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 pet parent of a cat is ensuring their nails are not overgrown. But don’t cat scratch trees, scratch posts, doormats, and your expensive carpet 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 trim?

Which cats might need their nails trimmed?

All cat breeds are likely to need to have some nail trimming done at some point during their lifetime, but certain factors make 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 likely 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 that may need their nails trimmed more often are indoor cats, and more specifically those without access to a scratching post or cat tree.

Recommended reading: Do cats really need a scratch tree?

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?


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.

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 keeping 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, your groomer, or your vet clip the nails next time. So, preventative measures are definitely better than the cure!

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