How to Care for Your Cat After Surgery

It's critical as a cat owner to understand how to care for your kitty as they recover from their scheduled surgery. Here are some tips from our Apple Valley veterinary team on helping your cat return to their normal life as smoothly as possible.

Follow The Post-Op Instructions

Cat and their owners are bound to feel some anxiety both leading up to and after surgery. However, knowing the care needs of your four-legged companion after they return home from surgery is key to helping your cat get back to their regular selves as soon as possible.

After your pet's surgery, your vet will provide your with clear and detailed instructions about how to care for them while they are recovering at home. It is critical that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you are unsure about, make sure you follow up with your vet for clarification. If you return home and realize you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and clarify. 

Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

Our Apple Valley vets find that most often, cats will recover from soft tissue surgeries like c-sections, spays and neuters and abdominal surgeries much quicker than procedures involving bones, tendon, or ligaments. Soft tissue surgeries will mostly healed by two to three weeks after the procedure, and will be fully-healed after a month-and-a-half or so.

For surgeries involving bones, tendons, joint, ligaments and other skeletal structures (also called orthopedic surgeries), recovery will take much longer. While most of your cat's recovery will be finished by 2 - 3 months after their surgery, it can take up to 6 months or more for a complete recovery.

Here are a few tips from our Apple Valley vets to help you keep your cat contented and comfortable as they recover at home:

Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic

We use general anesthetic during our surgical procedures in order to render your pet unconscious and to prevent them from feeling any pain during the operation. However, it can take some time for the effects to wear off after the procedure is completed. 

Effects of general anesthetic may include temporary sleepiness or shakiness on their feet. These after-effects are quite normal and should fade with rest. Temporary lack of appetite is also quite common in cats who are recovering from the effects of general anesthesia. 

Diet & Feeding Your Pet After Surgery

Because of the effects of general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of their appetite after a surgical procedure. When feeding them after surgery, try for something small and light, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but ensure that your only provide them with a quarter of their usual portion. 

You should be able to expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours of their procedure. By that point, your pet will be able to gradually begin eating their regular food again. If you find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned by the time 48 hours has passed, contact your veterinarian. A longer-term loss of appetite in your cat can indicate pain or infection. 

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. 

Your vet will explain the dose required for your cat, how to safely administer it, and how often you should provide the medication to your pet. Make sure you follow these instructions closely in order to eliminate the risk of side effects and preventing unnecessary pain in your pet. If you aren't sure about any of the instructions your received, ask follow up questions.

Vets will often prescribe antibiotics and pain medications after surgery in order to prevent infections and relieve discomfort. If your cat has anxiety or is somewhat high-strung, our vets may also prescribe them with 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 Pet Comfortable At Home

After their surgery, it's key to provide your cat 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. 

Restricting Movement

Your vet will probably recommend limiting your cat's movement for a certain period of time (usually a week) following their procedure. A sudden just or stretching can disrupt your kitty's healing process or even cause their incision to reopen. 

Thankfully, few procedures require 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 Pet 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 of time confined. 

Ensure your cat's crate is large enough to allow them to stand and turn around. If your cat as a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent them from licking their incision site, you may need to acquire a large crate. Don't forget to make sure your cat has ample toom for their food and water dished. Spills of those can make their crate uncomfortable, wet and cause their bandages to spoil.

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 walks around or goes outside, ensure the bandages are covered with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. When your pet returns inside, remove the plastic covering, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, leading to infection.

The Incision Site

Cat parents will often find it challenging to stop their pet from scratching, chewing or messing around with the site of their surgical incision. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.

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 Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment scheduled for you with your vet will give them a chance to monitor your cat's recovery, check them for signs of infection and to properly change their bandages.

The veterinary team at Bear Valley Animal Hospital have been trained to correctly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen - and for us to help keep your pet’s healing on track.

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.

If your cat is schedule to undergo surgery at Bear Valley Animal Hospitalcontact us to learn more about how you can prepare for your pet's after-care.