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.
Following your cat's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet on how to care for your kitty at home while they recover. It is critical that you strictly adhere to 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 surgeries 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 undergone orthopedic surgery (involving ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) tend to heal much more slowly. Approximately 80% of your cat's recovery will take place 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, the average recovery time from orthopedic surgery is 6 months or longer.
Today, our Delaware County 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
During surgical procedures, a general anesthetic is used to render your cat unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain. However, the effects of anesthesia may take some time to wear off after the procedure is completed.
General anesthetics can cause temporary shakiness on their feet or sleepiness. These are normal side effects that should fade with rest. A temporary loss of appetite is also a common side effect in cats recovering from anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat may feel slightly nauseated and lose some appetite following a surgical procedure. 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 go home after surgery, a veterinary professional will explain 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 dose, 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.
Antibiotics and pain relievers are frequently prescribed by veterinarians following surgery to prevent infection and discomfort. If your cat is anxious or hyperactive, our veterinarians may prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm during 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 recommends crate rest for your cat after surgery, there are some precautions you can take to ensure they are as comfortable as possible while confined for extended periods.
Make sure your pet's crate is large enough for your pet 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, they will need to be removed by your vet about 2 weeks after the procedure. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision, as well as any necessary follow-up care.
Another important step in assisting your pet's surgical site to heal quickly is to keep bandages dry at all times.
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. When your pet returns home, remove the plastic covering, as leaving it on may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, resulting in infection.
The Incision Site
Cat owners will frequently find it difficult to prevent their pet from scratching, chewing, or otherwise 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 quickly to the collar, but if your pet is having trouble, there are other options. Inquire with your veterinarian about less cumbersome options, 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 Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital has been trained to properly 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.