Cat nail clipping

Just curious. What do the guidelines say (if anything)? What is common practice?

In general, is it customary (acceptable) to ask sitters to clip cats´ nails during the sit, especially when the cats do not like it?

Why is this making me think of something that must be a Mark Twain quote?

Update: I have literally mixed metaphors!

1973 Robert A Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons) 51: "…[A] fool cannot be protected from his folly. If you attempt to do so, you will not only arouse his animosity but also you will be attempting to deprive him of whatever benefit he is capable of deriving from experience. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig."

And this is just a rabbit hole :rabbit: but fun to read

1 Like

I doubt the guidelines say anything specifically about trimming cats’ claws… but from memory there is a statement that home-owners should not ask sitters to perform a service that is normally provided by a professional.

I have never known a cat’s claws to be trimmed but then all our cats went outside. I can see it might be necessary for an indoor cat. In which case, it would only need doing occasionally and I would expect the home-owner to time the trimmings so the sitter wouldnt need to do it.

If I were a sitter, I wouldnt agree to do it. I might agree to take the cat to the vet to do it. (It depends though - if there were a cat that were completely happy to have its claws trimmed and it could be done by one person = fine. Unhappy cat needing two people [one to hold, one to trim] = not fine.)


Nobody has ever asked us to do that after 50+ sits (and probably 50+ cats). But if the sitter is experienced with that and you feel it’s necessary, then you could try and ask (e.g. during the first interview). We wouldn’t like to cut a cat’s nails if he/she fights you over it, though (better do it yourself or pay a professional). PS: We have only done sits in Europe and we understand that this practice is common in the US (and might not be an unusual request over there?).

1 Like

I sometimes read the listings that have extraordinary (and sometimes outrageous) requirements and lists of expected tasks to my husband, and even he says “What? No way they can expect you to do that. Hire a professional!”

So I looked up the website’s language: that only refers to “running a business or redecorating”.

I clip my cat’s nails, but I would probably not ask a sitter to do it unless they were staying for a month or longer. My cat is OK with it because I’ve been doing it since he was a kitten. If I couldn’t find a sitter who was experienced with this, maybe I would have them bring the cat to a vet - or maybe not bother.

As a sitter, I would be OK with trying to clip nails, but only if the cat didn’t fight me too hard!

I would say that is not customary. We clip our cats nails, but it takes 2 of us to distract him and I would never ask a sitter to do this. It is too easy for them to get stratched during the process. The HO should post this in the responsibility section and verify when they are ready to confirm a sitter that the sitter has experience and are ok cutting nails. I would say the same applies to dog’s nails as well; which can be difficult to do and can easily cut too far and cause bleeding.

Contrary to the previous respondents I believe that this is a perfectly fair request and a cat sitter can be reasonably expected to perform this little task. The same applies to cleaning pet ears or giving pets a bath when they need it. These duties are part of normal care and proper animal husbandry and necessary parts of looking after an animal.

I have always clipped my cats’ nails myself - this is by no means a task that requires a professional service provider or a second person helping. In case of doubt just wrap the cat into a thick towel and leave only one paw at a time outside of the wrap for clipping. Then push the palm with one hand and the nails will come out. With your other hand, cut just underneath the end of the blood vessel. I am attaching a picture of the ideal clipping tool.

If cat nails are not clipped regularly (I do it for my cat at least once a fortnight) there is not only an increased risk that you, the sitter, will get scratched, but the cat may also cause extensive damage on the home-owners furniture, carpets and curtains. Especially leather sofas and soft upholstery are common targets of claw sharpening!

as a non-cyborg fully-organic human, I don’t have the 3rd arm function installed yet. but as soon as I do… :robot: :rofl:


@MissChef If you are right-handed you hold the cat in the towel with the left arm and hold and press the cat’s palm with the left hand. You clip with your right hand. Only two arms needed!

haha you overestimate my angry feline handling abilities.

I love cats in general, and I loved my own cats, but I gave them good sisal scratching posts and never had to trim claws, and they seemed to do fine. MY DOG on the other hand… she hated nail trimming day. I had to cut holes in one of those giant blue Ikea shopping bags, sewed up the edges, and put all 4 legs through. I then dangled her from a sturdy over-the-door hook, and used one of those claw trimmers you showed (but larger) until I was happy with the result and she was exhausted. :scream:


Ha ha ha - your cat maybe! Any wriggling cat - nope.

As I said previously, none of my family’s cats have ever had their claws trimmed so this is unusual as far as I’m concerned.

I do have an indoor rabbit who’s claws I trim once in awhile. I can manage that quite easily but I’m not sure a stranger could. I have two other rabbits who play outside so I dont need to trim their claws. There is no way either of them would allow me to if I tried - definitely a ‘four arm’ job!

For indoor cats, lately I ask the homeowner if they can clip the cat’s front nails or have them clipped sometime before we arrive. While I can clip nails, I think for most cats and the clipper it is a really unpleasant experience and I would rather that the HO have that experience if it is usual for them. I’ve seen the damage that an indoor cat can do to furniture and other household items. We’ve gone so far as to buy a scratching post for a cat which helped, but didn’t completely eradicate the habit.

Having said this, of course this would be in the context of a conversation. There might be good reasons why clipping the cat’s nails is not necessary.


