Nail clipping is something that should be done once every week or two. It is desirable from both the standpoint of furniture scratching, and from accidental scratches on you. Scissors designed for clipping claws do work the best - a human nail clipper can cause the nail to splinter and break, rather than a nice even cut. You can find nail clippers at all pet stores, and through the mail-order catalogs.
At first, it will be easier to wait until your cat or kitten is sleepy or napping. Take the toe in your hand, and gently put just enough pressure on the toe to expose the nail. Just take off the very end of the nail. You don't want to cut up into the quick, because it will not only hurt the cat, but leave a wound where infections could be introduced. Remember, cats cover their waste in the litter box, and you don't want any open wounds on their feet! Frequent claw clipping will cause the quick to recede naturally, which makes the whole process easier. Not to mention that the cat knows the procedure is just part of the routine, and will accept the process with little objection.
We do not recommend declawing or tendonectomy surgery, and feel that these should only be considered as an absolute last resort solution. The following statement is from the CFA Health Committee, made after extensive review of scientific articles, studies, and veterinary experience.
"The Cat Fancier's Association recognizes that scratching is a natural behavior of cats and that cats may be defenseless without full use of their claws if, either intentionally or unintentionally, they go outdoors. Scratching damage to household furnishings can be minimized or avoided by routine clipping of the claws, the use of claw covers, and by redirecting the cat's activity to acceptable surfaces. CFA perceives the declawing of cats and the severing of digital tendons (tendonectomy) to be elective surgical procedures which are without benefit to the cat."
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