Educate cats to love having their nails trimmed

Q: I recently adopted a cat named Max and I need to learn how to trim its nails. What is the procedure and how often should it be done?

A: Start by choosing the most comfortable gear for you. I use human toenail trimmers, but many people prefer pet claw trimmers.

If you are right-handed, hold Max close to your body with your left arm. Gently press your left thumb over it and your left index finger under one of Max’s front toes and the claw will pop out.

Unclip the clear, curved hook without cutting into the delicate, pink Quick.

Praise Max as you trim each claw. After you’ve cut off the claws on one paw, stroke it before starting the other front paw.

The rear nails are unhooked and cats don’t use their rear paws to scratch, so many people don’t bother to trim these nails. But if you want, repeat the process on each hind paw.

Reward Max after the pedicure with a cuddle time and a cat treat. Repeat his pedicure monthly.

Until you feel confident about clipping your claws, you may need someone else to pet Max while you do his pedicure. At some point you can hold it yourself and trim its claws.

You might be surprised to learn that cats’ nails are different from the nails that humans and dogs have. A claw is withdrawn when at rest and hidden in the toe until needed for climbing, grabbing prey, or fighting. As the nails of humans and dogs continue to grow, cats lose the outer covering of the claw and prevent the claws from growing too long.

Q: I recently adopted Bentley, a mix of 1 year old Miniature Poodles. My last dog had severe dental disease and I don’t want Bentley to go through this ordeal. How can I keep his mouth healthy?

A: It is advisable to start caring for Bentley’s teeth early, as untreated dental disease not only causes pain, but also increases the dog’s risk of kidney, liver, and heart disease.

Good dental care starts with brushing Bentley’s teeth every day or every other day. Buy a flavored enzymatic toothpaste for pets from your veterinarian or pet store. Do not use human toothpaste, as it has no effect in the dog’s mouth, foams too much and disturbs the stomach if swallowed.

Choose an ordinary soft toothbrush – child size for Bentley’s tiny mouth – or a brush that fits over your finger. Soak the bristles under warm water and apply the toothpaste.

Gently brush the incisors, front teeth, and canines. Then extend your toothbrush up to your molars. Praise Bentley throughout the process.

The next part of keeping Bentley’s teeth and gums healthy is diet. Feed him a Veterinary Oral Health Council approved dental diet and dental treats. This group of veterinary dentists reviews clinical studies of dental products and awards the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal to those who have proven effective in reducing plaque and / or tartar. A list of products can be found at vohc.org.

Finally, have Bentley’s teeth examined, cleaned, and X-rayed by your veterinarian every year.

Dental x-rays, sometimes referred to as x-rays, are essential for good care as 60% of dental disease is hidden under the gumline and is not visible on visual examination and probing. X-rays can detect a tooth root abscess, tooth resorption, loss of supporting bone, and much more.

In one study, 28% of dogs whose mouth looked normal when examined had significant problems on dental x-rays. In dogs with abnormal oral exam results, radiographs identified additional disease in 50%.

Lee Pickett, VMD, is a veterinary practitioner in North Carolina. Contact them at

vet@askthevet.pet