Knowing how to care for your cat after they have surgery is essential to helping your feline friend return to normal activities as quickly as possible. Here is some advice from our Rabun County veterinary team about how to care for your cat after surgery.
Follow The Post-Op Instructions From Your Vet
Pets and pet owners are bound to feel some anxiety both leading up to and following surgery. But, knowing how you need to care for your feline companion after they return home is key to helping your pet get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.
After your pet's surgery, your vet will provide you with clear and detailed instructions about how to care for your cat while they are recovering from surgery. 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 Cats After Surgery
Soft tissue surgeries, such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgery, typically recover faster in cats than surgeries involving bones, joints, ligaments, or tendons. Soft-tissue surgeries are typically healed in two to three weeks, with full recovery taking about six weeks.
For orthopedic surgeries - those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures - recovery takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur within 8 to 12 weeks following surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Here are a few tips from our Rabun County 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 anesthetics 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.
General anesthetics can cause temporary sleepiness or shakiness on the feet. These are normal side effects that should fade with rest. A temporary loss of appetite is also quite common in cats recovering from general anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of their appetites 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 you only provide them with about a quarter of their usual portion.
If your cat is not eating after surgery, don't be alarmed. Expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours following its procedure. At that point, your pet can gradually start to eat its 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.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
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 in order 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 Pet Comfortable At Home
It's critical to provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place to rest after surgery, away from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Making a soft and comfortable bed for your cat and giving them plenty of space 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 vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’s movement for a specified period (usually a week) after surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.
Fortunately, few procedures necessitate extensive crate or cage rest to help your cat recover, and most outdoor cats will cope well with staying indoors for a few days while they recover. Crate rest may be necessary if you need to keep your cat from jumping after surgery.
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 crate rest for your cat 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.
Make sure your pet's crate is big enough for him to stand up and turn around in. 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.
Dealing With Your Cat's 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 keep 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.
Your Cat's Incision Site
Cat owners will frequently find it difficult to prevent their pets from scratching, chewing, or otherwise tampering with the site of their surgical incision. To keep your pet from licking its 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
The follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.
The veterinary team at Rabun Animal Hospital has been trained to dress wounds effectively in order to protect your pet's incision and provide the best possible healing. 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.