My Cat Has Too Many Claws. Help!

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My neutered female cat is a polydactal (Hemingway) cat. She is an indoor cat. Because of the nature of the structure of her additional toes, it is very difficult for me to trim the extra claws. I take her to the vet to have this done for me. I can tell when they need trimming because she loses her enthusiasm for play. At one visit, my vet advised me that I should have these extra claws removed (for almost $400) and that it would be better for the cat. I am in a quandry because of the painful procedure involved. Should I have this surgery done or just continue to have her claws trimmed?

~Suzanne

Cat's paw with claws extended

Photo by AnasiZ, released into the public domain.

Siouxsie: Suzanne, you’re not the only one who’s found yourself in a quandary when faced with a decision like this.

Thomas: We all know that declawing is a painful procedure that can cause permanent changes in your cat’s behavior and even sometimes their health.

Kissy: But sometimes there’s a legitimate reason to do what vets call a partial declaw, and here’s the story of one case Mama know about. I’m going to let Siouxsie and Thomas tell the story because they were there when it happened.

Siouxsie: One of Mama’s friends was faced with a similar problem. She adopted a sweet little super-polydactyl kitten — literally, the cat had eight toes on one of her front feet. She had a hard time trimming her cat’s claws, too, and sometimes they grew right back into her paw pads a a result.

Thomas: Her vet, who is on the record as being passionately against declawing to the point of refusing to do “convenience declaw” surgeries, recommended that the cat have a partial declawing.

Siouxsie:  The cat’s extra claws didn’t bear weight, so it wouldn’t be as painful as a typical declawing, and in the long run it would be better for the cat’s health.

Thomas: Mama’s friend did a lot of soul searching, too. She knew what declawing involves — an amputation of the last digit of each toe — and hated the very idea of it.

Siouxsie: She talked with a lot of her friends as she processed the idea, and finally when little Dazzle had yet another claw wrapped up into her paw pad, she decided a partial declaw really would be in the best interests of her cat.

Thomas: And when the vet did the surgery, she found a whole bunch of other little claws that were actually inside the paw pads — the bones had never fully grown out, but the claws were still in there.

Siouxsie: If Mama’s friend hadn’t had the surgery done, her cat probably would have been in constant pain and probably would have developed some serious infections.

Thomas: In this case, the partial declaw was necessary for the cat’s health and quality of life. She made a quick recovery and had no complications from the surgery.

Kissy: So, Suzanne, there are times when it’s legitimate to do that partial declaw.

Siouxsie: We’d recommend that you have a serious talk with your vet. Express your concerns about pain and other issues with declawing. Ask your vet what he or she would do if the cat was their pet.

Thomas: If you want to keep your cat’s extra claws, you’ll need to learn how to trim them. It’s going to get expensive if you need to take her to the vet every few weeks to have those odd claws clipped. We figure it’ll add up to a lot more than $400 over the course of your cat’s life.

Kissy: Mama’s known six- and seven-toed cats who didn’t have a problem with their extra claws, but like Mama’s friend’s cat, some polydactyl cats do run into extra problems with too many claws.

Siouxsie: Ask your vet all the questions you need to ask — including if he or she has seen other cases like this where a partial declaw was done. Maybe you can find other people who have had partial declawing procedures done on their polydactyl cats and talk to them about how it turned out.

Thomas:  Ultimately it’s going to be your decision. But we want to reassure you that in some cases, declawing is medically and ethically okay, if you’re doing the procedure to maintain your cat’s quality of life rather than protecting your furniture.

 

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Comments

  1. Charles Smith says

    We have had two or more of these type of cats through the years although we call them a Lunenburg Cat as they arrived on ships in Lunenburg NS. Please never declaw them they are beautiful and have unique ways of doing things. We solve the problem by using old furniture that can be got rid of and replaced with another piece of old furniture. We have four Cats in the house and it is of no use to keep new furniture but we love them all and they run the house

  2. Kieran says

    My Fiddlesticks has six toes on each of his front paws, so that it looks like has “mittens” with nearly opposable thumbs and an extra claw between his “thumb” and first toe. During the adoption process, originally the plan was to have this claw removed. I was told that, in his case, it wouldn’t hurt, because the claw was not attached to any nerves – he couldn’t even retract it. After talking with the vet, we decided just to keep it, since Fiddlesticks is a strangely complacent cat who doesn’t mind having his claws trimmed, and so it’s easy enough for me to keep it trimmed safely. I actually find his claws easier to trim than my normally-toed other cat, whose dew claw is really hard to reach!

    So, I agree – talk with your vet. I understand you have a difficult time trimming the claws yourself, but is this something you could learn how to do better? I was quite scared about trimming my cats’ claws at first, but I’ve gotten used to it; but, then again, my cats are too kind. Are the extra toes not attached to nerves like they are in my cat? You mentioned that your cat loses enthusiasm for play when her extra claws need trimming. This sounds to me like it might be just as painful for her to keep the claws as it would be to have them removed.

  3. says

    very well done article. There is a huge difference between poly cats with functional additional claws that they can keep trimmed down on their own with use and non functional toes that have claws that are non functional but that continue to grow and simply cause problems. There is also the variable of owner care. Some people just can not clip claws for what ever reason.

    If claws are nonfunctional and will just cause problems, it might be in the best interest of the kitty to have them taken off.

  4. Mike says

    See if your vet does the procedure using a laser to do the cutting (instead of the traditional method). There is less chance of infection, it is less painful, and healing is quicker.

    Good luck.

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