Pet Nail Trimming 101

Does your pet disappear when the clippers come out?

Pet nail trimming - Closeup of dog's nail being trimmed

Be cautious and clip less of your pet's nail to avoid cutting the quick.

According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), calm, enjoyable nail-trimming sessions are not only possible—that’s how they should always be! Check out the following tips for getting your pet to relax while you trim:

Set the Mood

Ideally, you should introduce your pet to nail clipping when it is still a kitten or puppy. Choose a chair in a quiet room where you can comfortably sit your pet on your lap. Get her when she’s relaxed and even sleepy, like in her groggy, after-meal state.

Make Friends with the Paw

Gently take one of your pet’s paws between your fingers and massage for no longer than the count of three. If your pet pulls her paw away, don’t squeeze or pinch, just follow her gesture, keeping in gentle contact. When she’s still again, give her pad a little press so that the nail extends out, then release her paw and immediately give her a treat.

Get Acquainted with the Clipper

Your pet should be at ease with the sound of the clippers before you attempt to trim her nails. Sit her on your lap, put a piece of uncooked spaghetti into the clippers and hold them near your pet. (If she sniffs the clippers, set a treat on top of them for her to eat.) Next, while massaging one of your pet’s toes, gently press her toe pad. When the nail extends, clip the spaghetti with the clippers while still holding your cat’s paw gently. Now release her toe and quickly give her a treat.

Never Cut to the Quick

The pink part of the nail, called the quick, is where the nerves and blood vessels are. Do NOT cut this sensitive area. Snip only the white part of the claw. It’s better to be cautious and cut less of the nail rather than risk cutting this area. If you do accidentally cut the quick, any bleeding can be stopped with a styptic powder or stick. It’s a good idea to keep it nearby while you trim.

Time to Clip

Pet nail trimming - Cat getting nail trimmed

Remember to reward your pet with a treat after trimming each nail.

With your pet in your lap facing away from you, take one of her toes in your hand, massage and press the pad until the nail extends. Check to see how much of a trim her nails need and notice where the quick begins. Now trim only the sharp tip of one nail, release the toe, and quickly give her a treat. If your pet didn’t notice, clip another nail, but don’t trim more than two claws in one sitting until she is comfortable. Be sure to reward her with a special treat afterward. Please note, you may want to do just one paw at a time for the first couple of sessions.

A nail-trimming every ten days to two weeks is a nice routine to settle into. If your pet refuses to let you clip her claws, we recommend asking your vet or a groomer for help. Have you ever clipped your pet’s nails? What tips do you have to add?