To help your cat recover and return to their regular routine as soon as possible, it's crucial to know how to care for them post-surgery. In this post, our Hermitage vets share some tips on caring for your cat as they recover from surgery.
Follow the Post-Op Instructions From Your Vet
It's common for cats and their owners to experience anxiety before and after surgery. However, knowing how to care for your feline companion once they return home is crucial to help them recover quickly.
Your vet will give you detailed instructions for taking care of your pet post-surgery, which you should follow diligently. If you have any doubts about any aspect of your cat's aftercare, it's important to follow up with your vet for clarification.
And if you forget any part of the aftercare, don't hesitate to call and seek guidance.
Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery
Soft tissue surgeries like abdominal or reproductive surgeries have a faster recovery time, with most healing taking place within two to three weeks and complete healing in about six weeks.
On the other hand, orthopedic surgeries involving bones and ligaments take much longer to recover, with 80% of recovery occurring within 8 to 12 weeks and complete recovery taking six months or more.
To help your cat feel comfortable and content during their recovery at home, our Hermitage vets offer the following tips:
Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic
To prevent pets from experiencing pain during surgery, we use general anesthetics to induce unconsciousness, but its effects may last for some time after the procedure.
It's normal for cats to feel sleepy or unsteady on their feet after the surgery, but these effects should subside with rest. Lack of appetite is also common in cats recovering from general anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
Due to general anesthesia, your cat may feel slightly nauseous and have a decreased appetite post-surgery.
It's best to feed them small and light meals, such as chicken or fish, or give them a quarter of their regular food. Don't worry if your cat isn't eating immediately after surgery, as their appetite should return within 24 hours.
However, if their appetite doesn't return after 48 hours, contact your vet or veterinary surgeon, as it could be a sign of infection or pain.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
A veterinary professional will provide you with information on the pain relievers or medications prescribed for your cat's post-operative pain or discomfort before you both return home.
They'll explain the medication's proper dosage, frequency, and administration. Following these instructions carefully is important to prevent pain and avoid any side effects. If you have any doubts, ask follow-up questions.
Antibiotics and pain medications are often prescribed to prevent infections and alleviate discomfort after surgery. If your cat is anxious, a sedative or anti-anxiety medication may also be prescribed to keep them calm during healing.
Never give your cat human medications without consulting your vet first, as many drugs that benefit us can be toxic to our furry 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.
Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery
Your vet will advise you to restrict your pet's movement for a specified period after surgery (usually a week), as sudden movements can disrupt the healing process and reopen the incision.
Fortunately, few procedures require extensive crate or cage rest, and most outdoor cats can adjust to staying indoors during recovery.
However, crate rest may be necessary if you need to prevent your cat from jumping.
Getting Your Cat Used to Crate Rest
Orthopedic surgery may require crate rest for your cat to limit their movements during recovery.
If your vet recommends crate rest, there are measures you can take to ensure your cat's comfort during confinement.
Ensure the crate is spacious enough for your cat to stand up and turn around, and consider purchasing a larger crate if they wear a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking.
Provide adequate space for food and water dishes to prevent spills and keep the crate dry and comfortable. Wet bandages can cause discomfort for your cat.
Managing 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 tell you what kind of stitches were used to close your pet's incision and 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.
Your Cat's 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 other options are available if your pet struggles to adjust. 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 allows your vet to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.
The veterinary team at Hermitage Animal Clinic has been trained to dress wounds effectively 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.