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Can You Use Human Nail Clippers on Cats? (Vet-Reviewed Recommendations & FAQ)

Beth Crane

By Beth Crane

Cat in a veterinary clinic hairdresser cutting nails

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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When you need to clip your cat’s claws, it’s best to be well prepared. Having all the tools you need is important, particularly the right clippers. Cat claws are shaped differently from human nails, so you might wonder whether cutting your cat’s claws with human nail clippers is okay. While some sources say you can use them in a pinch, we do not recommend using human nail clippers on your cat’s claws. Human nail clippers aren’t effective and can end up hurting your cat.

hepper cat paw divider

What Clippers Are Best to Use on Cats?

The best way to clip your cat’s claws is by using clippers specially made for them. There are several types of nail clippers on the market made for cats, and most of them consider the claw’s particular shape and composition in their designs.

Guillotine clippers or cat nail scissors are the best clippers to use on your cat’s nails. They have built-in safety features to help make claw clipping as easy as possible without harming your cat. For example, guillotines that are small enough for cat claws often have a guard to stop owners from accidentally catching the pads or toes. Cat nail shears are also safe, as they are small and light, with a curved edge on the blade and blunt ends for optimum safety and comfort.

Trimming your cat's nails isn't the easiest task in the world, but a well-designed set of clippers can make all the difference. Our Hepper Cat Nail Clipper Set features two sizes of clippers with easy-to-clean stainless steel blades and a built-in safety guard to prevent accidental cuts. These clippers are comfortable to hold, nicely designed to work at tricky angles, and even include a bonus hidden nail file and a convenient pouch!


Three different size nail clippers
Image Credit: Jumpstory

Why Are Human Nail Clippers Not Recommended for Cats?

Ultimately, it’s up to you what you use to clip your cat’s nails with, but human nail clippers should be avoided if possible since they’re not designed to address your cat’s anatomy or safety. Because cat claws are rounded, tapered, and thicker than human nails, they can get crushed by nail clippers rather than cleanly cut.

This can cause discomfort and pain and result in an uneven cut, which can affect the claw’s ability to grow and cause future problems. In addition, clipping claws with human clippers is hard to do, and the lack of control they offer (paired with a grumpy cat) can mean the quick (or worse, the skin) is accidentally caught.

Why Do Cats Need Their Claws Clipped?

Some cats, such as older cats, indoor cats, or those with additional needs, have trouble filing down their nails. However, most of the time, a cat will keep their nails in check by scratching on trees or the ground and nibbling off the sheaths surrounding the claw.

Cats who cannot effectively groom themselves might have nail problems, such as elderly cats with arthritis or obese cats. Cats with conditions that cause claws to grow at odd angles, such as polydactyl cats (cats with extra toes), can also need assistance keeping their claws in shape. If the nails are left to grow, and your cat can’t keep them in shape, they’re at risk of overgrowing. This can cause a whole host of issues.

Overgrown Claws

A cat’s claws can become overgrown if they’re not maintained. Overgrowth occurs as the nails grow out of the nail bed and around the end of the digit, which can grow back on themselves. Because nails are sharply pointed, some severe cases of overgrowth can lead to nails growing back around into the paws.

This causes severe pain and even infection. Overgrowth also jeopardizes the cat’s ability to perform natural behaviors such as scratching, as the tips can no longer hit the surface. In addition, overgrown claws can affect walking and cause the quick to grow longer, making future claw clips more difficult.

cats nails getting trimmed
Image Credit: Yimmyphotography-Shutterstock

Do Cats Clip Their Own Claws?

Cats don’t clip their nails as we do, but they keep them in shape. Cats with no health problems can usually shape their claws themselves, either by filing them down when scratching or by biting off loose claw sheaths.

As a result, you might find “claws” lying around on the floor of your home that look hollow, which might concern you. However, these aren’t claws but the sheaths of claws, meaning the outermost layer. Seeing these around the house occasionally is a good sign that your cat is managing its claws since cats will remove the outer layer to keep the nails healthy.

Does Clipping a Cat’s Claws Cause Pain?

Clipping a cat’s claws shouldn’t cause them any pain, provided you use the correct tools and do it properly. This is because the claws are made of the same material as human nails (keratin) and don’t have any nerve endings at the tips. Only the sensitive, blood-rich quick of the claw contains nerve endings, which is why it should be avoided at all times.

If the quick is accidentally clipped, it can cause a surprising amount of pain and will bleed. The quick provides the nails with nutrients, contains blood vessels and nerve endings, and is usually seen as a pink area at the base of your cat’s claw. When clipping nails, you should only take off the tip of your cat’s claw, avoiding the quick completely.

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Final Thoughts

Cat claws should only be clipped with scissors or guillotine clippers specifically made for cats. Human nail clippers are not made with a cat’s anatomy in mind, as cat claws are shaped very differently from human nails. Clipping a cat’s claws with human clippers may cause discomfort or damage to the claws, and they don’t come with any safety features such as guards.

Clipping cat claws is usually only needed if your cat is an indoor pet, older, or has mobility problems. Ultimately, getting the right equipment, keeping the clipping process stress-free, and taking your time are the best ways to keep your cat’s claws at a healthy length.

Featured Image Credit: Jumpstory

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