What Happens If You Don’t Trim Your Cat’s Nails?

What Happens If You Don't Trim Your Cat's Nails

One of the things that endear us to our cats is their playfulness.  They love to socialize, are inquisitive, and they have a cute look that melts our hearts. They also tend to be too active and frisky at times. This is perfectly fine but it can be dangerous if they have long and overgrown nails. You don’t want to have an ugly scratch on your face or hands after all. 

Anatomy of a cat’s claws 

A cat’s nails or claws are retractable which means they can be drawn back or back in. The front claws are sharper than the claws in the hind feet. Cats extend their claws when hunting, climbing, during self-defense, and kneading or when they push and pull their front paws during a state of ease. Most cats have 18 digits and claws with 5 on every forefoot. The 5th digit is also called the dewclaw which is on the upper part of the foreleg. 

Fun facts about your cat’s nails 

You may not be aware of this but a cat’s nails or claws reveal a lot more than what they are. Here are some interesting facts about it:

1. A cat’s claw is connected to its toes and if humans have fingers, cats have phalanges and claws grow right out of it.

2. The claws retract and extend with the help of the tendons and ligaments.

3. Your pet’s claws are made of keratin, a kind of protein.  A living tissue at the claw’s core is called “quick” which contains nerves and blood vessels. 

4. Cats shed their old claws every few months. Those that are shed off are replaced by new ones.

What to do when your cat is scratching at the wrong places

Cats have always been known as scratchers and they have an instinct of sharpening their nails. However, it can be a real headache if your pet starts to wreak havoc on your carpet. drapes or sofa. The solution is not to discourage your cat but to redirect her scratching instinct from your furniture or carpet to a scratching post or cat tree. Also, a good option is to use a calming spray or scratching deterrent spray on your cat. 

Reasons why your cat needs to scratch

Your pet’s claws are essential as it provides protection,  mobility, and balance. It’s also important to their physiology. These are the top reasons why it needs to scratch:

For marking a territory

Cats typically mark areas as their territory such as a tree or even your furniture and this is possible through scent glands located on their feet. 

For exercise

Unique cat behavior is performing a sort of isotonic exercise wherein it selects a surface, hooks the claws then pull against the resistance. This exercise makes their joints and muscles supple and strong. 

For anger management 

Your pet cat may experience mood swings and anxiety or even fear at certain times. Scratching is their way of expressing stress and as means to channel their anger.

Reasons why your cat needs to scratch
Image: istockphoto.com / Zarifa

What happens if a cat’s nails are untrimmed 

Here are some common scenarios that happen if a cat’s claws are left untrimmed:

  • If the cat’s claws are left untrimmed,  it can curl and grow into the footpad which is painful for your cat.
  • Untrimmed claws are not good for people and furniture. 
  • It can pose a great risk of injury to pet owners.

Reasons to trim your cat’s nails 

Here are some of the reasons why it’s essential to trim your cat’s nails:

1. It’s more comfortable for your cat. 

As a responsible pet owner, it’s our top priority to know that our furry pet is relaxed and comfortable. If their nails grow long they can bury into the footpad and cause pain and discomfort. It could even lead to infection.  

2. A cat with trimmed nails is calmer.

With trimmed nails, your pet doesn’t have as much urge to scratch away at just about anything. As a result, your pet becomes calmer and less likely to become aggravated. 

3. It reduces property damage. 

If your furry pet has trimmed nails it won’t be able to inflict as much damage to your carpeting or furniture. 

4. It can prevent ingrown nails

Not trimming the nails of your cat may lead to your cat developing ingrown nails, which can be painful and cause health issues.

How to trim your cat’s nails   

Trimming your cat’s nails involves a process, it doesn’t happen in one go. This is because you can’t expect cats to like the idea of having their nails trimmed. You must make sure that your cat is calm and receptive. The more your pet cooperates, the easier the process will be. 

Sometimes the cat can even get aggressive when trimming the nails.

Before the actual trimming process 

1. Habituate your cat first.

Let your cat get accustomed first to having their feet handled. Do it habitually for at least several days before the actual day of the nail trimming.  Massage your pet’s legs and paws and gently press each footpad with your thumb and forefinger. This will allow their nails to extend. Repeat for at least a few times and then give your cat a treat. 

