Cats need to keep their feet healthy and their nails well-trimmed so they can engage in natural behaviors such as climbing, jumping, landing, and scratching. In addition to examining your pet’s nails for dirt, wounds, debris, etc. at least once a day, you should also know how to keep your pet’s nails clean. A cat’s nails should be free of dirt, litter, or substances that he may have stepped on. These things can cause pain, discomfort, mobility problems, or they can end up on the cat’s mouth during grooming which can eventually be ingested and cause potential problems. Also, nails that are not trimmed on a regular basis can curl back into the paw pads, causing intense pain and discomfort. Untrimmed nails can cause injury to people and damage furniture or other surfaces where cats run their nails.
Here are tips to keep your cat’s nails clean and healthy:
- Use a damp cloth to wipe your cat’s paws at least once a day. Gently wipe one at a time, removing any dirt or material lodged between the paws. Use tweezers to gently remove any splinter embedded in his paws and apply an antiseptic to prevent infection. Be sure to keep a close eye on your pet’s paws while the wound is healing.
- When examining your pet’s paws, be sure to take a closer look in between his toes and around his paw pads. Check for any signs of injury, cuts, sores, swelling, redness, splinters, etc. that may need prompt veterinary intervention. Use an antiseptic for any minor injury or scratches.
- If your cat has hair between the paws, you should trim it regularly because dirt and foreign objects can easily attach to the hair while the cat is walking.
- Dirt can build up under the nails of cats. Pay particular attention to the start of the nail bed or under the paw’s skin fold. When removing anything from your pet’s paws, always be gentle and careful because their paws are particularly sensitive. For stubborn gunk, soak the cat’s paws in the water and use a toothbrush to gently clean the nail. If the gunk has softened enough, it will be easier to wipe off.
- Keep the cat’s immediate surroundings free of any dirt, debris, household chemicals, or other substances that might stick to his skin and paws and possibly end up inside his mouth during grooming.
- Create opportunities for your cat to scratch since it is a natural feline behavior. Scratching sheds off the outer nails to give way to sharper and smoother claws underneath. Provide several types of scratching posts and scratching pads so your cat can have a variety of “legal” surfaces to scratch on, instead of on your furniture or carpet. Scratching also helps relieve stress and anxiety. It is also a way to stretch their muscles and mark their territory because of the scent glands that are present on their paw pads.
- Get your cat used to nail trimming by introducing the routine as early as possible. Be sure that each session is a positive one with lots of treats and other forms of positive reinforcement. Start by massaging your pet’s paws until he gets used to having his paws handled. Always prep your pet for nail trimming with a good paw massage before trimming his claws. For the first few times, just do one or two claws per session until your cat appears calm and relaxed. Be careful to avoid the quick, a spot in the nail where nerves and blood vessels are present. If you do accidentally cut the quick, there may be bleeding. Stop the bleeding with styptic powder or cornstarch. The frequency of nail trimming depends to a large extent on the individual cat. Cats that spend time outdoors walking on rough surfaces or use the scratching post regularly may need nail trims less frequently.
Keeping your cat’s nails clean and well-trimmed is part and parcel of your pet’s grooming regimen and is essential to his health and well-being.