In most places in Europe we have done sits in it’s perfectly normal that there will be some scratches on the furniture (sometimes even very extensive). None of the cats had trimmed claws. Neither of has ever been injured by a cat except during one instance (which was actually quite a similar situation to cutting nails). Not counting small scratches, of course (e.g. when a cat is purring on your lap and extends her claws rhythmically). We don’t mind those at all. We have also never been asked to bathe a cat (which is also usually not necessary and something that most cats hate).

@Timmy You are right, in normal (hairy) cats bathing is normally not necessary - unless they have diarrhea or get unpleasantly soiled in another way and consider it disgusting to lick it off themselves. On the other hand, in hairless cats like mine bathing is a must. Sphynxes, Elves, Donskois, Peterbalds, Bambinos and Dwelves (I think that’s all the hairless breeds, prove me wrong) must be bathed, some once a week others only once a month, otherwise the can get severe skin issues.

Agree. I would never expect a sitter to do this, and I think the attempt might lead to the cat’s distrust of the sitter (and possibly, resulting poor behavior).

When I’ve had a cat from kittenhood, I get them comfortable with having their paws handled, and then I’m able to clip regularly. With a cat that is not used to this, it’s not a happy experience for anyone.

Reminds me of a funny conversation I had with my (now late) witty father:
Me: “Good news! I was able to clip two of Pepper’s claws!”
Dad: “That’s one more than I’d have expected.”

@Ketch @MissChef and everyone else:
I agree that cats - and their owners - are different and it certainly depends on their upbringing how they handle nail clipping (this also applies to dogs and other animals). Please find some more advice how to handle difficult animals who “don’t like clipping” like your cat, @RadarInc , further below in this longer message.

After having been a cat breeder for 20+ years, I am certainly a bit biased. I start clipping nails when the kittens are about one week old, so they don’t injure mama’s belly - as you can see on the picture below, already this two weeks old kitten has caused some puncture and scratch wounds on my hairless mama Elf, which is always an alert for me to get the clippers out. In hairy cats you don’t see it as clearly but the injuries are still there and should be avoided.

Also vets who give breeder discounts, cat show organisers, stud owners and everyone else who deals with cats on a more skillful level, demands any cat’s nails to be clipped before the cat is brought in contact with strangers. It is considered a must and general practice. Also in households where the owners don’t want scratches on their sofas - or their children - clipping the pets’ nails is certainly not unusual but general practice.

I know that many pet cat owners don’t know it and/or don’t practice it, and the cats usually don’t mind. If they are outdoors or run a lot on hard surfaces the nails wear off naturally. However, in an indoor cat who only walks on carpets, overgrown nails can cause problems with walking and jumping, and such obstructions on their feet just don’t feel good to them.

I had such a case recently. I noticed such overgrown nails when I arrived at a sit in Portugal for a 16 year old cat man, and I alerted the home owner to it at the hand-over. The home owner said that she will happily allow me to clip his nails if I can manage, but that he (the cat) won’t like it. Indeed, I noticed that the cat was extremely ticklish on his feet and would pull the foot away as soon as I stroke down his leg. I realised that it would be indeed impossible to clip his nails unless I “violated” him. In a certain way, it can of course transgress to forcible violation if you wrap a cat into a towel and obstruct his movement. While it is harmless for a young and healthy cat, for a senior of 16 years which is not my own I wouldn’t dare doing it, as the excitement and anger could possibly lead to a heart attack or similar breakdown.

In such a case, the only way is patient and gentle retraining and reconditioning. As I said before, in my kittens I do what every good breeder does: I start clipping nails, cleaning ears and bathing early, and I surround each of these procedures with a lot of petting, cuddling, playing and feeding treats. The result is that the kittens get used to it, even learn to love it or at least won’t dislike and fight it for the rest of their lives.

In an older cat who didn’t get “trained” in this way, you have to start the training anew. So I started just that with the old cat man in Portugal. Whenever I brushed, stroked and massaged him I went down the feet as far as he would tolerate and I kept repeating it every time I touched him in whatever way, and after two weeks he had progressed so far that he allowed me to massage his paws! From there, it would take only maybe a week or two longer to be able to use the clippers. Sadly, I had to leave before I could celebrate the final victory, but I told the owner how to proceed and I hope she can clip her cat’s nails now without applying force. I recommend this procedure to everybody else whose cat fights having their nails clipped.

1 Like

I keep my (indoor only) cats’ nails well trimmed, for their comfort and the life of my (softwood) wood floor. I always make a point of trimming them just before a trip and I would NEVER ask a sitter to do so - even if they offered.

My cats are very used to the trimming process. Here you can see my boy Loki offering up a paw for his pedicure :slight_smile:


Our cat is difficult at best when having her nails clipped. We can do it ourselves, but it takes two of us. We have never, and would never, ask a housesitter to perform this task. We have a local in-home service that we have contracted to come in when we are away. (We take long trips, so this can’t wait until we are back.)


After cat sitting 153 cats over the last 8 years, I have clipped many, many cats’ claws and the HO are very appreciative. In the Western United States, most cats are kept indoors due to predators, mainly coyotes everywhere! I have had a lot of cat acupuncture! Some cats like to knead, and end up snagging my clothes, so I carry my own cat nail trimmers, just like the ones pictured by Romana. Some cats are easy, others are almost impossible! I try to surprise them when they are asleep, and I might only be able to trim one claw at a time, one per day! Wrapping the cat in a towel is a great suggestion, Romana, which I often do when giving medication to a cat.
I even clipped Kipling’s Claws! ! Try saying that fast several times! (That’s a cat named Kipling)