How to Trim Rat Nails


There are many different species of rats, but the one you’re probably talking about is called a Fancy Rat. They make excellent pets and companions for children who are responsible enough to care for them. A rat’s nails grow continuously as ours do.

How to Trim Rat Nails

You can trim your rat’s nails by using nail clippers or scissors to snip off the sharp tips. If the nails are long, you can use a nail file to trim them more gradually. In this article, I will discuss how to trim rat nails. So let us get started.

A Detailed Guide on How to Trim Rat Nails:

First things first. I want to state that this is a guide, not necessarily the right or wrong way, but a step-by-step guide from me to you of what does and doesn’t work for my boys and girls! This will cover nail trims for both front nails, back nails, and even dewclaws. It’s going to belong, so please read the whole thing before trying. If your ratty has bleeding or their claws are very long, please see a vet before attempting this.

What You Need:

It is a place where you can sit quietly with your rat on your lap with good lighting  (I prefer natural light when I have it). Nonslip surface for them to sit on. I use a towel, but some people have said that just using your leg works better Type of nail trimmers for your rat. These are the ones I have-  Micro-Tip Scissors. They’re about $5 or so at Walmart in the pet section. Sometimes you can find them for cheaper on Amazon.

You may also want to get a Styptic powder, which you can purchase at any local pet store, Walmart, Amazon, etc. Type of treats/snacks they love! This makes it go by much faster 🙂 Ratty’s favorite toy or two A small container to put their feet in if needed (I’m lazy and don’t do this step) What You Do: Get your stuff together and put your rat on the nonslip surface (If you’re using a towel like me, put your rat on it and then fold it up) Make sure they are warm enough, I usually hold Romeo while he sits in my lap for about 5 minutes or so before starting to make sure he’s not cold. If they are too hard to sit still while doing this, please take care of them first!

Take one foot and gently press down on their toes until they have no choice but to curl their nails under. For both front feet, start with the middle toe since that is the longest. 

Press gently until they curl under for you. You can give treats whenever they seem stressed. Here is where things get a little tricky, depending on your rat. If they are a little squirmy and you can’t seem to get a nail in, try wiggling the scissors a bit while pressing down to make them curl further under. Once you have gotten one nail in, give treats and stop there. You may choose to do all the nails once you’ve got one done, but I usually only do half at a time since my rats don’t like having their feet touched, the period before it’s been warmed up by being held for a while.

Next, take off that same back toe from where you left off with the front toes. I usually start with whichever toe is closest to me when looking straight on, so if I’m working with a back, it would be the middle one.

Rat Starts Squirming a Lot

You will want to do this with both back feet, taking off whichever toe is closest at the time. For example, if you’re working on the dewclaw (the higher up toe that’s almost next to their foot), start with that and then do whichever toe is second closest after it and so on.

If your rat starts squirming a lot, go ahead and give treats but DO NOT force them if they show you apparent signs of stress such as biting or breathing fast, etc. Of course, you can always go back to this the next day.

Now, on to the front nails! Work from one toe to another on each hand, so you don’t get confused. Once you have obtained all four paws, go over them a few more times, giving more treats and some pets if necessary. You should do this until they are no longer resisting, or it’s just too much for them at that time. This can be anywhere from a couple of minutes up to 20, depending on your rats. I will usually give my boys about 5-10 minutes before stopping, then back later that night or even the following day. When you’re finished with all of that, either give lots of cuddles and kisses.

You Can Check It Out to Tell if Your Pet Rat Likes You

Precautions While Cutting Trimming Rat Nails:

* Be sure to have a flashlight handy. In some cases, it’s helpful for you to be able to see your rat’s nail without having to turn on bright lights that may startle him.

* Be aware of how much pressure it takes to cut a pet rat’s nails before attempting this process with him. Also, do not attempt these steps with a rat who is afraid or tries to bite gently during the process. If this happens, provide a treat and try again another time when he is less stressed. 

* Use small Dremel tools as necessary. Many rats are very stressed out at the site of extensive Dremel tools and will react badly or even attack you once they notice them in your hands. If you feel this may be a problem for you, use a small Dremel tool instead.

* Be patient! If your rat’s nails are long, this process may take a while.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are Petting Rats Beneficial?

Petting a rat is often beneficial to the human as well as the rat. Humans have a calming effect upon pet rats which they pick up on through their sense of touch. Rats also enjoy being stroked and can learn to look forward to having their nails trimmed if this procedure is associated with receiving strokes from you.

Rats Should Be Given Opportunities Daily for Self-grooming

How Often Should I Trim Their Nails?

Rats should be given opportunities daily for self-grooming, including filing down their claws by running them across different surfaces such as corrugated cardboard or wood (keeping in mind that too rough of characters may cause injury). This will help prevent overgrown nails and keep your pets healthy and comfortable; however, it is recommended that you trim your rat’s nails once every week or two to keep them at a safe length.


I hope this article has offered you all the necessary information on how to trim rat nails. Ensure all the precautions while performing the process. Thank you and have a nice day!

Jennifer Branett
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