How To Trim A Cat’s Nails That Won’t Let You: Ultimate Guide For A Happy Cat


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Want to know how to trim a cat’s nails that won’t let you? Do you have a scratchy cat that won’t stop clawing away at furniture?

Trimming nails is one solution to the problem, but many cats won’t let you touch them without a fight.

How do you get around this?

The best way to help a nervous cat is to approach them where they are resting. Don’t forcefully drag your cat away against their will. Never hit the quick and make sure to not hurt your cat.

In this article, I’ll guide you in teaching you how to trim a cat’s nails in a stress-free way your cat will have an easier time accepting. I’ll also cover some best practices about nail care and chronic scratchers.

How To Trim A Cat's Nails That Won't Let You

My name is Derrick and I write for Simply Cat Care. My goal with this website is to help cat owners with simple and actionable advice.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for further questions relating to your cat’s health. This article is not a replacement for medical advice.

Here’s what will be in this article:

Let’s get into the article!

How to trim a cat’s nails that won’t let you

Step 1: Preparation

Have the following things ready for clipping:

  • Cat nail clippers (regular human nail clippers also work)
  • Cat nail file (again, regular file for human nails work)
  • Towel for handling
  • Freeze-dried treats
  • Thick clothing to prevent scratches
  • An assistant (highly recommended)

Once you have everything ready, it’s time to approach your cat.

An assistant will help you get the job done, by securing the cat and preventing escapees.

Step 2: Approaching Your Cat

Always act natural and take the clippers to the cat (not the other way around).

Relax your cat by using a ‘squishing technique’ if needed. This helps to keep a cat under control. Check out this video below for help with this technique.

After you squish your cat, consider making a cat burrito with a blanket.

This keeps the cat and their legs secure. Check out this video below for more.

If your cat acts aggressively and doesn’t let you approach their territory, then get the help of a vet. They may be experiencing pain or trauma.

Remember that you want your cat to associate nail clipping as a peaceful quiet time. You don’t want to make clipping a traumatic event involving dragging your cat, yanking at claws and causing discomfort. Always be mindful of your technique.

Step 3: Clipping Your Cat’s Claws

With a secure cat (in a burrito or squished position) take one paw to start clipping.

At this point you want to be mindful of the tail. If your cat’s tail is whipping around, they aren’t happy. It’s up to you whether you want to continue, but use caution and make sure you have thick clothing for protection.

Don’t pull the arm out. Keep it tucked and lift it to access the nails. This reduces discomfort.

Start with one claw at a time and only clip the end. Be careful not to clip into the ‘quick’. This is the pink part of the nail that connects to blood flow. This is very painful and your cat will meow if you hit it.

If you got this done, continue with the rest if your cat is allowing you.

Always be careful, cautious, but firm. Don’t hurt your cat, but don’t give in to their squirming. Remember to use the burrito technique for better control.

This shows a cat's claw. It shows the quick, which is the part of the claw that should not be clipped into with trimming.

Step 4: Reward

You want your cat to associate claw trimming with a pleasant experience.

To do this, it’s as simple as giving them a small freeze-dried treat and a pat.

Behavior modification involves using rewards or punishment. Generally, you want to avoid punishment and focus on rewarding positive behavior as a means to encourage your cat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Trim A Cat’s Nails?

Trimming nails cuts down damage to furniture.

It also reduces the risk of injury and zoonotic disease transfer from scratching.

Trim your cat’s claws once a week for best results.

Trimming a cat's nails.

How do I prevent damage to furniture from scratching?

Using a scratching pad.

A cat scratches out their claws instinctively. Stopping the behavior altogether is not recommended. You can use temporary measures like a squirt of water from a bottle, but they won’t stop the behavior long term.

Instead, the scratching pad takes place of furniture. Here’s how to get success with a scratching pad.

Tip 1: Make sure the post is stable

Whether you use a horizontal or vertical (or both) scratching pad, the post should not tip over with weight. This gives your cat a chance to dig in and pull into the pad without pulling it over.

Tip 2: Use a horizontal and vertical pad

Some cat’s prefer horizontal surfaces to the vertical posts used on many cat trees. Observe what your cat likes by seeing what they do around the house.

In the case of my cat, he enjoyed scratching fabric chairs in a vertical and horizontal manner. In his case, he needs both angles of pad.

