As a toddler, I would make a fuss whenever my mother cut my nails. I hated the pressure, the sound, and how exposed my fingertips felt afterward.

Now that I find myself on the other end of the clippers, I understand why many furry family members squirm, scream, and fight the process just as I did as a child. It doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience, though. With some training and patience, we can take the stress out of nail trims.

Start by touching and massaging your cat or dog’s feet daily until they no longer pull away. Also, take the nail trimmer out of its drawer. Hold it during treat time and leave it in plain sight around the house, until it is no longer a trigger to your pet.

When you cut the nails, clip each one on an angle that aligns with the nail’s natural curve, so that it comes to a point in the front. Your clippers should be sharp and properly sized. To ensure you avoid the quick (the sensitive core of the nail which will bleed if cut too short), have someone hold your pet still. Only cut a little off at a time, stopping if you see the consistency of the nail change.

Don’t forget to use a special, high-value reward while you’re training! Putting a favourite sticky snack, such as canned food or processed cheese spread, on a mat on the floor will also keep your pet distracted while you clip.

Sometimes, though, despite our best efforts, our pets will still resist. If they growl or hiss, don’t punish them. These warning signs are how they communicate that they’re feeling defensive, and help to keep everyone safe. Just do as many nails as they’ll allow and try again later. To help them relax, consider using pheromone sprays or pressure therapy. Cats especially do well when swaddled like a baby, untucking one paw at a time. For extra anxious friends, you may wish to talk to your vet about options for light sedation.

With practice and the right techniques, we can break the cycle of stress. My childhood self would baulk that I now actually long for the luxury of a manicure, but just like us, our furry friends can overcome their fears…and even learn to enjoy their nail trims.

Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at  Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.