The cat's claws, complex retractable appendages, are usually withdrawn within their sheathes above the toe pads. The cat may extend its claws when necessary in order to climb, grip, or defend itself.

The visible part of the claw is made up of two main parts:
  • The center of the claw, called the "quick," which contains the nerve endings and blood vessels nourishing the claw.
  • The claw's outer cover, which is made of layers of material called keratin.
The claw grows throughout the cat's life. It is renewed continuously as the older outer layers wear down. To facilitate this process, cats need to scratch objects made of wood or other similar materials. For cats living outdoors, there is additional natural wearing of the claws caused by digging or by walking on various rough surfaces.

Indoor cats experience less natural erosion. They may try to further wear down their claws by scratching such things as doors, wooden or upholstered furniture, rugs, bookbindings, or other such objects. Another problem occurs when claws grow too long, which may cause undesirable scratches on the cat's human "family." In such cases, the cat's claws can be clipped once every few weeks.

Clipping the Claws

Cats' claws are shortened using special clippers or sharp nail scissors. It is very important to clip only the tip of the claw and not to cut into the quick. The claw should be examined before a light source to clearly differentiate between the pink part - the center or quick of the claw containing the blood vessels - and the whitish clear part. Then you can carefully trim the white tip of the claw, keeping a safe distance from the quick.

It is better to clip away a smaller part of the claw more often than risk hitting the sensitive center of the claw, which can cause the cat both great pain and bleeding. If you have doubts about how to clip the claws properly, you should consult a veterinarian, asking her to demonstrate the process for you.

Scroll down to learn how to get your cat to cooperate during claw clipping time -


Note that the person in these pictures is using a nail clipper rather than a claw clipper designed for pets. You may find it easier to use a pet-specific clipper - click here for suggestions.

Getting your cat used to the idea: making friends with the paw

Cats need to feel comfortable with having their claws touched and their nails extended. So, whenever you get a chance, massage your cat’s paws gently. Start with a short time, when they are relaxed or sleepy, and after a while they will really enjoy their ‘paw massages’. If they like treats, give them one afterwards. If grooming is their thing, do that immediately afterwards. This positive reinforcement will help the process.

Once your cat is happy for you to do a paw massage you’re ready to try clipping. When he or she is really relaxed, start with just one claw. Make sure you extend the claw fully: place your index finger underneath one toe and your thumb over the top of the toe and squeeze your fingers together gently. As we’ve said before, it is essential that you avoid the ‘quick’; the pink part. If you cut into it, it may well stop them for allowing you to touch their paws.

Once the claw is cut, use your positive reinforcement (treat, grooming, scratch under the chin.. whatever works for your cat). On the next day do two claws. Then try three. If your cat is responding well, then keep going. If not, stop at the point where you know your cat has had enough and immediately use the positive reinforcement. Remember you don't have to trim all the claws at once.

Surgical Declawing

In declawing, the veterinarian must remove part or all of the end joint of each of the cat's toes. This surgery is very painful, causing cats much suffering for weeks. After the surgery, cats have difficulties walking and using their litter box for a time.

Some experts - and indeed many owners - claim that, in the long run, this surgery causes distortion of the cat's spine. This is because the removal of the last phalanx of the toes changes the cat's posture, making it move in an unnatural manner. It is also claimed that declawed cats are more inclined to defecate outside of the litter box in the house.

For all these reasons -

Cats should not be declawed!

In fact, in many countries around the world, including Britain, surgical declawing is illegal. In the United States, too, there is growing public demand to legally ban the surgical declawing of cats, since this procedure borders on abuse.

Before you consider having such an operation performed on your cat, think - would you be willing to have the upper joint of each of your fingers and toes amputated?

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