Should You Trim Your Cat’s Back Claws?

Are you a proud new cat owner? You probably have a lot of questions regarding their health and well-being. Our kitty cats are unique, beautiful creatures that provide us with companionship. It is important to ensure them a comfortable, happy life. Part of your general cat care will include nail trims. The front claws can be obvious when they're due for a trim but what about the back claws? We have done the research to provide you with a break down of cat nail trims and just how important paying attention to those back claws is.

You need to trim your cat's back claws as well as the front ones. Trimming the back claws is an important aspect of maintaining your cat's general health. This basic care provides a humane alternative to declawing. 

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Starting nail trims with your cat at an early age would be ideal. This will help them be more comfortable with the handling nail trims require. Continue reading as we give you tips and tricks for trimming your cat's back nails and just how often this needs to be done.

A hairdresser in a veterinary clinic cutting cat nails, Should You Trim Your Cat's Back Claws?

All About Cat Paws

Do you think your cat's little paws are one of the cutest aspects of them? You are not alone. On top of being adorable, their paws provide direct help to your cat's hygiene, hold scent glands, and act as shock absorbers and sensors.

Paws of cat and dog together isolated on white background

The major difference between the front and back paws is the number of digits (or toes). The front paws have five digits, including the dewclaw or thumbs. The back paws normally only have four digits. It is possible for your cat to be a polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes.

Paw Functions

All paws will have a sheath effect on your cat's nails. This will make their nails appear hidden until they are ready to use them or you apply pressure on the paw to push the claws into view.  This sheath allows your cat to walk around quietly and comfortably on their toes.

Your cat's paws house different glands, including sweat and scent glands. You will often see your cat scratching or kneading surfaces. This is their way to mark or claim their territory using their custom scent.  While your furry friend is spreading out their scent, they are utilizing their paw pads sensors. These sensors allow them to gather information about their surroundings, picking up vibrations and different textures.

Paws of a sleeping domestic cat

Your cat depends on the function of their paws. It is important to check their paws regularly for any cuts, debris, or any other abnormality. Read more on our blog post How To Best Take Care Of Cat Claws.

How Do You Trim A Cat's Back Claws?

Trimming your cat's claws should be done on a regular basis, so you want to make this a positive experience for them. Every individual has their own sensitivities, so get to know your cat's before handling them for a nail trim.

European Shorthair cat nail cutting by a veterinary nurse

You don't want to over-restrain when holding your cat for a nail trim, but you will want to hold them firmly. Try holding your cat in the crook of your arm while pulling out one paw at a time. If your cat is not letting you hold them, try placing them on a table or wrapping them in a towel or blanket in a burrito fashion. Another option is asking a friend to help hold them while providing a distraction for your cat.

Figuring out which restraint method is best for your cat may take some trial and error. Be patient and give your cat breaks as needed to avoid stressful situations.

With one paw in your hand, apply light pressure to the foot to extend the claws out of their sheaths. With the claws out, quickly trim just the tips of the claws. Focus on cutting just the tip of the claw to avoid cutting into the light pink portion of the claw, also known as the quick. The quick contains nerves and blood vessels; cutting here will cause bleeding and sensitivity.

Watch this short video for a step-by-step guide to trimming your cat's nails:

What Should You Do If You Cut Into The Quick?

Don't panic. Cutting into the quick can happen during a nail trim. If you notice blood from a nail during a trim, apply light pressure to the very tip of the claw. The claw can be dipped in corn starch or styptic powder to help stop the bleeding faster.

Cutting into the quick can be painful for your furry friend. If your cat becomes too upset, stop the nail trim and give them time to cool down before starting again.

To create a less stressful experience, try having your cat's favorite blanket or bed incorporated into the nail trim. Take your time and provide their favorite treats between cutting the claws.

How Do You Know If Your Cat's Claws Are Too Long?

There are a couple of ways to determine if your cat's claws are too long. Have you ever noticed a clicking sound coming from your cat when they're walking around? This sound is their nails tapping on the floor. If you hear this clicking, it is time to trim your cat's claws.

