There are many ways to help your cat while they recover after surgery so they can get back to living their normal life a quickly as possible. Our Zeeland vets are here to give you advice and tips to help your cat recover as fast as possible.
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 regular routine as quickly as possible.
Once your cat's surgery has been completed, your vet will give you learn and detailed instructions regarding how to care for your cat during their recovery at home. You must make sure to follow these instructions carefully.
If you are unsure about any steps, be sure to get in touch with your vet to clarify. Even if you return home and realize you've misunderstood some aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and ask questions.
Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Our veterinary team finds that on average, pets recover from a soft tissue surgery such as reproductive surgeries (C-sections or spays & neuters) or abdominal surgery more quickly than procedures that involve tendons, bones, ligaments or joints. Soft tissue surgeries most often heal within 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to heal completely.
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, typical complete recovery time from an orthopedic surgery is 6 months or more.
Today, our Zeeland 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 to keep them from feeling any pain during the procedure. However, it can take some time for the effects of anesthesia to wear off once the surgery is over.
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 effects of anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
Because of the effects of general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of their appetite following surgery. 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.
If you notice your cat is not eating after surgery, this is normal — but watch 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 give you the specific doses required, the frequency by which you need to provide medications, and how to safely give the medication. You must make sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent and unnecessary pain during the healing process and to reduce the risk of side effects. If you are unclear about any instructions follow up with your vet.
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 ot 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 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, especially after procedures involving fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries where rest is essential.
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 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 of time confined.
Make sure that your pet's crate is large enough to allow your fur baby to stand up and turn around. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your cat has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure that your kitty has plenty of room for their water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and uncomfortable place to spend time, and 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 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 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 Zeeland Veterinary Service have been trained to dress surgical sites and wounds correctly. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen — and for us to help ensure your cat's healing is on track. We will also address any questions or concerns 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.