Today, our Houston County vets share tips and advice on how to take care of your cat while they are recovering from surgery, so you can help them feel better as quickly as possible.
Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
Both cats and their owners are bound to experience some anxiety before and after veterinary surgery. But, knowing how to care for your kitty once they come home after their procedure is key to helping them recover as quickly as possible.
Following your feline's surgery, your vet will give you clear and detailed instructions on how to care for your cat during their recovery at home. It is critical that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you are unsure about, 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 your veterinarian to get clarification.
How Long It Takes Cats To Recover After Surgery
Cats usually recover from soft tissue surgeries - such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries - faster than surgeries that involve bones, joint ligaments, or tendons. In many cases, soft-tissue surgeries almost heal completely within two or three weeks, with complete recovery taking place after about 6 weeks.
For orthopedic surgeries - those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures - recovery typically takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur within 8 to 12 weeks after their surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Below, our Houston County vets have shared some tips to help you keep your cat comfortable and content during their recovery:
Recovering From the General Anesthetic Effects
We use general anesthetics during our surgical procedures in order to render your pet unconscious and 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.
The effects of the 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.
Feeding Your Cat After Their Surgery
The general anesthetic effects will probably make your cat feel slightly nauseous and lose their appetite after the surgical procedure. When feeding your cat after surgery, try giving them 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.
Don't be alarmed if your cat isn't eating after surgery. Expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours following the procedure. 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.
Managing Your Cats Post-Surgery Pain
Before you and your cat return home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will talk to you about the pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your kitty, so you will be able to help manage your cat's post-operative pain or discomfort.
They will explain the dose needed, how to safely administer it, and how often you should provide the medication. Remember to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during your cat's 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 help prevent infections and alleviate discomfort. If your cat has anxiety or is somewhat high-strung, our vets might also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep your kitty calm during the healing process.
Never provide your cat with human medications without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.
How To Keep Your Cat Comfortable At Home
After your pet's surgery, it's essential to provide them with a comfortable and quiet place to rest, that is well separated 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.
Ways To Restrict Your Cat's Movement
Your vet will probably recommend limiting your cat’s movement for a specified time frame (usually a week) after the surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and could reopen the incision.
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 get better. If you need to keep your cat from jumping after surgery, crate rest might be needed.
Helping Your Cat Manage Crate Rest
While most surgeries don't require cats to be put on crate rest, if your pet underwent orthopedic surgery, part of their recovery will require their movements to be strictly limited.
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 of time confined.
Make sure your cat's crate is big enough for them to stand up and turn around in. You might need to purchase a larger crate if your cat has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to ensure your kitty has lots of room for their food and water bowls. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and uncomfortable place to spend time, as well as wet and soil their bandages.
Handling Your Cat's Bandages & Stitches
Stitches that have been placed on the inside of your pet's incision will dissolve on their own as the incision heals.
If your cat has stitches or staples on the outside of their incision, your vet will have to remove them about 2 weeks after the procedure. Your vet will tell you what kind of stitches they used to close your cat's incision and any follow-up care your pet will need.
Another critical part of helping your pet’s surgical site heal quickly is making sure the bandages stay dry at all times.
If your pet walks around or goes outside, make sure 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 result in a build-up of sweat under the bandage, leading to infection.
The Incision Site
Cat owners often find it hard to stop their pets from scratching, chewing, or messing around with their incision site. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective way to help keep 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.
Follow-Up Appointments With Your Vet
Follow-up appointments give your vet the chance to monitor your cat's recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your pet's bandages.
The veterinary team at Smith Animal Hospital has been trained to dress wounds effectively in order to protect your pet's incision and help your cat recover as quickly as possible. Taking your pet to the vet for follow-up appointments lets this process happen and allows 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.