How to Restrain a Cat to Clip Nails: 3 Proper Methods

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

how to restrain a cat to clip nails

For some cat owners, you may find it a stressful task to clip the nails of your pet without them hissing and attempting to scratch you. But this should not always be the case. From using the towel and two-person methods to bringing your pet to the groomer or veterinarian, here are tips on how to restrain a cat to clip nails.

3 Methods to Restrain a Cat to Clip Nails

Method 1: Towel Method

Sometimes referred to as “cat burrito,” this method requires you to wrap a cat in a towel to cut nails. This is an easy way to control them without being aggressive and hurting them.

Step 1: Situate your cat in a comfortable environment


Make sure that the immediate surroundings are quiet and pleasant for your pet. Placing them in a relaxed state is crucial so they will not panic and end up scratching you once you start clipping nails.

Step 2: Prepare the towel

Lay a towel on a table or a couch before placing your cat on it. Make sure the pet is in the middle of the towel. You can also do the opposite: position your cat first before placing a towel on top of it.

Step 3: Gently but firmly wrap your cat in the towel


Wrap the towel around your feline friend. Tuck it under to make a snug fit, leaving the head exposed, effectively executing how to burrito a cat.

Now when you do find it tough to swaddle a cat, especially when it keeps getting up or walking away, you can try bribing it. Leave treats on the towel or hold out a toy in front of it. The momentary distraction allows you to wrap the towel and hold a cat to trim nails.

Step 4: Hold your cat close to you

Gently hold your pet close to your body. Make sure you are facing the same direction to avoid getting bitten or scratched.

Step 5: Work with one leg at a time


Work with one leg first before moving on to the next. Cats can retract their claws, so you have to expose them by squeezing the toe. Be careful to avoid hurting your pet.

Method 2: Two-Person Method


As the name suggests, this method requires one person to hold the cat and make it feel comfortable as the other person trims the animal’s nails.

Step 1: Distract the cat with treats and pets

The person restraining the cat should apply firm pressure on its body. They should still be gentle to avoid cat bites when trimming nails. The person can distract the feline by petting it, scratching its ears, or giving treats.

Step 2: Gently block your cat’s escape attempts

Once the cat is all snuggled up, you can start trimming the nails. Again, the pet may back out of the position or, worse, start getting angry.

When this happens, the assistant should apply mild pressure on the body and block it from attempting to escape.

Step 3: Never be aggressive towards your cat

Both persons should avoid being forceful. This is an effective cat nail trim hack as animals dislike being harshly restrained.

Wait for your cat to get into a relaxed state first. When you are both calm and gentle with them, you can trim angry cat claws without anyone getting wounded.

Method 3: Cat Grooming or Vet Visit


There are cases when, even after applying all these methods, you still find it tough to do an appropriate cat restraint for nail clipping. This is entirely natural and should not be a source of panic and stress.

The two alternatives to clipping cats’ nails are bringing your pet to a groomer or visiting the veterinarian.

Handing over a hostile cat to the experts is your best bet as they are knowledgeable and experienced. Trimming cat claws for an aggressive cat will still be a challenge, but at least you are no longer stressed about doing it yourself.

At the grooming salon or veterinarian, their medical training comes in handy in case of emergencies.

These include accidentally cutting the quick where the blood vessels and nerves are. The vet and their trained staff can put a stop to the bleeding and lessen or eliminate the pain your pet feels.

Frequently Asked Questions


Trimming your cat’s nails involves extra care, given most cats are not fond of this activity.

To avoid committing mistakes and causing anxiety to your pet, take a look at these answers to typical questions that you will find useful.

What are the nail trimmers you should use?

The styles of nail trimmers come in scissors type, guillotine type, and the standard one for human fingernails.

The last two are commonly the easiest to use. The scissors type can be used if the nail has grown too long.

How much of the nail should be cut?

You will notice most cats have light-colored claws. This makes it easier to see the “quick” or the pink stripe containing the blood vessels.

You should trim away from the quick. If you accidentally cut into the quick, the cat will bleed.

How do you position the trimmer?

Take note to start cutting perpendicular to the nail. Otherwise, the nail may crush and cause splinters if you cut from the side. The latter will make it uncomfortable for the cat.

After trimming, you may use a nail file to smoothen the edge. This is to avoid catching on any rough surface (e.g. loose thread of a rug) and causing an accident to the cat.

When is the best time to cut nails?

You should cut every 1.5 to 2 weeks. Keep in mind certain situations don’t make it ideal for trimming your cat’s nails. This includes when your pet is not feeling well or while feeding and when they are in loud surroundings that can irritate them.

When there are too many visitors, the cat may feel unsafe and tend to hide away from people, including you.

How else can you pacify a hostile cat?

If you are having trouble creating an ideal environment for your cat, you can practice first by playing with your pet’s paws often.

In this way, you are allowing them to get used to you holding them. They will view it as something safe and positive so that they wouldn’t back out from you when the time to trim finally comes.

You may also use various cat calming products such as collars with pheromones similar to a mother cat’s, diffusers with synthetic feline facial pheromones, and anti-anxiety diets (cat chews and dry cat food).

For the latter, these often contain components associated with sleepiness or a soothing sensation. This is most effective when trying to comfort a hyperactive or aggressive cat.


Similar to people’s nails, a cat’s nails are sensitive as they cover nerve bundles and blood vessels inside them. So, doing the proper cat nail clipping restraint methods allows you to make it a relaxed and painless experience for your pet. At the same time, you can trim a cat’s nails that won’t let you get nicked by sharp teeth and claws.

Always keep in mind how to restrain a cat to clip nails, and you won’t have to dread this important grooming task anymore.

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