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Trimming your cat's nails may keep your couch from becoming a scratching post, but it also has benefits for your cat.
“Nail trims are great for cats if they are getting their nails caught in blankets, or on the carpet, or if they are scratching people accidentally,” Dr. Chyrle Bonk DVM, a mixed animal veterinarian at a clinic in Orofino, Idaho, told The Spruce Pets. "Nail trims may also be necessary for older cats that may not be sharpening their nails regularly. If nails get too long, they can grow into the foot pads which can be very painful and cause an infection.”
But trimming a cat’s nails can take a little practice, as it's possible to hurt your cat if nail trimming isn't handled properly. We researched cat nail clippers, testing for products that are easy-to-use, ergonomic, and one-handed, which allows you to hold your cat as they adjust to the nail clipping process. Sharpness was another priority, since cat nails are hollow and often brittle, making them prone to crush instead of cut.
Below are the best cat nail clippers.
Best Overall: Shiny Pet Pet Nail Clippers for Small Animals
Semi-circular angled blades
Affordable and efficient
No safety guard
We like the sturdy, stainless steel and user-friendly curve of the Shiny Pet Nail Clippers for Small Animals. The angled blade of this scissor-style clipper makes it easier to see and manipulate each nail for a clean, quick cut. They’re appropriate for cats and kittens of all ages as well as a range of small animals. Plus, they have a rounded clipper head, so you don't risk poking yourself or your cat.
The rubberized coating on the handles enables a secure grip for a fast, efficient, and safe trim. They’re also lightweight and compact—3.7 inches long and 2.6 inches wide—for easy use and storage. But it's small touches, like the 20-degree angled blades or QR nail clipping guide printed on the packaging, that made the Shiny Pet clippers our favorites. In our tests, they were simply the easiest to use. This means you can cut your cat's nails more quickly, so they can get back to scratching something.
All Shiny Pet grooming tools are backed by a lifetime money-back guarantee.
Best Budget: Four Paws Magic Coat Professional Series Cat Nail Clipper
Suitable for cats of all ages
Also appropriate for small dogs
Made in China
While there are a lot of cheap cat nail clippers out there, too many exercise poor quality control and cut corners, making them unpleasant to use. Four Paws Magic Coat Professional Series Cat Claw Clippers are a major exception, offering budget clippers that professional groomers wouldn't be embarrassed to deploy.
The Four Paws scissor-style clippers have a stainless steel surgical cutting edge, ensuring long-lasting sharpness. The molded handle and simple design helps you work quickly to lessen your cat's discomfort. Plus, the clippers feature rounded safety tips to prevent accidental poking.
Best Guillotine: Resco Original Dog, Cat, and Pet Nail/Claw Clippers
Made in the USA
Resco has been making nail clippers since 1937
If not used properly, they can crush the nail instead of cutting it cleanly
Most of us would prefer that the word “guillotine” wasn’t associated with our cat’s delicate claws, but it's an apt description for this effective cutting design, which works a little like a cigar cutter. If kept properly sharpened, the guillotine mechanism makes quick, clean cuts. Plus, there's only one blade that ever needs replacing or sharpening.
We like the Resco Deluxe Cat Nail Trimmer for a number of reasons. Very few cat nail trimmers are made in the United States, but Resco has been making American-made, quality tools since 1937. Unlike most other cat nail clippers, Resco’s clipper contains no plastic parts, plus the blade is replaceable. Each pair comes with a limited lifetime warranty and the deluxe version includes comfortable, non-slip handle grips.
Best with Light: JANEHOME Nail Clippers and Trimmers with LED Light
Built in nail file for smoothing rough edges
Easy on/off light switch
Available under different names from different distributors
Plate covering the battery port can get a little loose
Requires specialized batteries
Nail clippers with a built-in light can help you discern the pink interior of the nail, known as the quick, so you can avoid cutting too much and potentially hurting your pet. The JANEHOME nail clippers have several useful features, including a nail file that can be stored in the handle, but the main attraction is its simple to use LED light.
Activated with a switch in the handle, the bright LED lights up the semi-translucent portion of your cat's claw, so you can more easily discern where the quick begins, protecting you from cutting too deeply. While the light is convenient, replacing the batteries is a little more of a chore, requiring three LR44 button batteries. Still, with more than a year of expected battery life, it's not much of a trade off.
Made in China, this particular nail clipper form can be found sold under several different brand names, but in our experience the JANEHOME version is the most reliably available. Also, while advertised for both dogs and cats, the clippers are on the smaller side and might not be effective for larger dog nails—but they're perfect for cat claws.
Best for Kittens: Pet Republique Cat Nail Clipper
Designed for small animals
90-day money back guarantee and four year warranty
Made in China
Kitten toes may be tiny, but those little nails are sharp and kittens love to scratch. Plus, since they don't have an adult cat's coordination, it's common for kittens to snag their claws on everything. Trimming their nails regularly can help your furniture survive their adolescence.
Pet Republique Cat Nail Clippers are small and scissor-style, with textured handles that have large enough grips to fit a thumb and two fingers—more than enough leverage and control for handling kitty claws. The stainless, half-moon blades make for quick work, so kitty can get back to playing. Plus, Pet Republique donates 15% of profits to American Animal Rescue Society, so each purchase helps save the life of a dog or cat.
Best Safety Guard: Gonicc Pets Nail Clippers and Trimmers with Safety Guard
Child safety lock
Not widely available in pet stores
Too large for kittens
If you’ve ever cut too much of the nail, then you know the value of a safety guard. Cutting into the quick will cause pain and bleeding, and may also cause your pet to hide when they see the clippers come out next time.
