What are the basic steps to get your cat used to having her paws and nails touched?

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The easiest way to make sure you and your cat have stress-free nail trims is to start when you first bring her home as a kitten. Handle her paws regularly and gently. Get her used to being held and gently restrained. Handle her toes individually, and unsheathe her claws by lightly pressing the top of the toe and the toe pad. Very social, relaxed cats may be willing to lie down on their backs or their sides while you handle their feet.

Some cats are very food-motivated, and you may be able to reward them with a small snack during and after handling their feet. Show them that allowing you to touch their toes, extract their claws and hold them for 10 to 20 seconds will earn them a tasty treat. Other kitties may be just as happy with affection, scratching their favorite itchy spot, or tossing their favorite toy after a nail-clipping session.

Use sharp nail trimmers and take off only the sharp, curved tip of the nail, staying clear of the pink “quick” of the nail to avoid causing pain. Choose a time when your cat is sleepy and relaxed, and avoid trying to trim the claws of a playful, wound up, or fearful kitty. If you can’t trim all of the claws in one sitting, it’s fine to do one paw, take a break, and even wait until the next day to do the next paw.

Claws are an important part of a cat’s health and well-being. Be patient and calm; the sooner you start working with your cat, the sooner you will gain her confidence and trust, and the sooner she will allow you to trim her nails regularly.

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