Dear Critter Corner: I’ve been trying to trim my cat’s nails for the past week and he’s been hissing and growling when I come near. How can I help him get better with grooming?
It’s best to take a slow and steady approach when helping your cat become more comfortable with being groomed. Grooming may include brushing their coat, trimming their nails, brushing their teeth, and helping to keep them clean if needed. Cats are usually very fastidious with their self-cleaning habits, using their tongue to groom themselves. Though sometimes it can be helpful if we step in when necessary.
Before beginning the grooming, you’ll want to try desensitizing your cat to the process of grooming as well as to the grooming tools. Do reward your cat with yummy treats and food to help create a positive association between the grooming and the rewards. Start first when your cat is calmly resting, and gently touch and massage your cat’s paws and nails. This will help your cat associate a pleasant massage with their paws and nails being touched. The more this is done along with treats as rewards, the more likely your cat will not only tolerate the process, but may also enjoy it. This will also help increase your cat’s interest in the grooming session and desensitize them to the process and tools. It can be helpful to let your cat sniff the brush, nail clipper, cleaning wipes etc first before actually using them.
Then continue with slowly touching your cat with the different items, so they can become used to how the tool’s material feels (such as the plastic, bristles, metal, etc). As your cat becomes more comfortable with the tool’s material, feel free to open and close the nail clippers to allow your cat to hear the sound, continuing to pair this with treats as rewards. If this goes well, then try to trim just the tip of the nail. In this first session, you may be able to trim one or two nails and then you should stop so as not to overwhelm your cat. Set aside time for another session in a few days as your cat becomes more and more comfortable with the grooming. Also, if helpful, invest in a few cat scratchers that your cat can use in between grooming sessions.