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My cat has a scratching post and uses it several times a day. She also scratches her claws at a felt doormat. But despite all that scratching, some of her claws (especially the pinky and thumb claws) are still too long and she gets caught in the capret when walking.

I tried clipping the very tips of her claws, but she hates anyone holding her foot and thrashed so much that I had to give up before I injured her. I also tried filing her claws down with a nail file, but only managed a few passes before she pulled away and it wasn't very effective.

Since she does use several scratching accomodations willingly and often, I'd like to increase the abrasiveness of either of them to help shorten her claws. Does anyone know how I could do that? I guess her scratching post needs some new rope anyways, but does the materials I use make a difference in how effective it shortens her claws?


Quick update:

I managed to cut exactly one single claw before she pulled away and it's been a struggle ever since to get her used to having her paw held.

I also wound her existing scratching posts with new sisal rope and bought one of those flat cardboard scratching boards. That alone seemed to improve her situation and there's now only one claw left that sometimes snags in the carpet (but not nearly as often as when I posted this question).

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  • Are you sure, that increasing effectiveness would help? Because you write that the other nails are in a good length... This sounds for me more that the shortening is not equal at every nail... So maybe the middle nails would get too short? Feb 14, 2022 at 16:17
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    @Allerleirauh I think the other nails are also quite long, but they don't get caught in the carpet. I just brought in a thick branch of a dead tree that is thicker than the scratching posts on her cat tree. I hope that this will help her shorten her claws equally (because of the bigger diameter).
    – Elmy
    Feb 14, 2022 at 16:24
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    A tip for clipping the claws of a cat that doesn't like it: Just do one claw each day. Eventually you will clip all of the claws. After that, sharp claws will only appear when a nail sheath is shed, so on most days there will be nothing to clip.
    – mhwombat
    Feb 14, 2022 at 19:49
  • The update looks like a great jumping-off point for a new question about getting a cat accustomed to having their claws trimmed.
    – Allison C
    Mar 10, 2022 at 14:17

2 Answers 2

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The issue you're experiencing (claws that are "too long" and getting caught) will, unfortunately, not be addressed by "increasing the abrasiveness of the scratching surface." You start from a false premise here--that a scratching post removes the end of the nail; it does not. A scratching post serves to remove the outer sheath (sides) of the nail, helping it fall away from the new growth on the inside. A claw that's being insufficiently sharpened will typically be thick and blunt, due to the accumulation of outer layers, and may split due to being overly thick, causing pain if it splits down to the quick.

There's only one solution to claws that are long, and that's clipping. If you haven't been doing this previously, it'll take time to get the cat accustomed to the process. Get a proper pair of pet clippers (human nail clippers can pinch or crush at the nail, causing discomfort, and are harder to hold onto while working with a wiggly animal), get some of her favorite treats, and get a comfortable place to sit with her. Do just one or two claws, then load her up with treats; your goal is to associate the new activity (which she views as unpleasant) with something she enjoys (high value treats). Look at existing guides on how to appropriately trim a cat's nails, if you've never done it before, and when starting, overcompensate for the distance from the quick until she and you are more accustomed to it to help prevent any quick moves that might result in pinching or cutting into the quick. If you focus on just the overly long claws to start with, you can fix the issue of being caught on the carpet quickly while still working toward the ultimate goal of being able to fully trim her nails.

There are a number of different materials with different textures and abrasive qualities (carpet, burlap, corrugated cardboard, sisal rope, etc.), but not all cats like all scratching surfaces, and none are capable of shortening or blunting the nail.

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  • I've long thought it should be possible to design a scratching post that has an abrasive sandpaper/file surface under the rope. There could be a slight gap between the rope coils so that the tips of the claws encounter the abrasive surface when scratching. Please someone invent this!
    – mhwombat
    Feb 14, 2022 at 19:45
  • @mhwombat you might be able to create it, but that's no promise the cat will use it ;)
    – Allison C
    Feb 14, 2022 at 20:00
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If the problem is primarily the pinky and thumb claws, maybe the scratching post is simply too thin, e.g. a scratching post that was bought for her when she was a kitten but grew out of by now?

We have multiple different scratching posts for our cats throughout the house, some as thick as a medium tree and fairly large which they can climb to get exercise, some larger (but still regular scratching post diameter) ones in hallways they can use to mark, and even some really thin ones on cat houses leftover from their kitten age.

Depending on their technique, they will not necessarily get the same amount of grip on all of those, especially with the really thin ones it more often than not tends to be just the two middle fingers.

In addition to that, in our outdoor enclosure we have a few logs of wood they also use to scratch, and they do scratch the wooden fence posts as well.

  • scratching is not only done for keeping the claws sharp but also for marking territory, having multiple opportunities (especially in hallways, next to doors, etc.) might entice "lazy scratchers" a bit more

  • some cats prefer horizontal scratching surfaces, other prefer them vertical, it might be beneficial to offer a scratching board on the floor and see if it is accepted and liked

  • for indoor cats, sturdy sisal rope is preferable to softer ropes (which unfortunately is often used on more decorative cat furniture) as it provides more abrasion

  • again for indoor cats, having a few really hard surfaces (e.g. a decorative log of wood if you can source one) to scratch might be beneficial as our floors tend to be designed for humans walking barefoot, not to naturally wear down cats claws


Having said that, if you think your cat is scratching enough and the opportunities are adequate but she still keeps getting stuck a lot ion blankets or the carpet while walking normally, you might want to consider consulting your vet, as abnormal growth of claws might be an accompanying symptom of hypothyroidism.

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  • You mentioned some very interesting aspects (like marking posts) I haven't thought about. I'll see if I can chop down a dead tree to manageable chunk and maybe glue a scratching mat next to the door for her.
    – Elmy
    Feb 13, 2022 at 19:45
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    @Elmy There are scratching boards on the market that are specifically made to be attached to walls and can be easily replaced, they have a small mounting hole or loop where you can place a screw to fasten them at top and/or bottom. These are even available for corners, its the same concept but folds in the middle to wrap around the corner.
    – bgse
    Feb 13, 2022 at 21:02

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