Orange cat getting nails trimmed with a nail clipper

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

One of the many responsibilities that come with being the proud parent of a cat is grooming, and this includes ensuring their nails are not overgrown. But don’t cat scratch trees, scratch posts, doormats (and hopefully not your expensive carpet!) work to maintain their claws? So, why might we, as owners, have to trim our cat’s nails? And what might happen if we don’t keep our cat’s nails trimmed?

Which cats might need their nails trimmed?

Old cats have trouble using their nails

All cat breeds are likely to need their nails trimmed at some point during their lifetime. However, there are certain factors that could make some cats more likely to need your help than others. A good example is age – if your cat is getting on a bit, their joints and muscles are probably a bit stiff and achy, and they are not as flexible as they once were.

For this reason, older cats can tend to neglect self-care like grooming and scratching because it hurts them or because their reduced mobility means they can’t do it as effectively. Other examples of cats who may need their nails trimmed more often are indoor cats, and more specifically those without access to a scratch post, cat tree, or other scratchable surfaces

Recommended reading: Why do cats need to be groomed?

However, even if your cat is young and goes outside, you should check regularly that their nails are not overgrown as any cat can require a nail trim.

What happens if my cat’s nails grow too long?

Pain

Overgrown claws can grow around in a full circle into the paw or pad. Aside from the obvious pain of an ingrown claw, it also commonly leads to infection, which will need to be treated with antibiotics.

Mobility problems

Even if your cat’s claws aren’t so overgrown that they are growing into the pad or skin, they can still be awkward to walk on and can alter your pet’s walking style. If allowed to continue long term, this change in gait can have an impact on muscles and joints higher up in the leg.

Inability to do normal behaviors

Cats love to scratch and use scratching as a way to stretch out their muscles, as well as trying to keep their nails in check. If their nails are overgrown then they can become unable to use their scratching post for stretching and play. You may find that their overgrown nails also affect their ability to jump and climb, so they may be more at risk of injury when they’re outside adventuring.

Trimming prevents pain and mobility issues

How to trim nails

You’ll have the most success cutting your kitty’s claws to perfection if you have someone to help lend an extra pair of hands! The following tips should help you give the purr-fect moggie manicure:

1. Start slow – if your cat Is afraid or struggling, try to trim just one or two claws and then give them a break.

2. You don’t have to complete the task all in one day. Doing a paw every few days until your cat gets used to it will help the experience to be more positive.

3. Give plenty of rewards – a treat here and there will provide positive reinforcement. It will also give your cat a distraction from the task at hand and an incentive to be tolerant!

4. Cats’ nails can be sharp without being particularly long. Most of the time, if the nails are white, you can see the blood supply, known as the quick. Make sure you stay well away from this area, as cutting the quick accidentally can cause pain and bleeding. 5. If you’re struggling, ask the vet or groomer for help!

So, why should I trim my cat’s nails?

Getting your cat’s nails trimmed regularly, or doing it yourself if you are confident, will help to prevent the pain of an ingrown nail as well as keep your cat supple and mobile. Checking their nails every two to four weeks for signs that they are too long is a good way to make sure you don’t miss a rogue nail.

Some cats don’t enjoy having their claws clipped, but if you get into a routine from a young age, they are much more likely to be compliant. And remember, each time your cat experiences the pain of an overgrown or ingrown claw, they’re likely to be less keen on letting you, the groomer, or your vet clip the nails next time. Prevention is definitely better than cure!

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