Trimming your cat’s nails is a process that requires your full attention and care so that you will not accidentally injure your pet (or cause your cat to injure you accidentally). With that said, this part of grooming is not life-threatening, however you want the experience to be as smooth and comfortable as possible so that your cat will not be averse to future grooming.
Therefore, it is imperative that you possess not only the knowledge of how to properly trim your cat’s nails, bet also the right tools for the job. Choosing the best cat nail clippers can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
For instance, some cats may have thicker but shorter nails that may require a type of clipper that is more suited for it, as opposed to, say, a clipper designed to clip long and thin nails. This article will get you up to speed on the necessary information to best trim your cat and select the top cat clipper for your needs.
Mentioned earlier, different nail trimmers offer various advantages and uses over others, but, conversely, they can also have disadvantages. For instance, some nail trimmers can cause your cat’s claw to break and splinter instead of slicing cleanly through. There is no single perfect trimmer that is suitable for every nail.
In order to reduce the chances of breaking and splintering your cat’s nails, you must first understand how to properly trim them. It is also necessary for you to understand the subtle differences that each nail trimmer has and how to use them to your advantage.
First, we will cover the styles of trimmers available on the market, and then how they can be used to trim your cat’s nails. Selecting the best trimmer depends on your personal preference, as well as your cat’s nails.
Styles of Cat Nail Clippers
There are four major types of cat nail trimmers. They are: the scissors style, pliers style, guillotine style, and electric style. Below we will detail each style and which situations are more suitable for a specific style.
Scissors Style Trimmer
If the name isn’t already a dead give-away, a scissor-style trimmer is identical to that of a regular pair of scissors. However, the blades are not nearly as long since it will be difficult to trim nails with a long blade. The cutting edge is also contoured, allowing it to perfectly fit a nail in, whereas regular scissors have straight blades.
A scissor-style trimmer is popular because it is very familiar – basically everyone has used a pair of scissors in their life at some point, and this is no different. They are the most intuitive and simplistic, and can be effective in giving your nails a solid cut.
Pliers Style Trimmer
Another style of trimmer that has a familiar name are the pliers style trimmer. Like the tool it is modeled after, pliers style trimmers look almost identical to that of regular pliers. This style is great for people who feel they need a better grip. Many also feel they have superior leverage for a stronger cut versus that of a scissor style trimmer.
Whatever the case may be, pliers style trimmers are also excellent for trimming and can definitely help speed up the grooming process. Oftentimes, the main selling point in this kind of trimmer versus a scissor style trimmer is due to its grip and stronger cut. With that said, grip is an important factor, especially if the nail is tough to trim. You will need as much leverage as you can in these situations.
Guillotine Style Trimmer
A guillotine style trimmer derives its name from the fatal execution tool because of the way its cutting head works. Specifically, it has a ring on its head and a blade located in close proximity. When one squeezes the handle, the blade moves across the ring, slicing through the nail at the point it fit through.
This style of clipper can be difficult for a novice to handle because it can sometimes be difficult to anticipate where it will cut. There is a small gap between the ring of the head (where you think the trimmer will cut), and the path the blade travels through (where it actually cuts).
It can also be difficult to keep your cat still for long enough so that you can accurately fit their claw through the ring. However, if you keep this in mind and are aware of this shortcoming, then working around it can be simple.
Some advantages to this style is that cutting can be very quick if you manage to align it properly in the loop. The handles also allow you to have great leverage to exert a lot of force, making it easy to have clean cuts without any splintering or breaking.
Electric Style Trimmer
The electric style trimmer is reminiscent of a cat nail grinder, and as such, has a similar pitfall – if the cat is not willing to stay still for long enough, working through the nail can be tough. However, they can greatly reduce the risks of trimming your nails too short due to its safety features. From an operating perspective, they also handle quite well.
One major drawback to this style of trimmer is that the noise it generates can scare your cat and trimming can be difficult until they become accustomed to the noise it makes. Also, it can take some time to trim through your cat’s nails, however this is a great tool for squirmy cats because a mistake will be far less troublesome than if you sliced too deep using a clipper of any of the aforementioned styles.
Using Your Cat Nail Clippers
Fortunately, if you trim your nails frequently, then trimming your cat’s nails will be intuitive and familiar. With that said, there are still differences that you should keep in mind. For example, one major difference between a cat’s nails and a humans is that they have what’s called the “quick” in their claws.
The quick is a vein that is within the cat’s nails since it is part of the cat’s paw, which is unlike our nails since removal of our nails is temporary; we would simply grow it back. The same isn’t true for cats – declawing their nails is permanent and extremely painful – do not do this unless it is absolutely necessary for whatever reason.
Next, you need to learn how to hold your cat. A cat has a small section of fur behind their necks that we designate as the “scruff”. You can grip this section quite firmly without injuring your cat (but that doesn’t mean you can squeeze as hard as you can).
You may have noticed mother cats pick up their kittens by the scruff of their neck, and this is the same area that you need to be aware of and hold. Picking them up by the scruff is the most appropriate place to pick them up because it can calm them and will not cause any pain.
When cutting your cat’s nails, the same principals apply as if you were cutting your own. We want to clip the nails so that they are shorter and more manageable, but we are not trying to completely declaw them. Remember to not cut the quick; doing so will cause bleeding and pain for your cat.
To easily spot the quick, apply a small amount of pressure to the paw – this will push their claw out so that the quick can be seen, but it will not be enough to hurt them. The quick generally reddens enough for you to notice a dark vein snaking its way down to the middle of the nail, and you should cut a maximum of 2 mm away from the quick just to be safe.
If you happen to accidentally nip the quick, apply some styptic powder to the injured area to quickly stop any bleeding. The most important consideration when trimming your cat’s nails is to never cut the quick. After you have successfully cut one nail, the others should be identical and the same rules apply.
To recap, here are the steps you should follow:
- Hold your cat firmly on the scruff of its neck to keep it calm and to act as a stable base to keep steady as you are trimming.
- Gently apply some pressure on the paw to expose the quick.
- Leave at least a 2mm gap away from the quick when trimming; any closer and you are literally cutting it close
- Repeat steps 2-3 on the rest of the nails.
If your trimmer has dulled and you have accidentally broken or splintered some of your cat’s nails, do not worry. A nail file will be able to clean up any imperfections. This process, however, can be difficult because it may not want to endure any more work done on their nails after they have been trimmed.
A simple way to file their nails down would be to get something your cat can comfortably scratch, or else a place they can climb and scratch so that they can naturally file their own nails.
With all of this knowledge in mind, we hope you can now make a well informed decision on selecting the best nail trimmer for your cat, as well as how to properly trim their nails.