Do Cat Nail Caps Really Work? (Are They Cruel, Safe & How To Apply)

If you’re considering nail caps for your cat, there’s a good chance you’re wondering how well they really work. I certainly was thinking this same question when I first heard about nail caps.

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I scoured over as many reviews as I could so that I could have a good idea of what to expect.

In the end, I decided that there was no better way to know how well nail caps work for sure unless I tried them out myself! So I picked up a pack and put them on both of my cats.

do cat nail caps really work

Witnessing my two cats wearing nail caps was able to teach me just how well they can (and can’t) work. So here’s the honest review.

Do cat nail caps really work? While cat nail caps can prevent minor snagging and scratching in most cases, they do not always prevent clawing. The effectiveness of cat nail caps depends heavily on their correct application, correct sizing, and the cat’s particular environmental setting.

There are definitely certain situations in which cat nail caps can be a great assistance, but there are also a number of drawbacks to these clever accessories.

If you’re considering using cat nail caps as a way to keep your kitty from scratching at furniture, carpet, and guests, then you will definitely want to learn how to apply them correctly so that they are safe and effective.

You’ll also want to be aware of some of the risks that nail caps pose to your cat so you can be sure they are used safely in your home.

How Well Do Cat Nail Caps Actually Work?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Each cat experiences unique results with nail caps.

A lot of the efficiency of cat nail caps depends on a variety of factors.

First, the correct application is absolutely fundamental.

If nail caps are not applied correctly, there’s not much chance they will work at all for your feline.

However, if they are applied according to the instructions, nail caps generally produce impressive results at cutting back on clawing.

One aspect of the correct application is ensuring you are using the appropriate size for your cat.

Nail caps come in many different sizes, so it’s necessary to know your cat’s weight category and select the appropriately sized caps.

Incorrect sizing is one of the main factors in the failure of nail caps to do the job well.

When the correct size of the nail cap is applied correctly, the results are generally very well-received.

Nail caps can prevent snagging, claw marks and scratches.

This can be a game changer for individuals with fragile furniture or skin that breaks easily.

But there’s another factor that influences how well nail caps work:

Your cat’s activity.

Indoor cats are much more successful with nail caps than outdoor cats.

Felines that spend a considerable amount of time outdoors are likely to come in contact with objects with rougher surfaces:

  • like tree trunks
  • concrete
  • gravel
  • and more.

Nail caps are much more likely to break off or become faulty if your cat spends some of its time outdoors.

Also, the behavioral activities of your cat can play a part.

If your cat is more active and aggressive at scratching than the average, it is possible to still leave scratch marks, even with nail caps that applied correctly.

Fragile items, like:

  • A newspaper
  • Toilet paper
  • Thin knits… are still likely to show some damage.

For the average indoor cat, however, nail caps can be an excellent solution for problematic scratching.

While relying on nail caps isn’t a foolproof way to eliminate scratches completely, most indoor cats generally experience a significant reduction in scratches and snags left from claws.

How To Use Cat Nail Caps Correctly

Because the proper application of nail caps can have a huge impact on how well they work, it’s important to use them correctly.

Be aware of the entire process before putting them on so you are well prepared.

First, ensure that you have the proper size for your cat.

Typically:

  • Extra small fits cats under 5 pounds
  • Small fits cats from 6 to 8 pounds
  • Medium fits cats from 9 to 13 pounds
  • Large fits cats over 13 pounds

With that said, there are multiple manufacturers, so be sure to read the specific packaging guidelines to select the right size.

Here’s a video on how to apply claw caps for cats:

 

Next, trim your cat’s nails. You should only trim a small amount from the tip.

Trimming the nails helps adjust the nail cap so it can be applied all the way back to the base of the nail.

Then, take the adhesive tube, following the specific packaging instructions to attach an applicator tip if it is included.

Fill the inside base of a single nail cap until it has a thin layer of adhesive covering 1/3 of the nail cap.

Make sure that the adhesive is evenly distributed and that no visible air bubbles are present.

Now, here’s the tricky part if you have a fidgety feline.

You’ll need to gently extend the cat’s nails by pressing in the middle of the cat’s paw (thumb on top and forefinger on bottom).

See image below!

This gives the nails just a bit of extension, which is necessary for the cap to be placed correctly.

With the claws extended, gently slide the nail cap onto the nail.

This must be done for all nails in order for the nail caps to be fully effective.

Once the nail caps have been fitted, make sure you keep a close eye on your cat for about 5 minutes.

This will allow the nail cap adhesive to dry.

During this time, don’t let your cat jump around or lick at the nail caps.

Excessive movement or licking can cause the nail caps to budge out of place.

Nail caps will generally fall off on their own after 4 to 6 weeks, at which time new nail caps will need to be applied.

