How to Trim the Claws of an Aggressive Cat

how to trim claws of an aggressive cat

For better or for worse, cats certainly have a reputation for being feisty and full of fight even though there are many breeds of cats that would never pull their claws out on you. 

However, there is a good reason why cats do have this reputation and it is because there are many cats who are aggressive and who will not hesitate to claw you. 

Why Are Cats Aggressive?

aggressive cat
Photo by Marlon Soares on Unsplash

More often than not, cats that are aggressive may be feral, or have previously been feral. Many cats that are aggressive were mistreated in the past or have had extensive time spent in shelters where they are unable to become attached to any one owner. 

Unfortunately, this means that when these aggressive cats are adopted, there are some special measures that have to be taken.

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For some people, this may mean that the cat can only be adopted if there are no young kids in the house since younger kids may not understand what sets an aggressive cat off. Likewise, some people who are adopting a cat with known aggression issues may not be able to adopt another pet for some time for the same reasons. 

Additionally, extra care will need to be taken when handling the cat and trying to get the cat to adapt to a less aggressive lifestyle. For the sake of everyone in the house, this will often mean that there will come a time when the aggressive cat’s claws need to be trimmed.

Do keep in mind that you should always, always be certain that you are clipping the claws correctly

If you are inadvertently hurting the cat, then of course it will react with aggression. 

DO NOT cut close to the pink or red tinge at the end of the claw. Don’t cut the quick of the claw either as this will lead to pain for the cat, making it more aggressive. 

If your cat scratches you, do not punish it as this will only make it more frightened and agitated. If the cat is already moody, try again another day.

Why Trimming Claws Is Better Than Declawing

Some people, especially those with aggressive cats, may consider the idea of declawing a cat. This is one of the worst options that anyone can take for solving the issue of a cat whose claws are too sharp. 

Declawing a cat is not the same thing as clipping a fingernail. The claw of a cat can be considered the equivalent of the knuckle closest to your fingertip.

This means that when cats are declawed, it is less akin to a nail clipping and it is quite literally cutting off a cat’s finger at the first joint

One of the reasons why people still declaw cats is because they do not realize what exactly they are doing. Because of this, if your cat’s claws always seem to be a little bit too long, you should always focus on trimming them down first even if it means that you have to be creative with how you get your aggressive cat to tolerate it.

Getting Your Cat Used to Clippers

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

One of the biggest reasons why cats that already have an aggressive disposition act out the way they do when it is time for their claws to be trimmed is because they are scared

To the cat, the clipper is a large, strange tool that is coming very close to their sensitive fingertips. Being in that kind of situation would scare anyone; for cats, their only way out is going to be to fight. 

Nobody enjoys dealing with this. The first step to taking care of this problem is going to be to get your cat used to the presence of the claw clipper.

There are a few aspects to this. If your cat has already learned to fear the clipper, it will have to start getting used to the sight of it. 

From there, the cat will have to get used to the noise of the clipper as well as this can be scary for cats. 

Most clippers don’t have a strong scent to them but you can help your cat feel comfortable around it by giving the clippers the cat’s smell.

Get Your Cat Used to Seeing Clippers

To get the cat used to the sight of the clippers, you will want to leave them in a place where your cat frequents. It should not be the food or litter as this may deter your cat from using either of those. 

Instead, you will want to choose an area where your cat may like to sit or even the cat’s bed. 

Get Your Cat Used to the Sound of Clippers

Once your cat doesn’t run at the sight of the clippers, you will want to start pretending to use the clippers in the air so that your cat will learn that the sound of them does not mean danger. 

You can consider giving your cat treats while making the clipper noises as well to further associate the clipper with positive experiences.

Associate Clippers with Good Things

From there, you will want to continue associating the clipper with good things. Consider putting the clipper where your cat usually sleeps. 

If your cat will let you, try petting the cat with the clippers as well so the cat can further associate the clippers with pleasant experiences. While doing this, feed the cat some treats to emphasize this point.

Getting the Cat Used to the Sensation

To get your cat used to the sensation of getting their claws trimmed, you will simply want to play with your cat’s paws more often. Depending on how aggressive your cat is, this may be harder to do than with other cats. 

If your cat is particularly aggressive, start playing with your cat’s paws while it is sleeping so that you can approach the cat more easily.

Be ready to offer treats or to back away quickly if your cat is likely to react by scratching you. As your cat slowly gets used to this, you will be able to play with your cat’s paws more and more.

 Continue rewarding the cat with treats or another reward that your cat can appreciate so that it associates you playing with its paws with positive experiences.

When the time comes to clip the cat’s claws, your cat may still be scared and aggressive. However, with the combination of being used to the clippers and being used to the sensation of you playing with its paws, it should take some of the edge off the fear-fueled aggression.

Distracting Your Cat

Now that your cat is a little more used to the sensation of you playing with its paws and will not run at the sight or sound of the claw trimmers, you will want to think about the best way to distract your cat from the process of getting its claws clipped. 

Which method will be best depends on your cat’s preferences, its aggression, and how it reacts to each method.

Trim While Your Cat is Asleep

The first thing that you can try is to clip your cat’s claws while it is sleeping, although you should prepare for some retaliation if the cat awakens. This will be the easiest for you because the cat won’t be fighting you while you clip the claws but it may also be troublesome if you don’t have the best relationship with the cat in the first place. This method will work best if the cat is in a deeper sleep. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that it will often take two attempts to get all of the claws clipped on the best occasions so don’t get frustrated if you only get one or two paws done using this method.

Change Your Cat’s Environment

You can also consider taking your cat to a different environment, one that it may not be used to. This can be troublesome with some aggressive cats as they may become scared or stressed, which will only fuel the aggression. 

Additionally, this method works best if you have a harness and/or leash for the cat and the cat will let you put that on. 

A common example of how this would work is that you would place the harness on the cat and then take it outside. 

If the cat is not used to the outdoors, all of the sounds and smells will be distracting enough so that you can quickly begin trimming the cat’s claws. This is the same method that many vets and groomers rely on as well, since cats are often not used to the environment.

If you can only stay inside, consider taking your cat somewhere where it is not usually allowed. This could be the bathroom counter, the laundry room, or even the bedroom if your cat is not typically allowed there. 

It should be a place that your cat is not used to but is not so overwhelming that your aggressive cat will not fight you to get away from.

Calming Pheromones

And finally, you can consider distracting your cat with some calming pheromones. The one problem with these is that some cats simply do not respond to the pheromones or realize them, effectively making the method useless. 

With correct use, spraying these calming pheromones in the area where your cat should sit down will cause the cat to become curious, sit down in the area, and become calmed enough by the pheromones for you to clip the cat’s claws.

Editorial Team

When we aren't scooping up droppings to ensure a luxurious litter box experience for our fur babies, we are writing all sorts of stuff about cats for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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