Do I Really Need to Trim My Cat’s Nails? Grooming Facts & Tips

Last Updated on: September 20, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Indoor cats need to have their nails trimmed regularly, as do some outdoor cats depending on how much wear down their claws while exploring. Cats’ claws grow nonstop—just like human nails. Outdoor kitties often keep their nails in condition by clawing trees and other objects.

Although many outdoor cats don’t need much help with nail maintenance, it’s generally a good idea to regularly check their claws to make sure they’re under control. Indoor cats, even those with regular access to scratching posts, can maintain their nails without their owners’ help. In short, outdoor cats may not need to have their nails trimmed, though you should check their claws regularly. Most indoor cat breeds require regular nail trims every 10 to 14 days or so.

How Can I Tell if My Cat’s Nails Need Attention?

If your cat keeps getting their claws stuck on things like upholstered furniture, carpet, or blankets, there’s a good chance their claws need trimming. Also, it’s probably time to step in if your cat’s nails are too long to be completely retracted.

What Should I Use to Trim My Cat’s Nails?

Nail clippers designed specifically for cats can sometimes make the entire experience less traumatic for you and your cat. Many products have handles with ergonomic grips that allow you to work quickly and comfortably.

There are a few clipper styles, including scissor types, guillotines, and plier options. Nail grinders are another possibility and can be nice if you’re uncomfortable using clippers. You can even find brands with safety guards and lights to help you get a clear view of what you’re doing.

Cutting cat nails
Image Credit: Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

Are There Other Items I Need to Trim My Cat’s Nails?

You can keep styptic powder on hand to stop bleeding if you accidentally cut too short and hit the quick of your cat’s claw. Don’t forget to have plenty of treats nearby before you get started to reward your cat for fantastic behavior. It can often go a long way toward ensuring good conduct under similar circumstances. It’s best to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and gather your equipment before wrangling your cat.

How Should I Hold My Cat While Clipping Their Claws?

It depends! Some cats accustomed to being handled will happily sit on their human’s lap and allow things to unfold. Others prefer to have their nails trimmed when lying on their sides. Treats often motivate higher levels of feline cooperation regarding nail trims.

If your cat seriously dislikes having their paws touched, consider gently swaddling your buddy in a towel, as the feeling of being warm and enclosed sometimes calms anxious cats. And it can also prevent your companion from accidentally injuring you if they become stressed and struggle.

Cats that don’t react well to nail trims often do better when there are two people involved: one to hold the cat and a second person to do the trimming. Having assistance when clipping the claws of a reluctant cat can often speed the process along, which may prevent your buddy from becoming stressed.

How Do You Trim a Cat’s Nails?

Take your cat’s paw in your hand, push on the pad to extend a claw, and locate the quick so you can avoid it. Grab your clippers and use them to remove just the sharp tip of the claw and any parts that are curving downward. If you cut it too short, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

Some cats are perfectly happy for all their claws to be trimmed in one session. But those who become stressed often do better with more limited grooming sessions. It’s fine to do your cat’s front paws one day and return a few days later to finish the job. If your companion refuses to cooperate with nail trims, make an appointment with a professional groomer who can take care of your pet’s claws quickly and with less stress for everyone.

person clipping cat nails of a tortoiseshell cat
Image Credit: LukyToky, Shutterstock

What Happens If Cats’ Claws Aren’t Trimmed?

Because cats’ nails naturally curve downward and inward, when left untrimmed, they can grow into their paw pads and cause ingrown claws, which are often painful and can become infected. Regular nail trimming can prevent trips to the veterinarian to deal with infected paw pads caused by ingrown claws.

Do Kittens Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

Kittens need to have their nails trimmed, just like adult cats! Keeping a kitten’s claws clipped and providing scratching posts are the best ways to prevent them from damaging furniture and rugs.

Nail trimming is also a critical part of socializing a new pet. Kittens that regularly have their nails clipped learn to eventually accept the process, which, more often than not, results in adult cats that are more accepting of having their paws and claws handled.

Clipping your kitten’s claws and giving them lots of praise and love during the process can improve the chances that your cat won’t hide when the clippers appear. Make sure to use clippers designed for kittens since products for regular cats are often too big to cut tiny claws efficiently.


Cats need to have their nails trimmed to ensure they don’t have trouble getting around or develop painful ingrown claws. Outdoor cats often don’t need much attention in the nail-clipping department, and most keep their nails filed down by scratching trees.

However, some outdoor cats still need their claws trimmed now and then. Indoor cats generally have fewer opportunities to maintain their claws through regular physical activity. They’re limited to scratching posts and furniture when the urge to dig into something hits. Most indoor cats need nail trims every few weeks to keep them healthy.

Featured Image Credit: Freer, Shutterstock

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