2. Introduce your pet cat to the nail trimmer.

Let your cat become accustomed to the nail trimmer and you can also try tapping the trimmer against your cat’s nails. Observe your pet’s reaction. Let your cat become used to the sound of nail clippers. You can do this by clipping uncooked spaghetti to mimic the sound of clipped nails while also pressing on your pet’s footpad as the nail extends. Repeat a few times and be sure to give your pet another cat treat. 

During the nail trimming process 

3. Organize the needed supplies such as a nail clipper and towel. Keep the styptic powder in handy in case a nail bleeds. 

4. Position your cat on your lap and place your forearm over her neck. Make sure that your pet is facing away from you. If she starts squirming, wrap her gently with the towel. 

5. Massage and press her footpad to expose and extend the nail. Be sure to locate the quick which has a pink or red tinge. 

6. Position the nail clipper so that it’s perpendicular to the nail. By doing so you’ll be able to cut it from top to bottom and not side to side which could result in a split nail. 

7. Cut or trim each nail and be sure to cut only the sharp tip. Never cut the quick as it may cause bleeding and it’s painful for your pet. However, if you accidentally cut the quick, dab a small amount of styptic powder on it to stop the bleeding.  You may only be able to cut a few nails and this depends on your cat’s temperament. Some cats have a short attention span and may easily get restless. This is perfectly natural.  You can trim the rest of her nails some other days.

8. If and when you can’t handle the process alone, you can ask assistance from a family member who will control the cat while you trim its nails. To control your pet, let the other person hold the cat’s scruff which is the loose skin over the neck right behind its head. Holding the scruff firmly will calm your pet and it will stay still. 

After the nail trimming process

Be sure to reward your pet with a much-deserved cat treat regardless if you completed trimming her nails or not. What’s important is for her to get accustomed to the nail trimming activity and hopefully, the next session will go smoothly. 

Types of  Cat Nail Clippers  

Types of  Cat Nail Clippers  
Image: istockphoto.com / Mila Naumova

Clipping and trimming a cat’s nails can be a challenge. Thus, your essential equipment, the nail clipper, should be efficient and sharp. Here are the various types of nail clippers:

Scissor style

This type trims the nail without cutting too deeply and doesn’t have a splintering effect. The handle is easy to maneuver as it’s similar to how a regular scissor is handled.

Guillotine type

This style resembles a small guillotine with handles attached and with a circular opening where a cat nail is inserted. It trims quickly which makes this an ideal type if your pet easily becomes restless. It also doesn’t cause any splintering but you have to get used to how to maneuver it as compared to the scissor style. 

Pliers style

It’s an uncanny combination of the 2 earlier types. It has the blades of a scissor style and the handle of a guillotine type.  It also has a thick and rubberized plastic handle to ensure a good and controlled grip. 

Electric or Battery-operated

This type is very easy to use and trimming is quick and clean. However, it emits a noise that may bother your cat. It’s still worth a try as some pets aren’t bothered by the noise after all. 

How often should you trim your cat’s nails

Your cat should have her nails trimmed at least every 10 days to 2 weeks to prevent them from curving and being overgrown. An indication that your cat needs a nail trim is if your pet often gets stuck in a blanket or carpet and already scratching your skin.

What are cat caps and is it safe to use?

Cat caps are small plastic caps that are glued into a cat’s claws. You can easily put it on your cat’s nails. They stay on for about a few weeks and then eventually fall off as your pet’s nails grow. These caps are used to protect the furniture and pet owners from a cat’s long claws. It is an alternative that some people use if they’re having a hard time getting their pet’s nails trimmed. It’s considered safe because it doesn’t prevent the natural growth of your cat’s nails. However, some pet parents claim that it makes your pet’s nails dull. 

Being a responsible pet parent means ensuring the comfort and health of your furry baby. Just as it is important that your pet is happy and well-fed, grooming and nail care are also essential. Getting your cat accustomed to nail trimming can be a challenge but with constant practice, positive association, and the right tools, it can become a happy bonding moment for both of you.