Cats use their paws for just about anything.
They use them to stride, eat from their bowl, scale up your expensive curtains (Ouch!), and, well, slap things.
So, when a cat develops an ingrown nail, it inconveniences their way of life.
An ingrown nail is a claw that grows abnormally long and causes pain or discomfort. Cat ingrown nails can cause cats to stop playing, walking, or even eat properly. You can prevent ingrown nails by regularly grooming your cat.
Whether it is kneading people or things, stretching, or pouncing on toys, cats find pleasure in using their paws.
An ingrown nail gets in the way of that and this can be distressful to our furry friends.
Luckily, we are going to show you how to differentiate between healthy paw nails and ingrown nails on a cat.
What does a healthy cat nail look like?
Cats have small rounded paws they use for grabbing, swatting, or pinning something down.
Inside those paws are protractile nails that come when the cat wants to climb or instantly grab onto something.
Kitty claws also come out during self-defense.
You can easily protract a cat’s nail by gently pressing the digital pad.
This is the soft skin below the cat’s claw.
A cat’s nail has a curved elongated form with a sharp tip.
At the base of the claw is the phalanges that hold the nail in place.
Cats also have tendons at the base of the claw that controls retraction and protraction of the nail.
If the nail is not protracted, it retracts into a pouch of skin inside the paw.
Remember that a healthy nail has a smooth curved shape and can protract or retract at will.
What is a cat ingrown nail?
An ingrown nail is an abnormal condition where the nail continues to grow and curve almost into a full circle.
The sharp part of the claw pierces the digital pad and leaves an open wound.
With the wound open, the cat’s paw is vulnerable to pain and infections.
Awareness and prevention of cat ingrown nails are paramount for assuring the overall health of your cat
It is easier to detect ingrown nails in some cat breeds than others.
For instance, it can be hard to diagnose a cat ingrown nail on a Maine Coone because of his hairy paws.
Also, felines like the Bengal cat are a bit reserved about having their paws touched.
This makes it harder to detect ingrown nails.
What causes a cat ingrown nail?
Common causes of ingrown nails in cats include;
- Congenital defects
- Improper grooming
As a cat grows older, some, if not most, of its nails become dysfunctional.
The outer nail fails to shed as normal and rather thickens.
As it continues to grow, it curves inwards affecting the digital pad.
When the tendons holding the nails are damaged by injuries or splitting of the nail, they fail to function properly.
This causes the nail to remain protracted as it grows.
Soon enough, the nail curves inwards and affects the paw pad.
Polydactyly is a condition where humans or pets are born with more than the required set of fingers.
In a cat, the polydactyl claw features a long nail that curves inwards.
Besides piercing the paw, this abnormal nail may also affect the paw’s structure or the cat’s ability to sharpen claws.
When playing, both cats and dogs scratch their nails on the surfaces they stand or run on.
The nails get filed in the process especially when scratching on rough surfaces.
If a cat does not play much, the nails are likely to overgrow and curve inwards.
A cat that is not regularly groomed is at more risk of developing ingrown nails.
When grooming a cat, you must trim the nails to keep them short.
Also, grooming allows you to spot ingrown nails and take care of them before they become a problem.
What are the symptoms of cat ingrown nail?
Most ingrown nails go unnoticed until a cat begins to show signs of discomfort.
Long-haired cats have the highest risk of developing the following symptoms;
- Lameness in gait or posture
- Limping due to pain
- Depression because of the painful paw
- Lethargy — cat refuses to do any activity to rest the paw
- Withdrawal behavior — when in pain, cats tend to withdraw, grow aggressive, or hiss at intruders
- Excessive licking or biting into the paw pad — one of the early signs of trouble
How to treat a cat ingrown nail?
The first step of removing a cat ingrown nail is to trim off the nail itself.
This will provide instant relief to the cat.
If the nail has punctured the pad causing an open wound, you will need to take your cat to the vet.
Trying to cut off the nail when it is deep into the paw pad will only cause more agony to the act.
Also, if an infection has developed, cutting the nail opens the wound to more infection.
A trained vet will properly diagnose the wound and determine what best medical attention to provide.
Before operating on the paw, the vet will sedate the cat to prevent it from feeling more pain.
The vet then disinfects the wound, to kill germs and bacteria, before trimming off the ingrown nail.
If there is an abscess, the vet will drain it before stitching up the paw.
At home, dabbing the paw in warm water mixed with Chlorhexidine-Betadine solution helps disinfect the paw.
This also reduces swelling and inflammation on the claw.
A pet cone will help prevent the cat from scratching or licking its paw.
This provides ample time for the stitched-up wound to heal.
VIDEO: Removing a cat’s ingrown nail
Can you prevent a cat ingrown nail?
The only way to prevent ingrown nails is by grooming your cat.
Cat the nails short and inspect them once or twice a week.
Ensure the nails have the correct structure and length.
Pay more attention to older cats as well.
Examine the nails and see if they still retract or not.
If they don’t, trimming them regularly minimizes the chances of ingrown nails.
Give a polydactyl cat the same attention and care.
A cat ingrown nail can cause a lot of pain and discomfort when not addressed early.
Grooming your cat regularly is the only way to prevent overgrown nails in a cat.
Grooming also helps you detect and correct cat ingrown nails that are forming or already formed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Surgery on a cat ingrown nail will not be painful because the vet numbs the paw before the procedure. After the surgery, the paw may feel a bit numb before the anesthesia completely wears off. Ensuring your cat rests for a while before they walk again.
Though hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria, it can be too harsh on a cat’s skin. Consider milder antiseptics like Chlorhexidine and Betadine for cleaning ingrown nail wounds.
Use a soft cloth dipped in warm water to clean a cat’s nail. While at it, examine the paws for signs of ingrown nails forming or already formed. Cut the nails short to prevent ingrown nails as well.
Soaking the paw in warm water mixed with apple cider vinegar. This helps kill germs and soothe inflammation. Pet approved painkillers like ibuprofen and carprofen will provide relief from pain. Cutting the ingrown nail solves the problem completely.