Feline Friday: Kitty Claws & Pedicures

Sneaking up on Seren-kitty can have dire consequences. I was reminded of this during our bi-weekly session trimming her claws.

Yes, she gets regular pedicures, especially since she’s gotten older. Senior cats‘ claws tend to thicken and now she “clicks” when she walks across the hardwood or table top. Arthritis makes it harder for her to retract her claws–but one of those claws hasn’t retracted well in years. It happened when she was eight.


At 2:00 a.m. I couldn’t sleep and decided to work in my upstairs office. The moon cast enough glow to guide my steps without switching on lights. But Seren wasn’t expecting anyone to appear in the dark doorway, and one claw caught and tore on the guest room’s bedspread (HER bed) when she leaped in startled reaction.

Active pets rarely suffer from claw or nail damage, because they wear down the length either through scratching posts or from walking and running on the ground and sidewalks. But claws allowed to grow too long often split or pull loose when snagged in bedding or carpets. Even Magical-Dawg has torn both his dew claws just being a roughneck tackling toys during fetch. Yanking out a claw has to hurt like the devil!

Many nerves and blood vessels feed the toes and claw bed, so damage in this area can be painful and bloody. Seren acted nonchalant–cats are stoic little critters and almost never cry uncle–but I noticed a telltale drop of blood splattering the office door. She’d basically lifted the claw away from the tender nail bed, which was exposed. OUCH!

Although the wound looked bad, claw damage rarely is serious and usually can be treated with first aid–that is, if your pet will allow you to do so.


Often you need someone else to restrain your pet while you treat the nail so the painful injury doesn’t get you bitten. Use a muzzle or wrap the pet in a towel with only the affected paw sticking out. Then use very sharp, clean pet nail clippers to remove the damaged nail.

When the claw hasn’t split too far, you can simply clip off the dangling section. If it’s jagged or the split end bleeds, you must trim slightly ABOVE the damage. That can mean cutting the nail flush or nearly even with the toe. You may prefer to have your veterinarian take care of this, because chances are the nail will bleed even more, the pet will yelp and flinch, and you’ll have a mess to clean up as well. If the bleeding fails to stop within about 30 minutes, the veterinarian needs to address the toe anyway. I knew what to do based on the tips from emergency room vets quoted in my pet first aid book.

When Magic tore his dewclaw he required vet sedation and cauterization, plus some antibiotics. He never does anything halfway. And he’s still a weenie about nail trims.

But Seren’s nail stopped bleeding almost immediately since the nail bed wasn’t cut but only exposed. She even allowed me to clip off a good portion of the claw without need of restraint, and then immediately she began cleaning the injury.

Wait until bleeding has stopped before washing the paw, or you may dislodge the clot and restart the bleeding. Use a mild antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin Cleanser.


By the next evening, Seren’s nibbling removed most of the remaining claw, but the nail bed exposure concerned me. Bacteria can easily enter through cracks in a damaged nail and infect the nail bed. To help prevent problems, you can soak the affected foot in an antiseptic solution three times daily, five minutes at a time, for four or five days.

Two days after the injury, Seren’s toe looked swollen, but with regular soaks, that quickly went away. I simply ran water in the sink, add some Betadine, and held the injured paw in the solution. She complained, you bet! But she never threw a fit, simply hid her face against me as if she knows it’s for her own good.

Six years later, that kitty toe-claw is ginormous, thick, and needs more frequent trimming than the rest. These days Seren doesn’t move nearly as fast, and with the Magical-Dawg around, she doesn’t startle nearly so much anymore. And that ginormous claw looks dang imposing when she shows it to keep the dawg at bay.

Has your cat ever caught a claw? Do you trim your kitty’s nails? I use regular “people” nail trimmers on Seren and just snip off the sharp points. She gets a treat after each session–yes, she makes me pay! How do you manage your pets’ nail care?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter . Don’t forget to check out the NAME THAT DOG/CAT character in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!


Feline Friday: Kitty Claws & Pedicures — 6 Comments

  1. With Simba it seems to depend on how much energy she has on a given day. We’ve managed to do it once at home, but last time we had to let the vet’s office do it, it took 3 vet techs, my boyfriend and I – one person for each foot, and one to hold the clippers. LOL You’d have thought we were murdering her. HATES having her feet touched, so her claws don’t manage to get clipped as often as I’d like.

    Thankfully Anubis still seems to think he’s a miniature cheetah, and we don’t have to clip his claws because they wear down plenty on their own.

    • Karyl, I’m fortunate with Seren that I can get her’s done by myself. And I’ve finally figured out a way to get Magic’s done (one nail at a time!) as well, but he’s a challenge. I started with Seren when she was tiny and that helps, and I’ve never “quicked” the nail. Of course, never quicked Magic’s either. He just expects me to, LOL! Funny, he’s not foot sensitive, either the way my first dog was.

  2. I’m able to take care of most of my cats’ claws (two of them are still feral so I can’t do anything with them!). I try to do them once a week to keep them short, clipping them very close to the quick. I’ve had friends think that my cats are declawed because their nails are so short. I guess it’s my vet tech training.

    Unfortunately I’m terribly with my dog’s nails. He squeals whenever I just reach for his feet nearly breaking my ear drums! Most of the time he keeps his nails worn down enough that I only have to do his dew claws.

    With the cats I hold them on my lap with them in a sitting position. I have better control of them that way and they don’t fight that much. When I’m done I use a feline laxative gel as a treat. That way I’m preventing hairballs as well as cutting their nails. Even though I’ve done their nails since they were big enough to see, two of my youngest, Strawberry and B.W. Huckleberry become like an octopus. Their legs are everywhere and their bodies become jello. But I get it done.

    • Octo-pussy-cats, LOL! Boy, that sure gave me the right picture. I’ve never tried putting Seren in my lap. She’s in the past used my knees as a launching pad and I have the scars to prove it. *s* Usually we trim nails with her either on the washer/dryer or bathroom countertop. She stands and complains the whole time but has never struggled (lucky me!). Thanks for sharing the tips–vet techs learn all kinds of tricks.

  3. This post was perfectly timed for me, Amy! I have had pets who tore claws and I know how painful it can be for them. I try to trim my 6 yr old Rocky’s claws occasionally. I have a pet nail trimmer, but based on your tip at the end, i think I’ll use a people nail trimmer. It might be a lot easier. Thanks!

    • Hey Marcia, let me know how that works for you. I find it so much easier on the little kitty claws that Seren has. A jumbo-size cat might require heavier duty trimmers though.

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