How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails

How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails

There are three proven methods that seem to work best for restraining a kitten:

  1. The towel method: wrapping the kitten in a towel
  2. The 2-person method: one person restrains the cat while the other clips its nails
  3. No restraint: the cat is calm and can be positioned on the owner’s lap


How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails


All cats need to have their nails trimmed so that they can move better. As a cat owner, I know for a fact I wouldn’t want my kitten to have sharp hooks at the end of its paws. Outdoor cats usually deal with this matter on their own, but the situation is quite different for indoor felines. If you want to do this yourself, it’s crucial to learn how to restrain a cat to clip its nails first and then use the best strategy to trim those claws.

There are three proven methods that seem to work best for restraining the kitten. I advise you to keep your cat’s personality in mind when making your choice, as there is no single best method:

  1. The towel method: wrapping the kitten in a towel
  2. The 2-person method: one person restrains the cat while the other clips its nails
  3. No restraint: the cat is calm and can be positioned on the owner’s lap


How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails

How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails Safely and Comfortably


I’m speaking from experience when I say you should never attempt to clip your cat’s nails unless the kitty is calm and friendly. In case you’re aware that your cat won’t allow you to go through this process without trying to scratch and bite you, you should seek a veterinarian’s professional help. But if you’re ready to tackle this task, consider the following methods. 


1. The Towel Method


I believe that one of the best restraining techniques for cats involves the so-called “kitty burrito” strategy. Essentially, you’ll have to wrap your cat in a towel, administer medication to relax and calm it down, and put it into a crate in a safe and comfy position.

Never Force Your Cat Into a Towel

In order for this technique to work, your cat has to be able to trust you. It’s impossible to gain its trust and prevent it from panicking if you rush and force it into the towel. 

And trust me, you should never attempt to wrap the cat into a “burrito” aggressively. Simply place it on a towel and leave its favorite snack there. That way, the cat will remain calm and lie flat on the towel’s surface. While it’s eating, keep stroking your kitty as you loosely wrap it in a towel. 

Prepare the Crate Properly

Mastering the “kitty burrito” technique is not enough. It’s important that your cat isn’t afraid of the crate. My advice is to bring out the crate a couple of days before you plan to trim the cat’s nails and place it in its favorite spot. 

Don’t hesitate to put the cat’s favorite toys and blankets inside. You might even want to consider using a feline pheromone spray. 

Once you have your cat all wrapped in a towel, position the crate with the open doors facing the ceiling, and place your cat gently inside, rear-end first.

If you decide to use medication, you can mix it with the cat’s food or treats before giving them to your feline friend.


2. The 2-Person Method


As the name suggests, the 2-person method involves two people; one who will restrain the cat and another who will clip its nails. However, in order for this method to work, you really need to trust the other person involved. What’s more, your cat’s personality should be trusting and mild enough so that it doesn’t panic and try to get away during the process.

Essentially, one person should grip the cat by the back of its neck and place it on a flat surface, such as a table or a countertop. Once the cat is secured, the other person should proceed with the trimming. I suggest you ask someone who already has enough experience with felines to help you. 


How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails

3. No Restraint


The ideal situation for many cat owners is to care for a well-behaved and docile feline that won’t panic or try to get away at all when you’re clipping its nails. If you’re this lucky cat owner, chances are your cat will feel the most comfortable on your lap. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about how to restrain a cat to clip its nails at all.

Placing a towel or blanket that your cat likes on your lap first could help. With the cat comfortably sitting on your lap, place your forearm over its neck and hindquarters. Then, use your dominant hand to hold the clippers, and your other hand to gently pick up your cat’s foot.


Trimming the Cat’s Nails


Now that we’ve covered how to restrain a cat to clip its nails, we should go over the actual clipping process as well. Keep in mind that cats have four nails on their front and back feet, with additional dewclaws on the front feet. These claws are retractable. In that respect, you’ll need to apply pressure on the cat’s toe to expose the claw. Do this gently with your thumb and forefinger.

Once you start trimming, you should only focus on the pointy and sharp claw ends. Never trim too close to the pink part of the nail, as this can cause bleeding and make your cat jumpy and restless. Even worse, it could seriously hurt your pet.

The front feet are the biggest reason for concern among indoor cat owners. That said, you should clip and trim the nails on the front feet first, together with the dewclaws. The cat’s back feet nails don’t tend to do much damage, which means you can trim those less frequently.

I have to remind you not to lose your focus during the clipping process. If you cut the nail too close to the pink area, it will start bleeding, and your cat will get angry. Applying clotting agents and medication would require even more restraining, which can turn any future nail clipping into quite a challenge. 

If you happen to cut too close and cause the nail to bleed, it would be best to leave the cat alone until it calms down. The bleeding will stop on its own soon enough. Ideally, you should avoid this mishap as much as possible. 


Perfect Nail Trimmers for Your Cat (Our pick below)



When contemplating how to restrain a cat to clip its nails, you can’t ignore the importance of the clipping tool. You can choose a clipper specifically made for pets, or opt for human nail clippers. In my experience, clippers for humans can be rather practical for clipping the cat’s nails, too, because they allow for better visibility during the process.


1. Scissor-Type Trimmers


Scissor-type trimmers are ideal for smaller pets. If your cat is still very young and on the smaller side, you might find these trimmers rather effective. However, it’s crucial that you opt for top-quality scissor-type trimmers to avoid dull blades.


2. Nail Clippers for Dogs and Cats


If you want to clip your cat’s nails like a professional, you might want to invest in nail clippers that are specifically made for dogs and cats. Chances are your veterinarian uses these too, so you can ask them for a recommendation. The only potential issue is the size. Make sure that the clippers are not too big for your cat’s nails.


How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Its Nails

3. Guillotine-Style Clippers


These clippers cut the nails exceptionally well. They’re often used by professional groomers and veterinarians. However, you have to be very skilled in order to use them smoothly. It will take some time to position the clippers properly, which could cost you a valuable opportunity to make the cut if your cat is restless.


4. Human Nail Clippers


Most cat owners, myself included, find human nail clippers to be the most effective for clipping their cat’s nails. They are small and affordable, not to mention very easy to hold. Still, when using human nail clippers to cut your cat’s nails, remember to position them sideways for a better grip and a flawless cut. 


5. Dremel Rotary Tool


A Dremel might seem like a lifesaver when it comes to clipping and trimming your cat’s nails, but only if your cat is really calm and trusting. Otherwise, the sanding vibration and noise might cause your pet to panic even more.


Final Thoughts


You may know how to restrain a cat to clip its nails in theory, but I advise you to be very realistic about actually doing so. If your kitty tends to be rather moody, jumpy, and even aggressive, there’s no need to force the towel method or have someone else hold your pet down. The best solution, in this case, is to go to the vet or the groomer. 

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Michael Grover

About Me I have been a pet owner for most of my life. I am now retired and spend my days writing about problems relating to cats, dogs, and funeral poems. I am passionate to stop animal cruelty in any shape or form. My passion is to help people like you identify behavior problems in cats and dogs. That is what I do. Over the years of my life, I have always kept cats and dogs. About 4 years ago I retired and found I had a lot of time on hands so I started to write all about dog and cat problems. It was suggested to me that I should start up a website and publish my words to help people with their pet problems. I am still writing every day and hope you find my articles useful. Regards Mike Grover

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