Nail care

How Often Should I Clip My Cat's Nails?

Matthew Nesbitt
By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. March 19, 2020
How Often Should I Clip My Cat's Nails?

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Scratching is an important behavior of any domestic cat. While it looks very satisfying, the purpose behind this activity is multi-faceted. Not only will it keep the cat's nails in good condition, but it helps the cat feel secure by marking their territory. Maintaining nail quality allows the cats to defend themselves and use their nails as a practical tool.

When we have the right accessories for a cat, it may be we don't need to clip their nails at all. However, there are various reasons we as cat guardians will need to trim them ourselves. This is why AnimalWised asks how often should you clip your cat's nails?


  1. Is it necessary to clip my cat's nails?
  2. How often to clip a cat's nails
  3. Tips for clipping a cat's nails
  4. What happens if you don’t trim your cat’s nails?

Is it necessary to clip my cat's nails?

In nature, wild cats are able to maintain their claws on their own. This is the case with feral and stray domestic cats who do not have a human guardian for whatever reason. They do so by scratching and clawing at wood and other surfaces. However, when you keep a cat in a home environment, it can be difficult for them to have as much opportunity to keep their nails trim. Even when the cat has a scratching post, we may need to clip them.

Scratching posts and tress are essential for the cat to carry out a natural behavior. While it can be annoying when they start to claw at our couches and interiors, prohibiting them from scratching is incredibly cruel. As the cat has glands in their paws, scratching allows them to release pheromones which provide security in their home environment. The act itself is a great stress reliever for them.

This is why it is ideal to leave several scratching posts or surfaces around the home for them. This not only provides more opportunities for your cat to keep their claws neat themselves, it also helps to save your furnishings. It can be easy to scold a cat for clawing something they shouldn't, but we should never scold them. Negative reinforcement is ineffective and can cause stress in the cat. Training them how to use a scratching post should be part of their education.

Outdoor cats do not necessarily need to scratch inside as much. Often they have materials in their outdoor environment and won't need to scratch as much in the home.

How often to clip a cat's nails

How often you clip a cat's claws will depend on different factors. These include their general levels of activity, how much opportunity they have to scratch, their age and others. An older cat will not be able to scratch as much due to muscle deterioration and less energy, so they will likely need trimmed more often.

In general, a healthy cat will need the nails on their front paws clipped twice a month, i.e. every 15 days or so. The rear legs will usually only need trimmed once a month.

However, the use of scratching posts can delay the time of nail clipping. As you get to know your cat, you will be able to tell when they are getting too long. If you are unsure, a good way to test them is to let a cat walk on a hard surface and listen if you can hear them as they run over it. If you can hear their nails, they are too long.

How Often Should I Clip My Cat's Nails? - How often to clip a cat's nails

Tips for clipping a cat's nails

Know that you know how often you need to clip your cat's nails, it is likely you will want to know how to do it correctly. It is an activity which requires a lot of concentration so we don't cause any damage to the cat, both physically and mentally.

  1. Use a special feline nail clipper. These have a special slot fitted for a cat's nails which makes it easier. Never use human nail trimmers.
  2. Find silver nitrate, a substance which helps stop the bleeding in the event of a cut.
  3. Start clipping their nails from a young age so they can get used to it early. It is often more difficult to condition an adult cat.
  4. Be especially patient and careful, especially if you have never clipped your cat's nails before. However, you also need to be firm or they might squirm away.
  5. Wrap the cat in a towel to keep them in place on your lap. Take the paws one by one and clip the nails individually.
  6. Have another person present if possible. Once can hold the cat and the other clips the nails.
  7. When you have the cat's paw in your hand, push each digit slightly. The nails will expose themselves naturally. You will see the end is a solid light color, but down towards the base of the nail there is a dark center. Only cut the white part. If you don't, you will hit living tissue which is painful and will bleed.
  8. If you do accidentally trim into the living tissue, put the silver nitrate on it to stem the bleeding.
  9. If you cat is extremely wriggly and scared, don't force it. Use reassuring tones and keep calm yourself.
  10. Keep a treat nearby to reward them for good behavior. Positive reinforcement like this should mean it is easier next time you clip their claws.
  11. Never yell or scold the cat as it will not help.
  12. In longhaired cats, it may be helpful to moisten the paw before clipping their nails. The water helps keep the hair out of the way so you can better see what you are doing.
  13. Never declaw a cat. It is a cruel practice which is traumatic and seriously hinders their quality of life.
  14. If you are unable to cut the cat's claws, take them to a feline groomer who will have more experience.

If you have clipped your cat's nails, but they still claw at you, it can be annoying. It also suggests they may have behavioral issues. Our article on how to stop a cat clawing you can help stop this unwanted behavior.

How Often Should I Clip My Cat's Nails? - Tips for clipping a cat's nails

What happens if you don’t trim your cat’s nails?

As we have shown, cats can manage their own nails, depending on a given circumstance. If we don't trim them ourselves, they should find ways to keep them short themselves. However, the repercussions for you will likely be scratched furniture, walls and other furnishings. By clipping a cat's nails ourselves, we help to ensure they are at a suitable length for both the cat and their human guardians.

However, if a cat is unable to keep their nails trim, it can have other negative consequences:

  • Nails that are too long will overgrow and won't retract easily.
  • Overgrown nails can grow into the cat's paw pad and cause serious injury and may even deform the cat.
  • Long nails can catch on fabrics and cause injury.
  • When a cat with long nails scratches us it worsens the injury and can spread bacteria.

This is why, even though a cat may manage their own nails, it is better if we help by clipping them. If you need some help doing this, our video on how to trim a cat's nails below shows you everything you need to know:

If you want to read similar articles to How Often Should I Clip My Cat's Nails?, we recommend you visit our Nail care category.

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How Often Should I Clip My Cat's Nails?