Should you trim your cat’s claws?

Faut-il couper les griffes

Cats extend their claws to hunt and climb trees. They are also used to mark territories, by scratching. When sharpening his/her claws, the cat releases pheromones in order to leave a trail on his/her surroundings. This practice can cause damages on your furniture. However, should you trim the claws of your cat?

What is a claw?

The cat’s claw is made up of two parts: the keratinized part formed by a superposition of horny layers, and nail pulp in the center, which contains the nerves and the blood vessels. The cat has 4 toes on each his/her hind legs and 5 toes on the front ones. This fifth toe is called a dewclaw, corresponding to our thumb. These dewclaws allow the cat to climb.

Cat claws are retractable, that means they are viewable only when they are extended (hunting, climbing, self-defense …) thanks to the flexor tendons. Hence, they usually don’t touch the ground and don’t naturally wear out as they do for dogs. It is therefore necessary for them to sharpen their claws to maintain them.

Cat's paw

When do you need to trim your cat’s claws?

Overall, it’s not necessary to trim your cat’s claws, but it depends of your pet’s lifestyle (outdoor or indoor). If we are talking about an outdoor cat, his/her claws are essential to defend him/herself, hunt or climb. For an indoor cat, a scratching post allows daily self-maintenance. However, if your cat tends to sharpen his/her claws everywhere in your house, you can shorten them so they will cause less damage. The use of an educational and repulsive spray could help the pet to drive his/her scratches to a selected object like a scratching post.

When ageing, cats become less active. In such case, it is important to trim their claws which can get longer, curve and penetrate into the pad, sometimes causing an infection.

Lastly, remember to check the dewclaws of the front legs. Indeed, as they are less likely to touch the ground, they wear out more slowly.

How to properly trim your cat’s claws.

It is better to accustom your cat to this practice from a young age. Use an appropriate claw clipper bought at the vet clinic or in a pet shop.

Choose a quiet place to avoid scaring your pet. There are 4 steps :

  1. Hold your pet against your body
  2. Take the paw between your thumb and your index finger
  3. Press slightly on the top of the toe to extend the claw outward
  4. Clip the claw a few millimetres, without exceeding the transparent part

More info:

If you are uncomfortable with this practice, do not hesitate to ask your vet for advice in order to show you the methodology. Or ask him/her to directly shorten the claws of your pet.


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