The Rat Fan Club

Clipping Toenails

by Debbie “The Rat Lady” Ducommun


A great way to try to keep your rats’ nails from growing too long is to put a cinder block (the concrete block with the hole through it) in their cage placed either upright or on its side.  It makes a good climbing toy and also helps to wear down sharp toenails. Place the block somewhere in their cage like next to a shelf to encourage them to jump up on it. Home Depot sells small ones that are only about 5 ½ X 7 ½ X 7 ½ inches.

If necessary, trimming your rat’s toenails is really quite easy to do once both you and the rat are used to it. The best tools to use are human fingernail clippers. Hold your rat on your lap facing left if you’re right-handed (reverse these directions if you’re left-handed). Press him against your stomach with your left forearm to hold him still and hold his foot in your left hand. Pull his foot backward and clip the nails with your right hand. You only need to clip off the sharp tip on the end of the nail. If you cut too much off, the nail will bleed. It’s a good idea to have some styptic powder or silver nitrate sticks on hand to stop any bleeding, but if you’re careful, bleeding rarely occurs. You can eliminate the chance of accidentally cutting a toe by holding the foot so only the nails stick out. Your fingers protect the toes.

If your rat really struggles, only do a few nails at a time. Reward him with a treat afterward. You can also distract him during the procedure by giving him a treat in the beginning.

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