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Home > Cats > What Happens If You Don’t Trim Your Cat’s Nails? Risks & Grooming Tips

What Happens If You Don’t Trim Your Cat’s Nails? Risks & Grooming Tips

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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As cat owners, we know that regular grooming is vital to help keep our kitties healthy and looking their best. While many cats learn to tolerate and even enjoy brushing, they may be less willing to accept other parts of the grooming process, such as nail trimming. So, what happens if you don’t trim your cat’s nails?

Well, the answer depends on how well your cat manages to keep their nails short on their own. Overgrown cat nails can cause numerous problems for both you and your kitty. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the risks of letting your cat’s nails get too long and offer tips to make the nail-trimming process go more smoothly.


How A Cat’s Nails Get Too Long

Like human and dog nails, cat claws grow constantly. Unlike dogs and humans, however, cats also spend a lot of time scratching with those nails. Cats scratch to mark their territory and to keep their claws sharp and healthy.

Depending on what your cat uses as a scratching surface, they may do a decent job keeping their nails relatively short. If that’s the case, it may not be a problem if you don’t trim your cat’s nails for them. However, you should check the length of your cat’s nails frequently to avoid any complications discussed in the next section.

trimming nails of cat
Image By: Yimmyphotography, Shutterstock


What Happens if Your Cat’s Nails Get Too Long?

If your cat’s nails get too long, they risk getting snagged and potentially torn on the carpet or other fabrics. Long, sharp cat nails are more likely to injure a human or another animal should your cat lose their temper or play too rough. Cat scratches can become infected or cause disease, especially in kids, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems.

In extreme cases, your cat’s nails can grow so long that they impact its ability to walk normally. Overgrown nails can also curve around and cut into your cat’s paw pads, causing pain and potentially leading to an infection.

Older or overweight cats with decreased activity levels are less likely to keep their nails short on their own. Keep an especially close eye on your cat’s nails if they fall into either of these categories.

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Tips for Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

The younger you can get your cat used to having its nails trimmed, the easier the task will be for you. Prepare your kitten early by familiarizing it with having its paws touched and handled. Before using the nail trimmers, take a few moments to introduce your pet to the device and allow them to inspect it.

For older cats, you may also need to take some time getting your cat used to having their feet handled. Offer treats or other rewards to help your cat form positive associations around having their paws touched. Once your cat allows you to handle their paws, get them used to the feeling of you pressing gently to expose their claws for trimming.

When it’s time to trim, get your cat settled comfortably in your lap or with another trusted person who’s helping you. Work slowly and calmly, feeding treats and praising your cat as you trim. Depending on your cat’s tolerance level, you may only get a few nails trimmed per session.

Don’t rush your cat or punish them for misbehaving during a nail trim. This treatment will only make your job harder the next time. If you’re struggling to trim your cat’s nails safely, your vet or groomer can do the job for you.

close up trimming cat nails
Photo By: GaiBru-Photo, Shutterstock



Overgrown cat nails can be uncomfortable for both you and your cat, as well as potentially dangerous. While many cats keep their nails at an acceptable length by scratching objects, you should still monitor their growth. Teaching your cat to accept nail trims can take patience, depending on their age and general temperament.

Ask your vet or groomer for a lesson if you do not feel comfortable trimming your cat’s nails using the tips in this article. And again, as we mentioned, there’s no shame in letting professionals handle the job!

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Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

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