My declawed cat’s claws are growing back deformed. What can be done?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I adopted my 3-year-old cat, Pepper, last February from the SPCA. Pepper’s former owner had him declawed and now I’ve noticed that he’s got a couple of deformed claws regrowing on each of his front paws. There’s not any redness or swelling that I can see, but he really doesn’t like me messing with his paws. I know this can happen after declawing, but what I’m not sure about is what can be done for him now. He doesn’t appear to be in any pain and he’s acting completely normal — playing, eating, drinking, and getting into mischief. And despite his lack of front claws, he still loves to claw things.

Is this something I can just let him live with or will this eventually cause him any pain and discomfort in the future? Please help. I’m an experienced cat owner, but as I’ve never had a cat declawed (nor do I intend to) I’m at a loss as to what to do. Pepper is the sweetest, most loving cat, and I just want him to have a happy wonderful life, and the best care it’s possible for me to give him.

Thank you for your help.


Siouxsie: We know declawing is a very emotional issue, so before anyone goes off half-cocked and criticizes this reader for declawing, please note that Pepper was declawed when she adopted him and that she has no intention of ever declawing a cat herself. … OK, now that everybody’s taken a deep breath, let’s get on with our answer.

Thomas: Unfortunately, Barbi, your cat’s problem is quite common. According to veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve, up to a third of cats who are declawed have post-surgical complications including abscesses, lameness, and claw regrowth. These complications can occur anywhere from days to years after the surgery.

Dahlia: There are many other declaw complications including chronic pain, arthritis, litterbox problems, and biting, and personality changes.

Siouxsie: Apparently there is a reparative surgery that can be done for cats with deformed claw outgrowth as a result of botched declaw surgery.

Thomas: The procedure is expensive and painful, mind you, and it’s basically a second declaw procedure to remove the bone  from which the claws are growing.

Dahlia: Deformed claws can cause problems, particularly if they grow into the pads and cause irritation or infection.

Siouxsie: It’s also hard to know if the bone from which the claws are growing is causing your cat discomfort or pain. If the bone is growing improperly, that too can cause infection.

Thomas: Cats are very good at hiding pain until it’s pretty much unbearable, so it’s hard to know how much he’s hurting.

Dahlia: We’d recommend that you talk to your vet about your options. He or she will be able to take X-rays and find out what’s really going on inside Pepper’s paws and give you sound advice on whether or not it would be in your cat’s best interest to have the surgical repair done.

Siouxsie: Veterinarians who do declaw surgeries prefer to do them between 4 and 8 months of age because, theoretically, cats will adapt better to declaw surgery if they have it done when they’re young.

Thomas: It’s generally not considered wise to declaw an overweight cat, since the recovery is painful enough without having extra weight on the toes. So if your cat is overweight, your vet may either suggest you get him on a weight loss program before any reparative surgery is done.

Dahlia: For our part, we’re against declawing. The vast majority of declaw surgeries are done for the owner’s convenience, not for the benefit of the cat. There are much more humane ways to prevent unwanted furniture scratching or train your cat to scratch on appropriate surfaces.

Siouxsie: We know there are some very rare exceptions where declawing may be medically necessary for the cat — for example, if the paws and claws are congenitally deformed and having claws would lead to even more long-term pain and risk of infection than the procedure itself.

Thomas: And there are other very rare exceptions where a cat’s caretaker has a severely compromised immune system and it would be worse for the cat to be rehomed than it would to have the surgery.

Dahlia: However, we should point out that we personally know a cat caretaker who has a compromised immune system due to organ transplant surgery and the anti-rejection drugs he has to take, and his cats aren’t declawed. They’re just really good about not scratching because they were well-trained from kittenhood. So it’s not absolutely necessary to have a cat declawed if your immune system is not sound.

Siouxsie: Barbi, we’re so grateful to you not only for caring so much about Pepper’s well-being, but for adopting an adult cat. We’re big fans of adopting adult cats!

Thomas: I know I’m a particularly big fan. Mama adopted me from the shelter when I was 3 years old, and I didn’t know if I’d ever find a home because everyone wanted kittens!

Dahlia: Please let us know what you find out when you talk with your vet about reparative surgery and how things turn out with Pepper!

  • Barbi

    I took Pepper to the vet on Monday, and the vet said that at this time Pepper doesn’t need surgery. Yay! I’ll have to keep an eye on his paws because he may at some point in the future, but for now no surgery!

  • Loquin

    Thanks for the info!! My cats Jesse and Blue have congenitally deformed paws and I had to have their front paws declawed because they were unable to retract their claws at all and were hurting themselves and each other. Blue is fine but now (three years later) Jesse has grown back a thick warped claw. I’m going to go ahead and get the poor guy to the vet. Thank you for the advice!!

  • Debbie

    My kittens claw has got caught and twisted, vet has given me med for her and there is a 50% chance the claw will sort itself, if not, he has to remove it.

    This kitten is looking for a new home once she is sorted, shes the last in the litter to go. Do i need to inform the new owners of anything? (when I find someone that wants her, I’ll keep her if partner lets me)

    Thanks for the info above

  • Babs

    Does anyone know how much this second surgery would/could potentially cost? We adopted a fully declawed cat but it’s looking like some bone is growing through the pads of his feet :(

    • Courtney

      My cat was declined when he was a kitten he’s now almost 7 years old and is also having this issue however his is extremely painful and he has stopped being as mobile as he used to be. At first the doctor thought it was arthritis and I’ve been paying hundreds of dollars over. Of time to keep his medication going to help eliminate the pain but after not seeing any progress I took him back to another vet to be checked out again and was told it’s actually bone regrowth through the pads of his feet. I’ve been asking around trying to get a price quote on how much this operation will cost me and I’ve been quoted at anything from $1600-$3000. It is an extremely expensive procedure and after seeing how much pain my cat is enduring because of it I strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to peppers and at the slightest change in his paws , have him rechecked. I have now been saving up for the operation for several months and I’m still several hundred dollars away from the cheapest quote I got. I feel absolutely horrible but there’s nothing I can do for him at this time. I don’t want anybody else to have to go through this process nor do I want their cat to experience this. My cats declaw occurred prior to everything coming out about how the process was actually done what all went into it and the complications that could arise had I known these things ahead of time I never would’ve had him declawed and I advise anybody reading this to seriously look into the complications that can come of declawing and weigh the pros and cons before making the decision.

  • Karen

    Our kitty was declawed 3 years ago as well and we too found bone growth through front pads on both front paws. At first I thought it was nail growth. I took him to the vet that did the declaw and he did a radiograph. It shows that the bones are contracted downward rather than laying flat. As a result the middle finger which is the longest, broke through the pad.

    He had stopped eating months in advance of this and had every test imaginable. What we learned is that the pain was so intense it caused him not to eat. The vet performed a second surgery to remove the bone on both middle finger on each paw. I would say this had to be excruciating based upon what I witnessed afterward. 3 weeks later he is better. The pain has diminished but the question remains. What about all the other bones of his 3 other digits. Will they too poke through? He’s just started biting at another pad and I’m freaking out.

    For anyone who wants to kill me for declawing in the first place. Bring it. I deserve it. Our home and anything kitty could get his paws on was destroyed. We were ignorant. I hate myself more than I can begin to describe. Our cat is like a child to us. I will do anything to resolve his issues. Sadly, not many people seem to know much about this. Our vet and 6 others consulted had never seen such a thing. I’m not sure where to go for a greater knowledge base. Does anyone have more information?