Are You Clueless About How to Cut Guinea Pig Nails? Here’s Your Comprehensive Guide

Four little fingers on each paw in the front and three tiny toes on each foot at the back. Few things can compare to the cuteness overload of guinea pig feet. Like humans, piggy nails grow continuously, so clipping their tiny nails must be part of their regular grooming routine. Since many cavies are wiggly and squirmy during the procedure, it is not something most piggy owners look forward to.

Guinea pigs must have their nails trimmed every four weeks. Before starting, gather everything needed, including sharp nail clippers, a soft towel, and styptic powder. It can help to have a few tasty snacks to distract the piggy. Work in a position where there is no chance of the animal falling.

Although it may be a little scary the first time you do it, trimming your piggy’s nails does get easier with practice. Let’s go through the steps of how to cut your guinea pig’s nails so you can work confidently and keep your little pet calm through the process.

How To Trim Guinea Pig Nails

Guinea pigs, like horses, need regular grooming to stay in tip-top condition. Fortunately, you don’t need to call an expensive farrier to shoe your piggy, and with a bit of practice, owners can double as cavy nail technicians.

Before we jump into the step of cavy nail trimming, it is worth taking note of the following:

  • When it comes to trimming guinea pig nails, less is always more. Most piggies need their nails clipped about once a month. Some may need it more often. It is better to think of it as a regular nail trim rather than a cut. Unless the animal has overgrown nails, only the tippy tops must be snipped off.
  • Ensure that the nail clippers you use are sharp so they cut quickly and cleanly.
  • Some piggy owners find it helps to have some tasty snacks close by to distract the piggies and make the experience less stressful. Others find that it makes them wiggle more. Experiment to see if offering snacks works for your piggy or not.
  • Create a relaxed environment. Even if you feel nervous, try not to pass those vibes on to your piggy. Chat in a soft, calm voice, and pet your piggy gently, no matter how much it fidgets.
  • It’s okay to take breaks. If you are new to trimming your piggy’s nails and find that the pet is getting stressed, or you are feeling frustrated, have a short break and try again later. Nail trimming can take a bit of getting used to for the little pet, so try to make it a positive experience from the start.

6 Easy Steps to Cut Guinea Pig Nails

Before you start, it helps to have a good look at your piggy’s nails. Some are white, and the thin red blood vessel, called the quick, is easy to see inside. Sometimes, nails are dark or black, making it more difficult to see how far the quick extends inside each nail.

1. Gather The Equipment You Will Need

It helps to have everything you may need within reach. Once you get started, it will be difficult to fetch something you have forgotten.

  • Nail clipper – You can get special small animal clippers, but many piggy owners find it more comfortable using a regular human nail clipper. Trimmers designed to cut a cat’s claws will also work.
  • Soft hand towel. – The towel should be small enough to handle easily but big enough to wrap around the piggy is necessary.
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch. – Decant a tiny amount onto a paper towel next to your workspace. This is used in case you need to stop a nail from bleeding.
  • A bowl of tasty snacks and treats. Your piggy may take the whole experience in its stride if it is happily munching away on its favorite veggies.

2. Position Yourself And Your Guinea Pig Comfortably

Some people find working easier while standing and using a soft blanket on a tabletop. Others prefer sitting on the floor.

Whatever you feel most comfortable with, the most important thing is that no matter how squirmy or wiggly your little pet becomes, there must be no possibility of it falling and getting injured. If you are new to trimming your piggy’s nails or have a particularly nervous pet, it helps to have a helper to hold and distract the little animal.

3. Secure the Guinea Pig’s Body

It is not always necessary to wrap your piggy in a towel, as some can be restrained by gently holding them against your body with the inside of your arm. Others benefit from being gently wrapped in the towel, leaving out one leg at a time.

4. Choose A Paw And Clip The Sharp Tips

Use the hand holding the piggy against your body to hold its toes between two fingers gently. Then, using the free hand, clip off the sharp end of each nail.

When trimming nails, the tricky bit is to snip off the ends without accidentally cutting into the nail quick. If you do, there is no need to panic. Quickly apply some of the cornstarch or styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

It is much easier to cut translucent nails as you can see the blood vessel inside. Some owners use a small flashlight to see the inside of dark nails, but only trimming a ¼ inch from each nail tip is the safest way to avoid cutting the quick.

5. Repeat On All Paws

You will need to reposition the piggy after each foot is completed. It is okay to take breaks between paws if required. Once you are finished, provide positive reinforcement by giving it plenty of praise and a few tasty snacks.

6. Mark The Next Date In Your Diary

Nail clipping is an essential part of owning a guinea pig. Overgrown nails can quickly get out of hand and may have medical and mobility implications for a cavy.

Since it isn’t everyone’s favorite grooming activity, it helps to designate a day in advance for the task so you don’t forget. The more regularly cavy nails are clipped, the less daunting the activity will be.

What Happens If You Don’t Cut Your Guinea Pig’s Nails?

Like rabbits and humans, guinea pigs’ nails grow continuously. In the wild, the little animals would wear their claws down naturally by walking over hard surfaces, but our pampered pets live their lives on soft, padded surfaces.

Regular nail trims must be part of a cavy’s grooming routine. Leaving their nail to grow could result in the following:

  • They will start curling around and grow into the skin. This will not only be painful but can cause infection.
  • Long nails can make walking uncomfortable for the piggy.
  • Long nails can get caught in fleecy cage bedding and cause pain.

If you are anxious about cutting your guinea pig’s nails on your own, it can help to have a friend to help. The other option is to take the cavy to a veterinarian, but it is worth trying to do it yourself first. Multiple training videos are available online demonstrating how to clip guinea pig nails safely.

How Can I Keep My Guinea Pig’s Nails Short?

Regular nail clipping will always be necessary for pet piggies, but there are some ways to encourage some natural wear and tear. The important thing with these methods is to carefully weigh the desired wear on the nails vs. potential injury to the animal’s soft foot pads.

It can help to let your piggy run around on a concrete surface for about 20 minutes a few times a week. Other things you can try include:

  • Placing a cement paver in their cage that they can run over.
  • Add a few strategically placed bricks in their run.


Cutting your guinea pig’s nails may seem daunting at first. With some practice, both you and your piggy will soon settle into a routine. Your piggy may even start enjoying having its own personal manicurist, especially if it scores a few tasty treats during its monthly grooming session.