You can help your cat return to normal life as soon as possible after surgery by doing some things at home. Our Poway veterinarians provide tips and advice on how to help your cat recover after a procedure.
Follow Post-Op Instructions
Leading up to and following your cat's surgery, you're likely feeling some anxiety. That said, understanding how to care for your feline friend after they come home is critical to helping your pet return to their routine as quickly as possible.
After your cat's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet about how to care for your kitty as they recover at home. It's imperative that you carefully follow these instructions.
If you have any questions about any of the steps, please contact your veterinarian. Even if you get home and realize you've misunderstood something about your cat's aftercare, don't be afraid to call and clarify.
Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Our veterinary team has discovered that pets recover faster from soft tissue surgery such as reproductive surgeries (C-sections or spays & neuters) or abdominal surgery than from procedures involving tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints. Soft tissue surgeries typically heal in 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to completely heal.
Parts of the body that have had orthopedic surgeries (which involve ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) tend to take much longer to heal. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur about 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, the typical complete recovery time from orthopedic surgery is 6 months or more.
Today, our Poway vets will share a few tips to help keep your cat comfortable and content as they recover at home.
Recuperating from Effects of General Anesthetic
A general anesthetic is used during surgical procedures to render your cat unconscious and prevent them from feeling pain. However, the effects of anesthesia may take some time to wear off after the procedure is completed.
Effects of general anesthetic can include temporary shakiness on their feet or sleepiness. These after-effects are normal and should fade with rest. Temporary lack of appetite is also a common after-effect in cats recovering from the effects of anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
After a surgical procedure, your cat may feel slightly nauseated and lose some appetite due to the effects of a general anesthetic. Try to feed them something small and light after surgery, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but only a quarter of their usual portion.
If you notice your cat is not eating after surgery, this is normal — monitor them closely. You can expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours post-surgery. At that point, your pet can gradually start to eat their regular food again. If you find that your pet’s appetite hasn’t returned within 48 hours, contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
Pet Pain Management
Before you and your cat return home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you what pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage your cat's post-operative pain or discomfort.
They will explain the appropriate dosage, how frequently you should administer the medication, and how to do so safely. Follow these instructions precisely to avoid unnecessary pain during recovery and to reduce the risk of side effects. If you have any doubts about any of the instructions, ask more questions.
Vets will often prescribe antibiotics and pain medications after surgery to prevent infections and relieve discomfort. If your cat has anxiety or is somewhat high-strung, our vets may also prescribe them a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm throughout the healing process.
Never provide your cat with human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.
Keeping Your Cat Comfortable At Home
As your cat is recovering from surgery, it's key to provide your kitty with a comfortable and quiet place to rest, well apart from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Setting up a comfortable and soft bed for your kitty and giving them lots of room to spread out will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.
How to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery
Your veterinarian will most likely advise you to restrict your pet's movement for a specified period (usually a week) following surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and even cause the incision to reopen, especially after fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries that require rest.
For the duration of your cat's recovery period, you can place them in a smaller area of the house and remove furniture that they may want to jump onto.
Thankfully, few procedures require a significant crate or cage rest to help your cat recover, and most outdoor cats will be able to cope well with staying indoors for a few days as they recover.
Helping Your Cat Cope With Crate Rest
While most surgeries won't require crate rest for your cat, if they underwent orthopedic surgery, part of our recovery will involve a strict limit on their movements.
If your vet prescribes your cat with crate rest after their surgery, there are some measures you can take to make sure they are as comfortable as possible spending long periods confined.
Make sure your pet's crate is big enough for him to stand up and turn around. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate. Don't forget to leave plenty of space for your cat's water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and unpleasant place to spend time, as well as cause bandages to become wet and soiled.
Cage rest can be difficult for cats and boredom may set in. Ask your vet whether limited periods outside the cage for gentle play and interaction are possible.
For cats that must be on extended cage rest, feeding enrichment can help relieve boredom.
Stitches & Bandages
Stitches that have been placed on the inside of your pet's incision will dissolve as the incision heals.
If your cat has stitches or staples on the outside of their incision, your vet will need to remove them around 2 weeks after the procedure. Your vet will let you know what kind of stitches were used to close your pet's incision and about any follow-up care they will require.
Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s surgical site heal quickly.
If your pet goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your pet returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, leading to infection.
The Incision Site
Cat owners will frequently find it difficult to prevent their pets from scratching, chewing, or tampering with the site of their surgical incision. To keep your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in soft and hard versions).
Many cats adapt to the collar quickly, but if your pet is struggling to adjust, other options are available. Ask your veterinarian about less cumbersome products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.
Attend Your Cat's Follow-Up Appointment
At your follow-up appointment, your vet will check in on your cat's recovery, look for signs of infection, and changes your cat's bandages.
Our veterinary team at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital has been trained to correctly dress surgical sites and wounds. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for a check-up allows this process to take place — and allows us to help ensure your cat's healing is on track. We will also address any concerns or questions you may have.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.