Gonicc Pet Nail Clippers have a built-in safety guard to protect your cat from distress. The guard works by blocking one side of the clippers, so your cat's nails can only project a short distance into the space between cutting blades. However, since the Gonicc clippers are designed for both cats and small dogs, it's still important to watch closely to prevent nicking the quick of the nail, since it's possible that smaller cat nails may project too far into the clippers, even with the safety guard.
These clippers have several other useful features as well, including stainless steel blades, a safety lock, an included nail file, and a spring to ensure enough leverage is applied to cut cleanly.
Shiny Pet Nail Clippers for Small Animals are our top choice because they’re simple, effective and have been extensively tested by The Spruce Pets. If you’re trying to reduce the plastic in your life and place a premium on long-term durability, consider the Resco Deluxe Cat Nail Trimmer. Their stainless steel cat nail clippers are made in the United States and designed with a replaceable blade.
What to Look For in Cat Nail Clippers
Style & Materials
“Only trim your cat’s nails if you feel comfortable and have been shown how by a veterinarian or a professional groomer. Trimming your cat’s nails too short can be painful and make them unwilling to let you do it again," Dr. Bonk said. "One of the main things to look for in nail clippers for cats is how easy they are to use.”
There are a few styles of cat nail clippers to choose from. You’ll find some that look and work like simple scissors, with or without springs to help them reopen after each cut. These are generally made of stainless steel and many have rubber or foam coatings on the handles to make the grip more comfortable and less prone to slipping.
Others use a plier design, where your hand squeezes two handles from the outside inward, also with or without spring action. Many of these have stainless steel blades and either metal, plastic, or rubber coated metal handles. Some of the plastic handles have a space for a nail file. Some brands might include a light that shines on the cutting surface, usually with batteries stored in a plastic handle compartment. Some also include a safety guard made of clear plastic or metal that rests behind the cutting surface. This guard prevents pet parents from cutting too much of a nail in a single cut. Some like the added safety of a guard while others, including some professionals, find a safety guard cumbersome.
There are also guillotine style clippers. These use a single cutting surface that is drawn across another stationary surface. That is usually done with or without spring action by squeezing a movable handle downward to meet a stationary handle that supports the stationary surface. Benefits of a guillotine mechanism over other designs are a quick, clean cut and the fact that you can replace or sharpen a single cutting surface when they get dull.
If you cut a lot of nails—such as while working as a groomer or veterinary technician—pay special attention to the ergonomics of the clipper. That includes the shape of the handles, how they contact your hand, whether you feel any discomfort while cutting and how slippery they feel. Using clippers that don’t feel comfortable in your hand upon repeated use could set you up for discomfort, or even repetitive motion injuries.
Lastly, consider handedness. Some scissor-style clippers won’t work properly when used in your left hand. That can result in crushing the nail instead of clean cuts. Check the packaging and product description before you buy.
A product can be offered very cheaply and on a global scale, but that convenience sometimes comes at the expense and/or exploitation of a company’s workers. Whenever possible, spend your hard earned dollars with companies that pay their workers a living wage, provide a safe working environment and give back to the communities that help them grow and succeed. The term “fair trade” often encompasses these ideals.
Check the “About” section of a company’s website for clues to their environmental and social responsibility. That’s where they’ll often list fair trade practices and any third party certifications as well as charitable programs in which they participate such as 1% for the Planet. Many pet supply manufacturers donate some of their products or financial support to animal shelters and pet hospitals. Whenever possible, choose companies and manufacturers that mirror your own environmental and social values.
Can I use nail clippers for people on my cat?
“Nail clippers for people can be used on cats as long as they’re sharp,” says Dr. Bonk. “You’ll want to use a larger size on larger cats or for longer nails, since cat nails are thicker than a human’s and little nail clippers might not be big enough to properly handle them. Scissor-type nail clippers may also be used to trim nails that have overgrown and curled into a circle.”
Can cat nail clippers be sharpened?
A sharp cutting surface is important to prevent cat nails from being crushed instead of cut in the trimming process. Dull clippers will cause the nail to crack and fray, rather than being trimmed cleanly. But whether the clippers can be sharpened depends on the clipper you choose, what tools you have at home and how comfortable you are using them.
Many cat nail clippers are designed so that the cutting surfaces can be replaced or sharpened (such as Resco, above). Like sharpening household scissors or kitchen knives, you can take them to a professional for sharpening for a small fee, or if you’re comfortable and capable, you can sharpen them yourself at home. There are a large number of detailed videos available online to guide you through sharpening your cat nail clippers when they start to become dull. But be careful if you’re trying to sharpen them on your own for the first time as you can injure yourself in the process if you don’t use proper safety precautions.
Can you use a nail grinder on a cat?
“Nail grinders are great tools for trimming the nails of some willing dogs. However, you may be hard pressed to find a cat that will allow it,” says Dr. Bonk. “The noise and vibration may be more than even a laid back cats can handle. You’ll also need to be extra careful because nail grinders trim nails very quickly. Cat nails aren’t as thick as dog nails so they can easily be ground too short in very little time.”
If you are among the few confident enough to use a grinder, with a cat willing to tolerate, we recommend the Casfuy Upgraded Professional Rechargable Electric Pet Nail Trimmer.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years including some special needs kitties. Two of her cats lived happily and healthily into their early 20s. She’s also been a dog owner throughout that time, clipping cat and dog nails every few months for decades.
When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated the type and quality of each product, customer reviews, the company’s research and development, and their business ethics.
Lorraine also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM graduated from Oregon State University in 2010 and has practiced in the mixed animal clinic, Clearwater Valley Veterinary Clinic in Orofino, Idaho ever since. On top of treating animals and writing for various veterinary magazines and websites, including Hepper.com, Dr. Bonk also owns a small cattle herd. When she's not doing those things, she can be found somewhere in the Idaho wilderness with her husband and two kids.