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What Is a Cat Nail File?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A cat nail file is a tool used to trim the claws of a cat. This type of tool may be purchased individually, or as part of a packaged set with cat nail trimmers. The file may be used to remove any burrs that are resultant from clipping, and to soften the harsh and sharp edges that are often left over once trimming has been completed.

This device is typically long and thin. One end may feature a handle to make the cat nail file easier to hold by human hands. The other end is rough, often double sided, and can remove nail particles from cats' claws by means of back and forth friction. This tool is not designed to be used as the only means of maintaining a cat's nails.

The cat nail file may be used in conjunction with nail trimmers. These trimmers feature two blades, set a small width apart, that are designed to intersect by means of a hinged jaw. The blades are small but sharp and are capable of easily slicing through the claw of a cat. Some clippers provide a nail file stored in the handle of the device to allow for the quick clean up of any nail burrs that may be left behind by the blades. A nail burr is any jagged portion of the claw that can catch on other materials and cause the animal discomfort.

Other types of nail grooming care commonly used on cats include nail guillotines and nail scissors. The guillotines provide a small, circular opening surrounded by a sharp blade. The owner places one nail into the opening, being careful not to allow any part of the quick of the nail to hang over the blades, and squeezes the handle. The guillotine closes around the nail, and slices off the sharp edge. Nail scissors may be used in the same manner as standard scissors and are used to cut the nail before the quick.

When a cat's claws are cut using trimmers, scissors, or the guillotine, they are often very sharp. The edge of the nail where it came in contact with the grooming instrument must then be blunted. Clipped nails that have not been filed are typically prone to causing damage to furniture, carpets, and owners. Using the cat nail file quickly and painlessly softens these clipped, sharp edges, leaving them blunt and harmless, to both the pet and its surroundings.

Some owners may prefer the use of a rotating cat nail file. This type of device is similar to a dremel. It spins a circular emery board that may be applied to the animal's claws. The rotating action naturally files and trims the nail without requiring the owner to create the friction manually. Trimming a cat's nails in this way can eliminate the risk of cutting the quick of the nail, and is relatively easy and painless compared with other grooming methods.

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Discussion Comments
By mobilian33 — On Apr 30, 2014

Unless you know what you are doing, put the kitty manicure equipment aside and invest in a scratching post. This will allow the cat to take care of her own nails without risking unnecessary pain or injury.

When you must resort to the manicure, take the cat to a professional groomer. Groomers have plenty of experience and know what they are doing.

By Sporkasia — On Apr 29, 2014

@Animandel - The nail file is better used as described in this article. The file makes a good complement to the kitty nail clippers, but a file will not replace the trimmers. Most cats are less likely to stay in place for a nail filing than they are for a nail trimming.

I have heard some people recommend using sandpaper to even kittens' nails. I have never tried this, but maybe you could do some research.

By Animandel — On Apr 28, 2014

I clip my cats' nails with the nail clippers designed for them, but I only recently learned that a cat nail file is another option. My cats don't like the clippers, and the only time I get to clip their nails is when they are asleep. Of course, they are wide awake by the time I am trying to cut a second nail.

This method of nail trimming can take a while. I'm wondering whether using a cat nail file might be less disturbing for the cats.

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