Use a vertical post at least three feet tall. Opt for a horizontal board that’s 12-16 inches long. and 6-8 inches wide for best results. This ensures your cat has enough room on the board to get satisfaction out of it.

A cat using a scratching post.

Tip 3: Use loosely woven fabrics

Cat’s prefer fabric that shreds up in the paws.

This is because the main reason for scratching is territory marking. The more tattered the covering, the more visible it is, and thus the better it signals the cat claims for territory.

Only replace coverings when your cat loses interest or the fabric shreds apart.

A loosely woven fabric. A great choice for use with a cat scratching post.

Tip 4: Try a different location

Cats tend to scratch as they wake up so it’s a good idea to use a scratching post near their resting hub.

Some cats seem to enjoy scratching around the door as a way to mark territory for visitors. This means a door hub may be worth investigating.

The most obvious other choice is around an area or piece of furniture already scratched. This gives your cat something to divert their attention.

Overall, the more pads the better your chances so don’t be shy. Load up on scratching pads especially if there are multiple cats in the house.

Tip 5: Cover good furniture

One of my friends left the original plastic covering on the couch he had. Whilst this is unsightly, strategies like this do help prevent scratching.

Remember that cats prefer loose fabric that tears apart in the claws for best results. Plastic surfaces don’t tear and they also protect the furniture.

Covering good furniture prevents damage from cat scratching.

Tip 6: Try soft claws pads

Another thing to try is a soft claws pads. These are coverings that go over the nails and protects damage.

I’m not a huge fan of these because cats enjoy the visual damage of scratching for territory marking (this is why I think scratch pads are the better solution) but are worth a try if you’re still having a hard time.

Some cat’s may also find a way to chew the pads off so your mileage may vary.

What Are The Risks Of Untrimmed Nails?

Untrimmed claws can cause damage to furniture and injure people.

Claws may be a source of zoonotic disease transfer which includes:

  • Bacteria
  • Fleas
  • Fungi
  • Ticks
  • Viruses

If your cat accidentally scratches you, use a topical antimicrobial. See a pharmacist for more assistance if this happens to you. Remember to use thicker clothing when handling cats.

A cat's claws may transfer disease to humans.

Why Is My Cat Angry And Trying To Kill Me?

If your cat is aggressive there may be other problems going on.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to know how to diagnose your cat. Consider the following possibilities:

Work away at the problem and if you can’t find a solution speak with a vet.

An angry cat.

Why Do Cat’s Scratch?

Cats scratch as visual and oflactory (smell) territory mark. They may also scratch for stretching and claw maintenance (removing dead layers).

Animal experts believe that marking territory is the main reason for scratching. The evidence suggest cats prefer surfaces that tear apart in the claws for visual communication.

Cats also scratch objects in the presence of other cats or people to make sure everyone knows who’s boss.

Getting rid of this behavior is not going to work since it’s instinctual. Rather we have to improve our cats environment to cater to their needs or find other solutions.

Should I Declaw My Cat?

Short answer, no.

Declawing (called onychectomy) is an extreme measure that is not warranted in most cases. Sadly, many cat owners get this procedure without trying other solutions first. Most vets don’t recommend this procedure.

Unless the alternative is euthanasia, declawing isn’t ideal as the practice leads to complications such as:

  • Pain
  • Decreased movement and lameness
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
A declawed cat.

Should I Get A Tendonectomy?

Short answer (again), no.

This medical procedure involves severing the tendon that connects to the toe but keeping the claw intact. This prevents the claws from unsheathing and extending out the paws.

Although it’s less painful and has less recovery time, there are still post-operative risks to health and wellbeing.

The treatment may cause joint fusion, arthritis, and ingrown claws. Claws still need trimming with this technique.

Speak with a vet for more information.


This article was about how to trim a cats nails that won’t let you.

The main way to do this is by learning how to handle a cat using a squishing technique and the cat burrito method. Using a nail clipper or cat clipper, trim the nails without clipping the quick.

If done with care and encouragement, the experience should go well. Make sure to reward your cat with treats to reinforce the process.

Scratching is a normal cat behavior to mark territory. Use scratching pads around the house to give your cat options. Cats prefer loose woven fabric to give a visual sign of territory control and to transfer scent.

A cat relaxing.


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We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As a Chewy affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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