Science can make nail trimming less stressful

Scientists may have come up with a risk-free way to trim a cat’s nails, both at home and at the shelter.

Trimming cats’ nails is important not only for their comfort and health, but also for the protection of the furniture in the house.

However, cats don’t tend to take too kindly to the practice. Depending on the cat’s temperament, they often tend to hiss or fight when it’s time to trim their nails.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis wanted to find a way to improve the experience of cats and their owners. Especially for cats that are in a shelter, trimming their toenails can often increase anxiety.

Stock photo shows an angry cat. Trimming cats’ nails can upset them, but scientists have found a way to do it.
castenoid / Getty

Ph.D. student Jennifer Link, who is a researcher at the UC Davis Animal Welfare Epi Lab, is developing a protocol for cat owners on how to trim their pets’ nails.

“We have not tested this protocol for use in the home by cat owners, but we believe it can be implemented in the home. However, we will need to test this experimentally to see the effectiveness,” Link said Newsweek.

Link came up with a protocol that involved touching the cat’s legs first, then the paws. Next, she advises to squeeze the paws lightly. The owner should then see if the cat resists. If they don’t, the owner must cut off one toenail. Link tested this protocol by testing all steps on several cats. If a cat rejects a step, manipulation is stopped.

“One of the advantages of implementing this protocol in the cat’s home is that there is no time limit. With the cats at the shelter, I had to use a relatively short procedure that I could go through in just a few days, since the cats were up for adoption and weren’t available for very long. Also, compared to shelter cats, rehomed cats are less stressed and have built a bond and trust with their owner,” Link said. “We anticipate that this will make it easier to implement in the home.” However, most cat owners are not trained in behavior modification techniques, reading the cat’s behavior, or how to handle their cat in a low-stress way, so these components will need to be added.”

Link began this research in mid-July and visited a shelter in Sacramento every weekday for two hours. By the end of September, she had tested her protocol on more than 70 cats.

“Claw trimming is often a challenge for cat groomers because cats tend to be sensitive and reactive to having their paws touched, and many owners may not know how to handle their cat in a safe and stress-free way during trimming on the claws,” said Link. “This can lead to the use of heavy restraint which can cause negative experiences for cats and their owners, lead to injury or cause the owner to neglect nail trimming altogether, which is a health and welfare issue.”

Link said owners could alternatively take their cat to their vet instead of doing it themselves, but this “can cause increased stress associated with carrying cats in carriers, traveling to the clinic and being exposed to a clinical environment”.

“The goal of this study is to pace the cat and use a stepwise, gradual exposure to various components of nail trimming, working toward successful nail trimming and avoiding the stress associated with excessive handling and the potential for injury,” Link said. .

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