When I first started professional cat grooming in earnest, I admit, I was a bit dubious about nail caps. Why? Well, because my experience in putting them on and concern for the cat’s reaction made me cautious. Having put on hundreds of sets, I can now assure you that the resounding reaction of the owners and their cats is very positive. So here are some reasons you may want to consider using nail caps, some reasons you shouldn’t, and worst case, what can go wrong when applying nail caps.

What are nail caps?

A nail cap is a soft, pliable, silicon cap / hood in the basic shape of the nail that slips over the nail to cover the pointed end. They go by many brand names, like Soft Claws. Nail caps are like a scabbard to a sword. The nail must be trimmed first to remove the sharp tip, but not excessively short, in order for the nail cap to adhere to the nail with a pet friendly super glue. Nail caps last on average about 6-8 weeks, but varies by individual lifestyle of the cat.

Reasons to consider using nail caps

1. Despite a solid available scratching post and numerous attempts at encouraging the use of said post, or trying posts of various materials (cardboard, wood, sisal, carpet, leather, wicker), your cat still insists on using your furniture.
2. Your cat is not an angel and likes to swat two and four-legged family  members with claws extended.
3. The cat lives with an elderly person, young  child, other pets that could be easily injured by the cat unintentionally.
4. You have been considering having you cat declawed. Because nail caps do not hurt the nails, nor amputate the first toe digit, it is a humane alternative.5. Your cat suffers from allergies or other skin issues and is injuring itself from scratching.

5. Your cat suffers from allergies or other health issues and is injuring itself from scratching.
6. They are awesome fashion fabulous! With so many colours available you can have a new theme every second month, like pink and red for Valentines or black and orange for Halloween.

Reasons NOT to use nail caps

1. Your cat has an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. For the same reason a declawed cat should be never be allowed outside, a cat with nail caps has far less ability to defend itself from territorial cat fights and predators, or escape up a tree.
2. Your cat is elderly. Most elderly cats really slow down on sheathing their nails and using the scratching post. This means the layers of nail cuticle build up to a wide, thick structure. This needs to be visually checked regularly by the owner to prevent it from growing into the pad. Also, because of this wider structure, nail caps may not fit over the nail.
3. Your cat has an infected nail bed, or some other foot fungus, or injury. Common sense prevails.

What could go wrong with nail caps

When there is a problem, and the cat seems continually uncomfortable or gnawing at the nail caps, it is inevitably human error with the application. To avoid discomfort, use an experienced Certified Feline Master Groomer to do the nail cap application.

  1. Most important to know, they should not be left on for more than 6 weeks. Nails continue to grow and can grow all the way around their toe into the pads of their feet. This is very uncomfortable and painful. It can also cause infections. Nail caps have to monitored and replaced regularly.
  2. Too much glue was used and the overflow has gotten on the hair and pads. If you have ever spilled super glue on your fingers, you know how annoying and uncomfortable that can be.
  3. The nail cap was put on too far, or with the nail fully extended, and now the nail cannot properly retract to its normal position. You can imagine how uncomfortable that would feel.

I hope that answers most questions pertaining to using nail caps for your cat. As I mentioned I went from dubious, to understanding a need for nail caps for some cats, especially when it helps reinforce a positive relationship between the cat and its owner.