Cat Recovering from Surgery

As your cat recovers from veterinary surgery they will need a little extra care and attention. In today's post, our Madison vets talk about how you can help your cat recover from surgery and what to expect.

Follow Your Vets Instructions

When your cat needs surgery you are likely to feel a little overwhelmed and nervous, but being prepared for what to expect throughout their recovery can help ensure that things go smoothly.

Your vet will give you all of the care instructions needed to help keep your cat happy and healthy while they recover. You will need to follow these instructions exactly. If there are any steps you are unsure about, be sure to follow up with your vet for clarification. If you return home and realize you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and clarify.

Do Not Allow Jumping During Recovery

After your cat's surgery is complete you will need to move on to caring for them and one of the most important things will be keeping your cat still and not allowing them to jump and run. 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. Here are some of the ways that you can help prevent your cat from jumping.

Remove Cat Trees

  • You may not necessarily need to get rid of your cat trees but you should put them away or lay them flat and cover them with a blanket. Leaving the cat tree up simply invites your feline friend to test their leaping luck. It is not the most elegant solution perhaps, but it is only for a short while well your cat recovers from surgery

Do Not Allow Your Cat Outside

  • If your cat normally goes outside then you may be making them a little unhappy during this time but it is important that you keep them inside until their healing is complete. Unsupervised trips outside invite disastrous consequences for jumping cats. It's impossible to know what your cat may get up to when they are out of sight, so it is best to keep them within reach while they recover from surgery.

Keep Your Cat From Socializing

  • You should always wait until your cat is fully healed before allowing them to get back to socializing with other cats. When in the presence of other cats, your recovering feline friend is more likely to jump about the house to keep up with them. If you own multiple cats, consider keeping them separate for a brief period while one is recovering from surgery.

Maintain a Calm Home Environment

  • If you have lots of fun-looking things around your house then your cat may want to spend more time investigating which can include jumping. Try to keep your cat isolated from children or other pets while they are recovering, as this will help them chill out and ride it out until they are back to their usual selves. Explain to those in the household the need to maintain a quiet volume for the next short while on behalf of your resting cat.

Use a Crate When Necessary

  • While crate rest for extended periods of time is never recommended some crate rest while your cat is recovering from surgery may be necessary if they have been unable to relax otherwise. If crating is the only solution for preventing your cat from jumping, consider speaking with your vet about anesthetics that may help your cat relax outside the crate. If your cat is particularly fond of jumping, it is best practice to keep them in their crate when you are outside the home, only letting them wander about when you are present to supervise them.

Keep an Eye on Your Cat

  • One of the easiest ways to prevent your cat from jumping is to keep an eye on them at all times. You cannot try and correct behavior you cannot see, and if your cat does reinjure themselves it is important to contact a vet right away, so cat owners should be especially attentive to their feline friends when they are recovering from surgery.

Is Your Cat Refusing to Eat?

After surgery, your cat will still be experiencing the effects of the anesthetic. This can actually make them feel nauseous which in turn can reduce their overall appetite. When feeding them after surgery, try for something small and light, such as chicken or fish. It is perfectly fine to give them their regular food if you would like but be sure to give them no more than a quarter of their usual portions at a time.

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.

Managing Your Cat's Pain

When you are ready to bring your cat home from the veterinary office the vet will provide you with a list of instructions and with a prescription for pain medication. This medication is meant to help your cat stay comfortable while recovering from their procedure.

These instructions will contain the dosage, frequency and how to properly administer the medication. 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.

You should never under any circumstances give human medication to animals. These can be lethal to your pet.

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.

Make Crate Rest Appealing For Your Cat

While crate rest isn't always a requirement after a surgical procedure, there are certain types where crate rest may be the best option. 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.

Your cat's crate should be large enough for them to stand up and walk around in and easily get comfortable. 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.

Monitor Their Stitches & Bandages

Stitches that have been placed on the inside of your pet's incision will dissolve as the incision heals. If your vet placed internal stitches when closing the incision then you won't need to do anything. These stitches are meant to heal on their own. 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.

Keep the Incision Clean & Dry

Cat owners often find it challenging to stop their feline friend from scratching, chewing, or otherwise interfering 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 Process After Cat 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:

Helping Your Cat Recover From General Anesthetic

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.

Be sure to Bring Your Cat in For a Follow-Up Exam

Never miss your cat's follow-up visit with the vet. This visit is used to check on the healing process and look for any signs of infection.

Your pet's veterinary team has been trained to correctly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen - and for them 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.

If your cat needs surgery contact our experienced Madison veterinary team to book an appointment. We are here to help care for your companion.