The Best Way to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails

Medically reviewed by James Edward, PharmD

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Few battles match the relentless action trimming a cat's nails offers. The emotions range from anger, annoyance, anxiety, fear, sadness, rage, and that is just you. Who knows what is going through your cat's head?

Are there secrets to trimming a cat's nails?

This blog "tears into" the best methods to restrain your cat to clip its nails and explores some natural ways to calm your cat before clipping.


Cats' claws are like humans' nails in that both have cuticles, quicks, and nails. The quick contains the nerves and blood vessels of the nail. If the quick is clipped, it causes a lot of pain and bleeding.

Injury is most likely the reason your cat hates getting their nails trimmed; once they feel that pain, they know what to avoid. A well-trained cat will not mind getting its nails trimmed. However, not all cats are well trained, as several of us know.

If you have a kitten, start nail training early, and avoid negative reinforcement.


Generally, you'll want to cut your cat's claws every ten days to two weeks, but your cat's situation may change that.

There are two different scenarios regarding how often you trim your cat's nails, indoor and outdoor.

  • Indoor Cats - Indoor Cats use scratching poles or your couch to care for their nails. However, this may not be enough, and clipping is necessary to keep the cat healthy. Long nails in cats can lead to mobility issues and pain. PETMD suggests cutting a cat's claws every ten days to two weeks.
  • Outdoor Cats - Outdoor cats care for their nails by climbing trees, marking territory, among numerous other outdoor activities. As cats age, their outdoor activity declines, and nails grow too long, so regular trimming is required. Hastings Veterinary Hospital suggests aging outdoor cats get their nails trimmed every ten days to two weeks like an indoor cat.


Here are two main methods for restraining a cat and two alternatives for kitty nail trimming.

  • Towel Method (Cat Burrito) – This method can be used to trim nails and administer medicine to your cat. Essentially, the technique is applied as a means of control. Towel Method Directions:

    1. Firmly (but not aggressively), hold your cat on a table.

    2. Place the towel over the cat leaving the head exposed.

    3. Tuck towel under cat bringing the paws close to the body.

    4. Pick up the cat in a towel and finish wrapping the cat completely.

    5. Once the cat is in a swaddle position, you can release a paw and start clipping the nails.

  • Two-Person Method – This method involves making the cat comfortable while an assistant trims the nails.

    Two-Person Method Directions:

    1. The person holding the cat will start applying pressure or squishing the cat towards the shoulder and back of the ear using your hand in a V-shape. They may have to pull the leg out from under the cat to allow trimmer access to the paws.

    2. Once the cat is secure, the assistant can start clipping the nails. The cat may naturally try to back up. The holder should apply mild pressure to the cat's body to stop this movement while using theirs to block the backward escape attempts.

Here are some alternatives to trimming your cats nails at home:

  • Cat Grooming – Today numerous options range from your mega pet stores to mobile groomers who come to you. Finding a good groomer may be a challenge.

    Here are a few tips to help your search.

    1. Ask your friends and family

    2. Call around and ask the questions

    3. Require proper certification/education

    4. Try to find a convenient location

    5. Most importantly, trust your sixth sense
  • Veterinarian Visit - If you have tried the previous methods with no success, you can have your cat's nails trimmed at the vet. There are some benefits to taking your cat to the vet instead of clipping claws at home.

    The vet may be the best choice for very aggressive cats.
  • Stress relief – Your pet feels your stress, which can turn into a negative cycle when cutting nails. The vet eliminates the main source of stress, you.
  • Medical Training – The vet has the training required in case of medical emergencies. For example, a cat's quick is cut into, and pain and bleeding follow. The vet can treat the wound immediately.
  • Relatively Inexpensive – The cost of trimming a cat's nails at a vet is generally around twenty dollars. Each vet has different pricing, so prices do vary.


Calming a cat down is crucial to trimming its nails. More importantly, calming a cat down without using powerful medications.

Here are some natural options that induce your cat to use more energy, only to have a calmer period after during which you can trim their nails safely:

  • Catnip – It seems as though this is the opposite of calming. Nevertheless, giving your cat catnip 15 minutes before trimming will put it in a calm state.
  • Valerian – Similar to catnip, Valerian initially gives cats a charge of energy. That is then followed by calmness and even sleep.

Homeopathic treatments - These treatments include small amounts of plants and minerals used for stress relief. Below are some calming therapies you can use on your cat.

  • Chamomile – The relaxing properties in Chamomile act the same in humans and cats. The dried flower is the best way to administer Chamomile to your cat.
  • Hops – Beer? No, these are again the dried flowers. The main ingredient in beer is also the key to calming your cat naturally

CBD is another natural solution that may calm your cat. There aren't many studies on Cats and CBD, but they, like humans have an endocannabinoid system, so they will react similarly.

A study of 72 adults with anxiety or poor sleep showed CBD decreased both anxiety and sleep scores in patients within the first month. The scores continued to decline for the duration of the study. Fifty-seven patients saw lower anxiety scores, and 48 patients had improved sleep scores within the first month. This study shows CBD may benefit people with anxiety and sleep disorders.

Humans and cats are closely related on a genetic level. A study in 2007 discovered 90% of the genes in a species of cat match 90% of human genes.

CBD oil for cats is a great way to get your cat calm before cutting its nails. Oil allows for sublingual absorption (under the tongue), sending oil straight into the bloodstream for rapid deployment.

If your cat is picky, alternatives like CBD cat treats can help promote a sense of calm. Relievet CBD for pets makes CBD cat treats in salmon and tuna flavors. These treats have no artificial colors, flavors, GMOs, or preservatives.

Pet parents and veterinarians have both spoken on the safety of CBD oil for pets. However, further studies are needed to ensure that CBD can stand up to scientific scrutiny.

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