Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Can I Use Human Nail Clippers on My Cat? Tips & FAQ

Can I Use Human Nail Clippers on My Cat? Tips & FAQ

cat's nails getting trimmed with human nail cutter

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

It’s time to trim your cat’s nails, but you don’t have cat nail clippers. Will human nail clippers suffice? You bet. However, they aren’t always the best option.

Truthfully, it helps to have clippers that conform to the tubular shape of a cat nail. But the shape of the clippers doesn’t matter as much as other steps in the process. If you’re up for the challenge, keep reading to learn more about becoming a nail-trimming master.


The Best Way to Trim a Cat’s Nails

You’ll have an easier time with nail clippers designed to fit the shape of your cat’s nails, but sometimes, we have to make do with what we have, and that’s okay. Whether using human nail clippers or cat nail clippers, trimming your cat’s nails is the same.

1. Position Your Cat

Lay your cat on its belly as if it were loafing, or it can be done with your cat sitting. If your cat is a scrapper, try the burrito method. This involves wrapping your cat in a blanket so your cat can’t scratch you. Just make sure at least one leg is left out so you can reach the claws.

Whatever position you choose, ensure your cat can breathe and is relatively calm.

black and white cat sitting on the lap of its owner
Image By: Chamomile_Olya, Shutterstock

2. Gently Squeeze the Paw

Gently squeeze your cat’s toes so the nails extend.  If your cat is lying on its stomach, move the elbow forward to extend the leg for easier reach.

3. Check the Quick & Clip

The quick is the fleshy pink part of a cat’s nails visible toward the bottom of the nail. This is like the flesh underneath your fingernails—you don’t want to trim this part. Stick to the nail tips and work your way down the nail. The quick contains the blood supply and nerves. It will bleed and be painful if you cut the quickly.

Keeping your cat's nails trimmed is important, but it's no one's favorite task. You can make it easier with great clippers designed specifically for cats. We like Hepper's Cat Nail Clipper Set, a convenient combination of medium and small clippers that comes in a handy pouch. These sharp stainless steel clippers allow for precision trimming, with the added protection of built-in safety guards. Plus, there's a hidden nail file!

Hepper Cat Nail Clipper Kit - Small and Large...
  • Complete Set - These cat nail clippers include both a large and small pair, meaning it works well as...
  • Razor Sharp Stainless Steel - The most comfortable cat nail clippers for indoor cats provide a fast...
  • Safety First - With a safety nail guard and locking spring, you can make sure every grooming cut is...

At Pet Keen, we've admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

What if I Clip the Quick?

One of the biggest concerns about nail trims (next to being scratched) is trimming them quickly. It’s understandable. Who wants to cause their cat pain?

It’s true that trimming the quick hurts a little. However, if you accidentally snip the quick, don’t worry. Your cat will bleed a little and probably be upset with you, but your cat will live. Apply some pressure with a cotton pad or apply some styptic powder to stop the bleeding. With that said, this is why it is always better to trim their nails a little at a time.

How Often Should I Trim My Cat’s Nails?

Indoor cats need regular nail trims since they don’t sink their claws into rough tree bark and prey regularly. Cat trees and scratchers help, but they don’t always provide enough traction or friction to keep the nails down. It’s best to check your cat’s nails about once a week or every other week.

In contrast, outdoor cats need their nails for protection and traction. Their natural behaviors should be enough to keep their nails trimmed. Depending on how often your cat goes outside, you may never need to trim your cat’s nails.

Older cats often stop shedding the outer part of the nail and they are more prone to ingrown toenails as a result.

woman trimming the nails of sphynx cat
Image By: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

Is Nail Trimming Necessary for My Cat?

Nail trimming prevents damage to furniture and playtime injuries. Unless your cat is an outdoor cat, it is wise to trim a few nails every now and then. It is important to monitor nail length to ensure that they are not curling round or growing into the toe pads. It also lets you monitor for any signs of nail problems such as inflammation around the nail bed.

However, nail trims can become a wrestling match with your cat, so it’s understandable why many cat owners don’t even bother. If this is you, schedule an appointment with your cat’s vet or groomer for nail trims. They don’t cost much, and the staff can teach you how to properly handle your cat.

Nail caps are another option if you’re trying to protect expensive furniture. These are soft caps glued onto your cat’s nails to prevent damage. They’re easy to apply (usually) and are fairly inexpensive. Plus, they come in several colors. It’s like a kitty manicure!


Additional Tips for Nail Trimming Bliss

  • Don’t Push Your Cat Into a Meltdown: Know when to stop. If you didn’t get anywhere, that’s okay. You can try again another time.
  • Pheromones: Try using a cat pheromone spray such as Feliway 30 minutes before attempting trimming to help them feel more calm.
  • Offer High-Value Treats: Regular kibble? Try again. Give your cat something of high value that it doesn’t normally eat.
  • Bring to a Boil, Then Simmer: No, we don’t mean cook your cat. We mean to play with your cat. Wear your cat out during a nice play session, then let your cat chill for a few minutes. This will (hopefully) tire your cat so it doesn’t lash out at you.
  • Avoid Trimming During Naps: Trimming nails during cat naps can be a huge privacy violation for your kitty. Some cats are okay with this, but most want to be left alone. Proceed with caution.



Nail trims feel like a punishment for everyone involved sometimes. It’s especially stressful when we don’t have the right tools and keep putting off the task. The good news is that it’s a forgiving task, even if your cat isn’t as merciful. You can certainly use human clippers, although it is best to use ones designed specifically for cats.

Featured Image Credit: ashshkna, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets