Don't assume your kitty keeps his nails in check on his own. Without regular scratching, those claws can become weapons, used against you, your clothes and even himself. Grinding prevents your cat's nails from getting out of control by dulling them and keeping them at an appropriate length.
You're petting your kitty's stomach, and he's just soaking up the love, but little do you know that he's about to make you yowl. One swipe of the paw across your arm, and you now have a nice scratch that's possibly even bleeding. Grinding down those talon-like nails dulls them so you're not flinching and pulling away every time you try and pet your cat. While in theory scratching posts help dull a cat's nails, the post only works if your cat uses it frequently enough. If he's more of a couch potato, his nails will be sharp and ready to draw blood.
You've probably witnessed your cat walk around on the bed, carpet or even your shirt and suddenly his paw has become attached to the material. Sometimes he escapes without a hitch. In other cases, he hooks his claw into a jacket hanging on the back of a door, attempts to run out the door, accidentally pulls it closed and creates all kinds of terrifying problems. Not only does getting caught in material frustrate your cat, it also slowly ruins things like sheets, pillows and shirts. It can even sometimes cause injury. This happens because cats don't walk on their paws, but rather on the tips of their toes. Grinding down those sharpened nail points allows for a smoother, duller tip which allows him to walk without getting stuck.
You might have heard that cats shed their nails. Felines shed the outer layer of a nail, not the nail itself. Without regularly scratching on something hard, such as sisal rope and trees, or walking on hard surfaces, such as concrete and rocks, your kitty's nails will grow too long. Not only does this mean more gashes on your hands and nails getting stuck in the carpet and on your bedding, it can also lead to a nail that curls back into the paw pad. An embedded nail is extremely painful, can cause infection and requires your vet's intervention. If your cat doesn't grind his nails on his own -- as is often the case with senior cats -- you'll need to help him out to prevent nail overgrowth.
Before You Grind
Nail grinders are loud, obnoxious and, in your kitty's mind, downright scary. Allow him to check out the grinder while it's off. Give him a nice head rub and feed him treats. Slowly progress to where it's on the lowest setting, and keep feeding him treats and petting him. You want to associate the grinder with something positive so he'll give you less fuss when it comes time to grind his nails.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.