Knowing the best way to care for your cat after they have surgery is critical for helping your feline friend to return to normal activities as quickly as possible. Here is some advice from our Des Moines veterinary team about how to care for your cat after surgery.
Follow The Post-Op Instructions From Your Vet
Pets and pet owners are bound to feel some anxiety both leading up to and following surgery. But, knowing how you need to care for your feline companion after they return home is key to helping your pet get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.
After your pet's surgery, your veterinarian will provide you with clear and detailed instructions about how to care for them while they are recovering at home. You must follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps that you aren't sure about, make sure that you follow up on them with your vet for clarification. If you come home and realize that you have forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't worry - just call your vet and they will be happy to remind you.
Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery
Cats generally recover from soft tissue surgeries like abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries more quickly than surgeries that involve joint ligaments or tendons. Oftentimes, soft-tissue surgeries are predominantly healed within two or three weeks, taking about 6 weeks to heal.
For orthopedic surgeries - those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures - recovery takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur within 8 to 12 weeks following surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Here are a few tips from our Des Moines 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 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.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After 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 isn't eating after their surgery, don't be worried at first. Expect that your cat's appetite should return within about 24 hours after the procedure. At that point, your pet will be able to gradually start eating their regular food again. If you find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours, contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. The loss of appetite for long periods may be a sign of serious pain.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
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 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, you must provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place where they can rest well apart from the hustle and bustle of your home (such as other pets and children). Setting up a comfortable and soft bed for your cat and giving them lots of room to spread out will be key in helping to prevent excessive pressure on any one part of your body.
Restricting 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 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 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 cat's crate is large enough to allow them to stand a turnaround. You may need to get a larger crate than you may already have if your cat requires a cone or e-collar to prevent them from locking its incision site. Don't forget that your cat needs plenty of room for its water and food dishes. If there isn't enough room in the crate, spills of either may make the crate an uncomfortable place to spend time and may cause any bandages to become soiled.
Dealing With Your Cat's 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 its 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.
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.
The veterinary team at Des Moines Veterinary Hospital has been trained to dress wounds effectively to protect your pet's incision and provide the best possible healing. 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.