To help your beloved kitty return to normal as quickly as possible after they have surgery, you need to know how to care for them properly. In this blog, our knowledgeable Portland vets discuss the ways you can help your cat feel better after surgery and what you can expect from the post-operation process.
Cat Pre-Surgical Instructions
Cat pre-surgical instructions vary depending on the type of procedure being performed, and whether or not the cat surgery is emergency or planned. However, we will provide you with a set of cat pre-surgical instructions that can be used as a general guideline for preoperative preparations:
- We recommend that you fast your cat the night before surgery but allow them to drink water through the night. Generally, this involves simply picking up your cat's food but allowing them access to water til you depart for the veterinary hospital.
- Be on time for your feline surgery, There is an important pre-surgical process that requires your cat to be in the hospital when scheduled.
- Listen carefully to post-surgical instructions from your veterinary care team and call the hospital if you have any questions regarding post-op care for your cat.
Follow All Post-Op Instructions You've Been Given
Without a doubt, you and your feline friend are going to feel some anxiety or nervousness before and following your cat's procedure. However, when you go into the process knowing what to expect and how you have to care for your kitty following the operation is key to alleviating some of the stress and helping your furry companion get back to normal as fast as possible.
Once your cat's surgery is over, your vet or veterinary surgeon will provide you with very detailed and specific instructions that explain how you need to take care of your cat during its at-home recovery. If you are uncertain about any of the instructions or steps, don't hesitate to ask your vet for clarification because you must understand everything you need to do. If you forget about an aspect of your cat's care call your veterinarian and ask them to go over that instruction again.
After Surgery Recovery Times For Cats
Cats usually recover from soft tissue surgeries - such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries - faster than surgeries that deal with bones, joints ligaments, or tendons. Typically, soft-tissue surgeries are primarily healed within two or three weeks, taking about 6 weeks to heal completely.
For orthopedic surgeries - which consist of bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures - recovery generally takes a lot longer. About 80% of cats fully recover 8 to 12 weeks after their surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Below we have shared some tips to help you keep your cat comfortable as they safely recover at home:
The Effects of General Anesthesia
We use general anesthetics during our surgical procedures 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. A temporary lack of appetite is also quite common in cats who are recovering from the effects of general anesthesia.
Feeding Your Cat After Their Surgery
Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of its 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 the 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.
Pain Management for Cats Following Surgery
Before you and your cat returns 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 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
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.
Limit Your Cat's Movement
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.
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. If you need to keep your cat from jumping after surgery crate rest may be required.
Helping Your Cat Manage 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 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 its 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.
Handling Your Cat's Bandages & Stitches
If your cat's stitches have been placed inside the incision they will dissolve on their own as the site heals.
If your kitty has staples or stitches outside of their incision, they will have to be removed by your vet approximately 2 weeks after the procedure. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches they have used to close your cat's incision and about any follow-up care, they will need.
Your pet's bandages need to stay dry at all times to ensure the surgical site heals promptly.
If your feline friend walks around or goes outside, make sure to cover the bandages with a plastic bag or cling wrap to keep dampness or wet grass from getting between the bandage and their skin. When your cat goes back inside you need to remove the plastic covering, because leaving it could 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 its 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
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.
Our veterinary team at Cedar Mill Veterinary Hospital is fully qualified to dress wounds effectively to keep your pet's incision protected and promote the best healing possible. 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.