cat Claw Care

Ideally, handling of paws and nail care should be started with 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.

Nail care means regular trims.
Start slow. Gently hold your cats' 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, but I find human toenail clippers easy and effective to use in the very small kitten.

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 your cat 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. As the creature theoretically higher on to evolutionary scale, that's your department. Don't attempt to change your cat. Instead make it tolerable for her. 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.

Many people hold the clippers at right angles to the nail, thus cutting across the nail (see picture below). This tends to make the nail more subject to splitting or fraying. It is better to hold the clippers in a vertical position—that is, up and down, so that the claw is trimmed from bottom to top instead of across the nail. This position helps prevent splitting.

Gently press the cat's toe pads to reveal sharp claws in need of a trim.

How often you need to clip your cat's claws depends somewhat on how much of the tip you remove, and your cat's activity levels, but usually a clipping every fourteen days will suffice. If your cat absolutely refuses to allow you to clip the claws, get assistance from your veterinarian or a professional groomer.

Avoid the quick when you trim the claw; cutting into it will cause pain and bleeding.

If you find that the nail is rough after trimming, use a file to smooth out the edges. Special claw trimmers are available from veterinarians or pet supply stores, but sharp pediatric nail clippers for humans work just as well.

If you accidentally clip into the quick, don't panic. The claw may bleed for a bit, but it will usually stop very quickly. Soothe your cat by speaking softly to her and stroking her head.Touch a styptic pencil to the claw end or pat on styptic powder to help staunch the bleeding. If you do not have styptic, take a bit of bar soap and press it over the area to cap it. This will seal the tip. One can also use a gauze square, or even a piece of facial tissue to press on the area. Just count to 60 slowly and release the pressure and in almost all cases, the bleeding will be done!

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.

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