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How to Care for Your Cat as They Recover From Surgery

How to Care for Your Cat as They Recover From Surgery

Your cat will need a little extra love and attention after surgery to aid the healing process. Here, our Farmington Hills vets share a few strategies for caring for your kitty companion as they recover from surgery. 


Follow Post-Op Instructions Precisely

You might be feeling anxious leading up to and following your cat's surgery. That said, knowing how to give your cat the care and attention they need will help them return to their regular selves as quickly as possible.

After your cat's surgery, your veterinarian will provide thorough instructions on how to care for your feline friend as they recover at home. It's critical that you carefully follow these instructions and follow up with your vet to clarify any steps you are unsure about. If you get home and realize you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, please don't hesitate to contact us to ask questions.

Preventing Your Cat From Jumping

Your veterinarian will likely recommend limiting your cat's ability to jump or stretch for some time after surgery - typically about a week. This is because sudden stretching or jumping can disrupt the healing process and cause the incision to re-open. 

Fortunately, significant cage or crate rest will only be required for a few procedures to support recovery. Most outdoor cats will cope well by staying indoors for a few days as they recover. See our tips below for specific strategies on how to prevent your cat from jumping. 

Discourage Jumping by Keeping Your Cat Away From Other Cats

Post-operative socializing might not be the best idea for your cat, since they might be more likely to jump about the house to keep up with their own feline friends. Own multiple cats? Consider separating them for a short period while one recovers from surgery. 

Maintain a Calm Home Environment to Keep Your Cat From Jumping

Your cat is more likely to be able to lay down, relax and have rejuvenating rest as they recover if there is not excessive stimuli in the home to increase their odds of jumping. Try to isolate your cat from children and other pets while they are recovering. This will help them chill out until they gain their full strength back. Explain to household members and guests the need to keep a quiet environment for the next short while on behalf of your resting cat.

Remove all Cat Trees

Covering cat trees with a blanket or laying them on their side is an excellent first step to discourage your cat from jumping and keep their paws on the ground. If you leave a cat tree up, this will be an invitation for your kitty to test their leaping luck. While probably not the most elegant solution, it's only for a short while as your cat recovers from surgery. 

Keep Your Cat Inside Your Home

While outdoor cats may not be thrilled with the forced confinement indoors, it is the best thing for them. Jumping cats can meet disastrous consequences during unsupervised trips outside. It's impossible to know what your cat is getting up to once they leave your sight, so it's best to keep a close eye on them while they recover. 

Use a Crate to Stop Jumping From Cats After Surgery

For many cat owners, using a crate is a last resort. While we do not want to encourage crate rest for days on end for any animal, if your cat proves especially stubborn and unwilling to settle down, you might not have any other option. 

If crating becomes a necessity to prevent your cat from jumping, consider asking your vet about anesthetics to help your cat relax outside the crate. If your cat is particularly fond of jumping, we recommend keeping them in the crate when you are outside your home, only letting them wander around when you are there to supervise them. 

Stay Focused & Alert to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery

Finally, it may go without saying but the most important strategy to keep your cat from jumping following surgery is to stay vigilant in watching their activity closely. Because you'll be unable to correct behavior you can't see and because a vet should know right away if your cat does reinjure themselves, cat parents should remain especially attentive to their feline friends as they recover from surgery. 

If Cat Won't Eat Following Surgery

It is not uncommon for a general anesthetic to leave your cat feeling slightly nauseated, meaning that they will likely experience appetite loss 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 a quarter of their usual portion.

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. In these prolonged cases, 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 explain the dose needed, how often you should provide the medication, and how to safely administer the meds. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. If you are unsure about any instructions, 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 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 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.

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.

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.

Dealing With 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 approximately 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 an essential step in helping your cat's incision heal quickly.

If your kitty 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.

Caring For The Incision Site

Cat owners often find it challenging to stop their feline friend from scratching, chewing, or messing around with 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.

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Our veterinary team finds that most often, any pet will recover from a soft tissue surgery like abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries like c-sections or spays and neuters than operations that involve bones, joints ligaments, or tendons. Often, soft-tissue surgeries are mostly healed within two or three weeks, taking about a month-and-a-half to heal completely.

For orthopedic surgeries, those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures, recovery takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur about 8 to 12 weeks after surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.

Here are a few tips from our Plains 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.

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.

Attend Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment

Your cat's follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your kitty's recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.

The veterinary team at Angel 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.

Is your cat coming in for surgery at Angel Animal Hospital? Contact our vets in Farmington Hills to ask any questions or address concerns you may have.

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(248) 615-6500