Many cat owners often find themselves debating the best way to handle their kittie’s sharp claws, especially when they’ve taken to shredding your wallpaper and scratching your favorite furniture. However, declawing is considered an inhumane method of claw control as it completely removes the claws, preventing them from growing back, causing pain, and removing an essential part of your cat’s identity. So what other options are there? Nail caps may not be the best way of handling your cat’s claws, but they are a significant improvement and sometimes the only option.
What Are Nail Caps For Cats?
They are pretty much what you would imagine them to be from the name – soft caps to cover your cat’s nails. They’re an inexpensive option made from relatively soft plastic that can be applied at home. The covers have to be glued to the claw and can last up to 4-6 weeks before natural nail growth means they need to be replaced.
Nail caps for cats are used to prevent cats from being able to ruin furniture with their excessive scratching habits. They are recommended as a last resort, though most cat owners find that careful training and a cat scratching post can usually work to deter this unwanted behavior.
Additionally, proper training can prevent cats from using their nails aggressively, though some owners of new rescue cats do find that nail caps can be extremely helpful during the initial training stages as a fail-safe.
Do Cat Nail Caps Work?
This very much depends on the cat in question. Some cats can respond well to nail caps, while others may become restless, irritable, generally stressed by having caps over their claws. This is understandable seeing as a cat’s nails are instrumental to its own safety and need to be easily accessible at all times in order for the feline to feel protected.
If your cat takes well to having nail caps then they can be extremely effective at preventing them from being able to damage the furniture or scratch their pet parents. Nail caps can also make it safer for a cat to be around small children. This is not to say that a small child could be left unsupervised with the cat, but more that if they were to accidentally irritate the cat, the kitty will not be able to reactively hurt them.
Are Cat Nail Caps Safe?
Nail caps are generally considered safe, though they’re not considered to be very humane, especially when the reason for needing them is often solvable with appropriate training. However, in some rare cases, nail caps may be necessary until the problematic behavior can be fixed.
Though they are considered generally safe, there are a few inherent dangers with things like this that should be carefully considered before committing to the use of caps on your cat’s nails:
If improperly applied damage could be caused to the nails or nail beds either by excess glue or by the cap being torn away from the nail via an exposed edge. Properly applied nail caps don’t tend to have this problem.
Overgrown Nail Caps
If the nail cap is not replaced frequently enough then an overgrown claw can more easily get stuck, pulled, or even ripped out whilst your cat is out and about.
If the caps are irritating your feline friend they may feel inclined to chew at it. Alternatively, cat nail caps can come away of their own accord if they weren’t properly glued on, leaving them to be found and potentially swallowed. When cats swallow nail caps they can become stuck in the throat or even cause intestinal obstruction if they swallow enough.
Lack of Self-Protection
Nail caps for cats are not recommended with outdoor cats that will need to defend themselves, as they are unable to use their sharp nails underneath if they come under attack. Indoor cats don’t face these same threats and generally don’t need their claws in the same way.
Benefits of Using Cat Claw Caps
The benefits of using cat nail caps, scratching posts, and careful training are all very similar with each method having the same goals in mind – to reduce damage to the cat’s surroundings and avoid destructive or aggressive antisocial behavior.
If your cat doesn’t respond well to the normal nail trim method, then one of the above alternatives may be necessary to get the unwanted behavior under control. Nail caps are ordinarily seen as a last resort, however, they do have their benefits such as:
Preventing Furniture Damage
Any cat owner will tell you that your couch is not safe around a cat if it hasn’t got an established place to clean its nails. The same goes for banisters, doorways, wallpaper, and railings. Putting caps on your cat’s nails can help to prevent them from causing too much destruction throughout the household.
Reducing Aggressive Behavior
Some cats can have innate aggression that can be troublesome for their owners – this is extremely common with adopted feral cats or even rescue cats that have been through a traumatic period. Nail caps are not a be-all and end-all solution for this problem, but they can certainly help to reduce the risk whilst they are being trained.
Helping to Prevent Injury
Depending on the environment it lives in, a cat’s nails can get caught whilst they are playing or exploring and potentially cause injury to the claw itself or the nail bed in more severe cases. You can apply nail caps to prevent injury if you have a particularly accident-prone cat.
Helping With Retractability Issue
Some cats can develop problems with retracting their claws. Poor claw control can be due to old age, inexperience using them, previous trauma to the nail bed or surrounding area, infection, or health complications.
When this problem arises they can become stuck to almost everything, as the claws are not being fully controlled and can hook into whatever the cat or kitten is standing on or interacting with. Where nail trimmers might not be an option (due to stress, or the possibility of injuring the nail), nail caps can prove to be an extremely helpful alternative.
How to Apply Cat Nail Caps
Nail cap application is not as simple as some people might think and required a lot of trust between you and your cat in order to be able to do it properly. Here is our best advice on how to go about correctly applying nail caps to your cat’s claws:
1. Select the correct nail cap size
Cat nail caps are ordinarily sized based on your cat’s weight. They typically come in three sizes; small, medium, and large. Be sure to pick the correct size for your kitty to avoid discomfort once they’ve been applied.
