Q: My cat has extra toes on all her feet but on the front she has two extra toes. I love, love, love her silly extra toes but the one on her left front grows a very long claw that starts to grow into her skin and causes her great pain.
She starts limping and licking it and I can’t get to it to clip it. So I have had to bring her to the vet and they give her anesthesia so that they can clip the claw short and clean the wound and give her antibiotics and pain medicine. This keeps happening. Is there anything that I can do to prevent this?
A: It is said that Ernest Hemmingway had a colony of cats with extra toes. These cats with extra digits are called polydactyl in the veterinary world but many people like to call them “Hemmingways.” Most of the time the extra digits don’t cause any harm and the cats live a totally normal life. Occasionally, the extra toes can be crowded or curled in at an angle that may cause a toenail to become ingrown.
If it results in repeated trauma then some steps need to be put in place. Sometimes I can teach the owner how to trim the nail to keep this from happening. It generally takes a different type of nail trimmer called a White’s nail trimmer to be able to get into the small space and clip the pointy nail. You could also take her to the vet clinic once a month to have this done.
If this is not feasible, then the next option is surgery to remove the nail or reposition the digit. Her foot would look the same but the nail would not be able to grow into the skin with either procedure.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.