Paws of a sleeping domestic cat

You also know your cat's claws are too long if you can see the claws when your cat is resting. This means the claw has grown over the length of the nail sheath. With the nails exposed out of the sheath, they are more likely to scratch surfaces or get caught in fabric materials.

How Often Should You Clip Your Cat's Claws?

You should clip your cat's claws anytime you hear the clicking sound from their walk or notice the claw growing past the sheath. You will find yourself performing a nail trim once every ten days to two weeks.

White cat's paw with claw

Do Cats Trim Their Own Nails?

Cats do not trim their own nails; that is why nail trims are vital to avoid overgrown claws. While they cannot trim their nails, they can file them to some extent.

Your cat's nails grow in a layer-like fashion, comparable to an onion. The layers of the claws can be filed or chipped off when your cat is utilizing a scratching post or other scratcher toys. Providing a scratching post helps with nail upkeep while simultaneously creating an alternative to scratching the furniture.

Click here to see this wall-mounted scratcher on Amazon.

Read more on our blog post 23 Proven Ways To Stop A Cat From Scratching Furniture.

Can You Use Human Nail Clippers On Your Cat?

A close up of a pair of hands clipping a claw of an orange kitten

There are a variety of clippers to choose from for your cat, including scissor clippers, guillotine style, and human nail clippers. You will want to use the type of clippers that are most comfortable for you and your companion.

Check out these soft grip cat nail clippers on Amazon.

While you can use human nail clippers on your cat, there is a downside. When using human nail clippers, the claw is more susceptible to splitting. This can create some sensitivity or pain for your cat. Ensure that your nail clippers are sharp and in good working order to lower the chances of this happening.

In Closing

Trimming your cat's back claws is essential for their health and well-being. The earlier you can start nail trims at home, the better, as it will help you and your cat become more comfortable with the procedure. We hope you found this article helpful for executing nail trims at home while creating a positive experience for your furry friend.

Do you have more questions as a new cat owner? Check out our blog post, Bringing Home A New Cat, The Complete Guide.

9 comments on “Should You Trim Your Cat’s Back Claws?

Mandy December 27, 2022
Very helpful video. Thank you!
Kathleen Sutherland November 12, 2022
As my indoor/outdoor cat has gotten older (age 14 now), his dew claw (front thumb) started catching on his scratching post and fabrics. Trimming these resolved the problem. I'm keeping an eye on the other front claws, but they don't seem too long at this point. A few of the back claws look long and click on the floor, but I still don't see any reason why they need to be trimmed. He is a sweet cat, but not one to sit on laps, so my comfort or safety is not an issue. Is there any reason they need to be trimmed for his own sake? Thank you.
HeyKat May 16, 2022
I still don't understand why one should trim their cat's claws. I've never heard of anyone doing it in real life, only on the internet. The article just says it's important for their health, but why?
Ashington October 28, 2021
This was very helpful, now I know if I should trim my cat's nails and more about my cat!
Darsidea October 3, 2021
When I have attempted to trim my Cat's nails I feel Nervous - It's so palpable, I can't help but think my Cat must feel that energy And that;s not good- I may be over thinking this but I feel my Cat's trust me and somehow If something goes wrong it would betray that trust- Does anyone have any suggestions to help me just get over it? (I've been taking them to vet for nail clipping and that gets expensive) My Cats are 1 1/2 years old and Ive had them since they were 4 weeks ols. Thanks, Dar
    Mitch December 6, 2021
    It's easy. Unlike most dogs, cats' nails are basically clear. Very easy to see the quick in good light. It will be fine.
    Amy February 7, 2022
    I felt the same way, so I just take the very tips off. I wait until she is sleeping on my bed and start petting her tummy, and down the legs. The I gently push on a pad to expose the claw and just take a tiny amount of the tip. When I started, I might only get 2-4 claws done. I just stop and give her some treats and wait for the next nap time to get to the other claws. Now she might fuss a little bit, but she usually just keeps sleeping.
      Valerie April 24, 2022
      This is a great idea- thank you for sharing!
Flyingnimbus July 29, 2021
Learning how and when to trim your cat’s nail was very helpful! Also thank you for the video on it.

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