How to cut kitten nails quickly and easily

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There are many reasons why you might need to cut your kitten’s nails, but regardless of the why, we’re going to get into the how of getting kitty’s nails trimmed.

The Short Answer: How To Cut Your Kitten’s Nails

The best way to cut a kitten’s nails easily is to develop a trusting relationship with your kitten. Then, work until the kitten is comfortable with you touching his or her paws. Finally, snip the nails quickly so the kitty doesn’t lose patience, and be careful to only trim claws without cutting the paw.

Easier said than done? Read on for more details!

Odie the kitten is ready to get his nails trimmed!
Odie is ready to have his nails trimmed! He trusts his human and is comfortable with the nail-clipping process.

Develop a Relationship and Gain Trust with your Kitten

Developing a trusting relationship with your kitten is fun and rewarding.

If you have a very young kitten living with you, you will naturally be developing a relationship as you ensure that his needs are met. You shouldn’t need to start clipping the kitten’s nails until he is about 4 weeks old.

If you have an older kitten, you may need to work on getting her to trust you. Feeding animals is always a great way to develop trust. Have the person who is to trim kitty’s nails give food and treats. Spend lots of time petting and cuddling with your kitty.

Play with your kitten with toys. Cats love to hunt and play. It’s very important to make sure the kitten is hunting toys during play, and not your hands. Many cat owners love to wrestle and roughly handle their cats. If this works for your and your beloved animal, I’m not going to tell you to stop – but if it works for you, then you’re not likely to be reading this article! Be sure your kitty gets enough movement and fun playtime to fulfill her by giving her attention during playtime with toys. Kittens need even more play time than adult cats. They will love you all the more for an extra half-hour of playing with a wand toy.

Touch your kitten with gentle hands only. If you need to improve your trust level with your cat, your kitten needs to know that your hands are gentle, loving hands. Hands provide pets and scritches and loving touches. Hands mean purring and ear rubs. Gentle hands are vital when fostering kittens so they grow up understanding appropriate claw usage.

A grey cat cleans his paws and chews on his claws.
Care for my paws with love, and teach me good manners!

Desensitizing paws to touch

While your kitten is in a restful state and accepting pets and scritches, begin by gentle touching his paws. Slowly build up over time until you can gently squeeze the paws, and get each claw to extract. A good time to start this is after a meal, when the kitten is happy and sleepy. At first, the kitten may startle and pull away when you touch her paws. This is normal! She is not used to it. Over a few days or weeks, the kitten won’t take more notice of her paws being touched than she does of her ears being scratched.

How to Cut a Kitten’s Nails

Once you and your kitten trust each other, and he is comfortable with your touching his paws, it’s time to trim some claws!

Trim nails when the kitten is relaxed

Wait until your kitten is once again in a quiet and sleepy mood, and then grab the cat clippers. Hold the kitten on your lap facing out. Gently squeeze one of his toes until the claw pops out, and place the clippers around the tip of the claw. This is the important part: Clip only the last third or so of the nail, leaving plenty of white nail between the clippers and the pink inner portion of the nail.

A close-up of a cat’s claw. When trimming nails, be sure to only cut the white/translucent part, and don’t cut too close to where the pink begins as there are nerves present there.

Clip only the nail tip; frequent small trims are preferable

To repeat, when trimming the kitten’s nail, be sure only to clip the sharp tip. Clipping too close to the pink part may nick the cat’s “fingertip” and cause pain. It is preferable to trim quickly and painlessly and more frequently. If you cut your kitten while trying to trim her nails, she will come to associate nail trims with pain. An additional perk of trimming kitten nails more frequently is that your kitten is even more used to the process and it will go more smoothly.

Cut the kitten’s nail

Place the clippers around the tip of each nail in succession and squeeze gently to trim the claw. You will likely only be able to do a handful (paw-ful) of nails in one sitting. It’s fine to do a full nail trim over the course of a few days.Place the clippers around the tip of each nail in succession and squeeze gently to trim the claw. You will likely only be able to do a handful (paw-ful) of nails in one sitting. It’s fine to do a full nail trim over the course of a few days.

A video walk-through of clipping a kitten’s claws.

The Optional Burrito Method

If you have a particularly energetic or wiggly kitten, you may choose to use The Burrito Method. If you are fostering kittens who are under socialized or who you haven’t gotten to know really well yet, The Burrito Method might also be a useful tool.

An undersocialized foster kitten wrapped gently in a towel. Also known as a “kitten burrito”.

Wrap the kitten

Grab a hand-towel sized towel, and scoop up your nervous/wiggly kitten. Gently, GENTLY wrap the towel around the kitten so that only her head is sticking out, like a delicious little kitten burrito. Hold the towel closed firmly but not tightly behind the kitten’s ears. Reach into your kitten burrito and extract one front paw. Clip the nails as discussed above, and remember: JUST THE TIP. If your kitten gets impatient, consider stopping after a few nails or the first paw and trying again later. If your kitten is being patient and not fighting you too much, rewrap that paw into the burrito, and extract the other front paw to repeat the process.

Clipping back claws on a burrito’d kitten

If you need to clip the kitten’s back claws (and this is not always necessary, so use your best judgement), rewrap the front paws first. Then extract one rear paw from the other end of the burrito and repeat the nail-trimming process.

Demonstrating using The Burrito Method to cut a young kitten’s nails.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll never think twice about giving your kitten’s claws a quick cut.

How to cut kitten nails quickly and easily
How to cut kitten nails quickly and easily

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