If after 8 weeks a nail cap remains, manually remove it by clipping the tip and pressing the cap off of the nail.

Are Nail Caps Safe?

As a ‘helicopter parent’ to my cats, safety is of the utmost importance.

I am always on the lookout for product safety, so this was a big part of my research.

Most nail cap manufacturers rely on a vinyl resin to make the caps.

This vinyl resin does not pose any particular harm to cats.

Furthermore, it is a non-toxic substance, so you won’t need to worry about potential health risks from exposure.

In addition, nail caps still allow the full retraction and extension of claws.

This means your cat won’t be stopped from stretching its muscles.

preparing cats claw for cutting

In other words, cat nail caps are a safe option for pet owners looking to reduce claw marks in their home.

With that said, there are a few risks that you may want to think about before applying cat nail caps.

While nail caps are generally safe, they do hinder the cat’s tactile abilities a bit.

Think about having long, fake fingernails on your own hands – they can sometimes get in the way of opening jars, typing, or other activities.

Similarly, cats that have nail caps must compensate for this additional layer of material on their nails. In most cases, nail caps slightly change the cat’s stride, causing the cat to walk just a tiny bit differently.

Typically this does not cause much harm to indoor cats, but it could pose a threat for outdoor cats that are exposed to environmental predators, like raccoons, dogs, or cars.

Furthermore, nails caps can inhibit a cat’s ability to climb, so if your outdoor cat likes to jump up in the bushes or climb small trees, this could be a problem.

The inability to use the nails fully to grip a climbing surface could throw the cat off balance and cause her to fall.

When all is said and done, the truth is that many pet owners consider declawing indoor cats in order to eliminate scratch marks.

When comparing these two options, nail caps are…

Without a doubt…

A safer alternative to the surgical removal of nails.

Common Drawbacks to Nail Caps

Like most things in life (and your cat’s lifespan), nail caps are not a foolproof or flawless option for eliminating scratch marks. There are a few drawbacks that are commonly experienced with cat nail caps.

First of all, the application is a little tricky.

Unless you have a really relaxed feline at home who doesn’t mind being held and subdued, putting the nail caps on correctly without any commotion can be a challenge.

Plus, the 5-minute waiting period that is required to allow the adhesive to dry can feel like 5 hours if you’ve got a fussy feline ready to dart away.

Another common drawback to nail caps is that many cats like to chew on the vinyl resin.

Just like many individuals tend to pick off their nail polish, some cats get the urge to chew off nail caps because they just don’t feel natural and who can blame them?

If your cat is a nail chewer, this poses an additional risk:

Accidental swallowing.

While the resin that makes up nail caps is non-toxic, it is still a hard piece of plastic, and this can get caught in the throat of curious cats.

Another drawback of nail caps is that sweat can build up under the cap, meaning bacterial buildup can occur.

However, this is another case of incorrect application.

Usually, if there’s a gap large enough to allow sweat and grime buildup, a smaller sized nail cap is required.

Finally…

It can be a bit of work to keep checking back on your cat’s nails to see if individual caps have grown out, need to be manually removed, or need to be replaced.

Nail caps can be a bit time intensive, requiring constant checking and monitoring.

While there are certainly drawbacks to nail caps, the problems they pose aren’t unsurpassable.

So the final verdict is this…

Cat nail caps can definitely be worth a try if:

  1. You have an indoor cat
  2. Your cat has a habit of scratching at things irresponsibly
  3. You don’t mind the effort of maintaining properly applied caps!

Related Questions

How long do cat nail caps stay on? Most cat nail caps are designed to stay on for 4 to 6 weeks for a healthy adult cat, at which time the caps will grow out with the nail and fall off naturally.

If nail caps consistently fall off considerably sooner, check that the correct size is being used.

Can kittens wear nail caps? Yes, kittens can wear nail caps as long as there is enough nail surface for the adhesive to make contact with. Because kittens do not have as large of claws as adult cats, their claws should not be trimmed prior to nail cap application.

How do you get nail caps off? If the nail cap has not fallen off naturally after 8 weeks, you will need to manually remove the cap.

To do this, trim the tip of the cap while gently applying pressure to the base of the nail cap. Be careful not to trim too deeply in the nail so as to reach the quick.

Do cat nail caps hurt? As long as nail caps are applied correctly and the appropriately sized cap has been used, nail caps should not cause any pain to the cat during application or general wear.

Sources

https://www.chewy.com/kitty-caps-cat-nail-caps-color-varies/dp/145363

https://www.softpaws.com/about-soft-paws-for-cats/

https://www.care.com/c/questions/24840/do-nail-caps-hurt-cats/

http://www.orangevethospital.com/html/nail_caps.html

https://www.softpaws.com/soft-paws-myths-busted/

https://www.softpaws.com/application-instructions-for-cats/

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