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I admit I am against clipping a cat's claws, so I have no experience in the area. Because I don't clip the claws of my cats I naturally have not seen how it affects them. Most of my concern is about the climbing ability of a cat after its claws have been clipped dull. Can a cat climb just as well with clipped claws as with needle sharp claws?

Below is a photo of a climbing tree that has no platforms until the top of the tree. Can a cat climb it easily with clipped claws? How about an outdoors cat climbing a natural tree, which could be more difficult to climb than a sisal-rope coated indoors tree?

tall climbing tree

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We have one cat who climbs up a similar post in our house, and it doesn't seem to matter if her claws are trimmed or not. The other cats prefer to jump to the shelf rather than climb, but I guess that's personality driven.

We don't allow our cats outside (too much risk of disease or injury) so I don't know about the affects of trimmed claws on outdoor climbing.

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  • Note that we are talking about trimming a cat's claws, not declawing. The former is just a pedicure and the cat will quickly sharpen the claws again. The latter is surgery equivalent to removing the first bone in your fingers, may cause persisting discomfort, and is an extremely rude thing to do to the poor beast. – keshlam May 16 '15 at 5:35
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Yes, clipping nails would impact a cats ability to climb. For cats who are allowed outdoors this can adversely effect their ability survive should they need to climb a tree to escape a predator (i.e. lose dog).

Pointy things go into material much easier then blunt or rounded object. This is why nail (fasteners) are created with points on the end that will be entering material.

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    an active outdoors cat will keep his nails at a decent bluntness by himself – ratchet freak Apr 2 '14 at 13:06
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It's true that an outdoor cat might be adversely affected by it's claws being trimmed, mostly because they need their claws to be pretty sharp in order to dig into the bark of a tree it wants to climb, or to help defend itself if it gets into a fight.

An indoor cat however, has no need to keep it's claws so sharp, and is more likely to have even sharper claws as they aren't being worn down by climbing trees. Providing them with a scratching post helps some, but I've found that they don't really keep their claws from growing too much as it seems to be more about the action of scratching and not the wearing down of claws.

Clipping an indoor cat's nails isn't really a hindrance to climbing cat trees, as the poles are usually wrapped in twine or carpet. Evel dull claws can latch onto the fibers of carpet, or in between the coils of twine. The only reason I could see it being a problem, is if you have a cat tree that isn't wrapped in anything, so that they're basically climbing a real tree.

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  • Overgrown claws is a problem only for old non-active cats. Normally claws don't grow "too long", instead they shed the outer shell away and a new sharp claw is ready for use. No need to trimming for overgrowth reasons. – Esa Paulasto Apr 2 '14 at 16:06
  • @EsaPaulasto Perhaps I should elaborate. My big cat is very enthusiastic about "Making Biscuits" when sitting on my lap. If I don't keep his nails below a certain length, it's quite painful to have him on my lap. So rather than neglect him, I keep his nails from being long enough that they hurt. – Spidercat Apr 2 '14 at 16:13
  • How can I prevent my cat from extending his claws when petted? But don't get me wrong, I don't really mind if people trim the claws of their cats. If asked, I tell them not to do it, but after that it's none of my business. – Esa Paulasto Apr 2 '14 at 16:25
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I have owned and raised cats (everything from Purebred Persians and Himalayans to domestic 'house cats' to feral/stray barn cats) for close to 60 years. Because of my extensive experience with cats, I feel more than confident in saying clipping a cats' claws does not interfere with their ability to climb, scratch an itch on themselves, use a scratching post/pad to remove the dead outer layer of their claws, to mark their territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent (they have scent glands on their paws), and to stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws, catch prey, or defend themselves; nor does it change their behavior in any way.

Indoor cats do not wear their claws down as efficiently for a few reasons: They don't walk on rough terrain; they don't travel very far; they are more sedentary because they don't have to hunt for prey/food. Therefore their claws are prone to grow longer than an outdoor cat, and this can sometimes result in the claw growing into the paw pad causing pain and potential infection.

Clipping a cats' claws will allow you to bond with your cat. It will also allow you to examine and observe the paw pads for dryness, cracks, abnormal growths (such as callouses and tumors); check for cuticle infections and damage; and observe for acquired dirt or sores between the toes.

When you clip a cats' claws, you are not removing the entire claw, nor even a good amount of it. You are simply removing the tips - approximately 1/8 of an inch. There is still the majority of the claw present and it is more than enough for the cat to function naturally, as stated above.

I currently have two neutered male cats that are strictly indoors and they get their claws trimmed twice a week or as needed (when they shed the claw sheath, the new claw is very pointed) to prevent them from damaging furniture and myself, as I am a little older now and my skin is more fragile; not to mention I have a medical condition that requires me to take blood-thinners.

If you still aren't sure, feel free to clip your cats' claws and observe for any changes in what s/he can or can't do; the claws will grow and the sheaths will shed within two weeks or less and return to the natural, sharp claws as before.

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Cutting a cat's claws will affect his or her ability to climb trees. If there are land predators this could be a problem because it would make it harder for the cat to escape or defend himself (or herself). Whether cutting their claws makes sense depends, therefore, on the balance between the risk of their getting stuck up a tree compared with the risk of their being more vulnerable to predators.

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