2. Trim the claws
To begin with, you’ll need to clip both the cat’s hind claws and front claws to prepare them for the nail cap application. The cat’s nail will naturally curve quite dramatically like a small hook at the end when it is left to grow long.
In order to cut the cat’s claws, you will need to ensure that they are calm (or alternatively, have a second person scruff the cat as your work). You will then need to gently squeeze the foot just below the toe to reveal the nail sheath and full claw. Clip the nail slightly longer than you would do normally to ensure a good fit.
3. Apply adhesive to the cap (not the nail)
It is imperative that you carefully apply the supplied adhesive to the inside of the cap NOT the nail (It’s also recommended that gloves be worn at this stage). If the glue is applied to the nail and your cat managed to wriggle free before you can apply the cap, it will get mixed in with the fur surrounding the nail and cause severe discomfort and possible pain. Fill the cap with just enough glue for a secure fit.
4. Apply the readied caps to the nail
You may want to start with your cat’s hind paws before moving to the front as many cats can become more squirmy with the front paws. You may want the help of a family member or friend to help keep your kitty calm whilst you’re applying the caps and avoid sticky paws.
Watch for any excess glue oozing from the cap – this indicates that you have used too much. Make sure the excess glue has dried before releasing the claw and then adjust the amount of adhesive you use with the next cap.
5. Monitor the caps
Once they are secured, watch the caps carefully as the claws grow to ensure they are
When to Approach a Professional
If your cat has black claws it can be especially difficult to make out where it is safest to trim the nail. Additionally, some cats can be quite volatile when having their nails trimmed and may require sedation in order for the nails to be trimmed successfully and without injury.
Sometimes professional nail trimming is essential in order to ensure your cat’s safety and remove the risk of injury both to the cat and yourself. Don’t be ashamed if you have to seek professional help with claw cap application.
How Long Will it Take my Cat to get Used to Nail Caps?
Like anything, if you think you’re going to be using claw caps long-term, you need to start slow. Try just applying the caps to one foot to watch how they react. Some cats will bite the caps off within an hour of having them applied, you can try to counteract this by having them wear a cone following the initial application so that the caps can fully set in place.
The longer they’re worn, the more likely your cat is to adjust to them. With plenty of positive reinforcement and gentle encouragement, it is possible to get your cat adjusted to them within a week. However, you know your own cat better than anyone and need to remain aware of their behavior.
If they become visibly stressed and begin to exhibit unusual behavior, then it may be time to call it quits and look into alternative methods to help fix the specific problem your cat seems to be having.
How Long Do Nail Caps Last?
Cat nail caps generally last around 4-6 weeks. In this time the claw underneath will continue to grow, which will naturally push the cap away from the nail bed until it eventually falls away or is carefully removed by yourself in order to replace them with a fresh pair. Just be careful that if the caps appear to have a lot of space between the nail bed and the cap itself, it may be worth removing it early to avoid it getting caught and potentially injuring your kitty.
Q: Can cats retract claws while wearing claw caps?
A: Not completely. It is possible for a cat to mostly retract its claws whilst wearing nail caps so long as the caps are properly applied. However, they can prevent the claw from retracting completely. The best cat nail caps are designed to minimize how noticeable they are to the cat wearing them – allowing them to extend and mostly retract their claws as needed so long as they are attached correctly. However, the inability to retract them completely can be problematic for some felines.
Q: Can cat nail caps cause infection?
A: If improperly applied to your cat’s claws then it is possible that the nail caps could cause infection. This is because if they have not been attached properly to the fail, the material can rub against and irritate the nail bed as well as potentially rub against the toes themselves which can cause abrasions or blisters after extended periods of time. Improper removal can also lead to infection if the nail or toe is cut in the process.
Q: How do you get a nail cap off a cat?
A: For pet owners thinking of using nail caps, it’s important to know how best to remove them. Nail cap removal entailed using cat claw clippers to trim carefully trim away one side of the cap in other to break the seal and give your easy purchase in order to peel it away. You then carefully get your nail under one of the exposed edges and delicately peel the nail cap away from the cat’s nails.
Q: How often should I replace cat claw caps?
A: It’s recommended that cat nail caps be replaced at least once every six weeks, as contrary to popular belief, cat nails do actively grow at a constant rate. When you apply nail caps you need to be confident in the application and removal in order to make the experience as easy as possible for your cat.
Q: Can I just use a scratching post instead of nail caps?
A: Seeing as many owners purchase nail caps in order to avoid the cat getting its claws in the furniture and walls, there are other ways to redirect that scratching habit. It is possible to use scratching posts in lieu of nail caps, though this will require some positive reinforcement training to encourage proper use. Scratching posts help cats to remove dirt and refuse from their claws, keep them in good condition, and also allow them to scent the post as a cat’s paws have scenting glands.
Q: What are the alternatives to nail caps?
A: The best thing you can do for your cat to avoid declawing or using nail caps is to train them. Wearing nail caps can be irritating and uncomfortable for cats, which could lead to alternative behavioral problems. Alternatively, you can use positive reinforcement and redirection to teach your cat to only claw the objects that are allowed to claw (such as scratching posts). A cat claws at a surface to try and clean its claws, so it’s not a behavior that can be completely trained out of them, but you can control where they do it.