Surgery is a scary, but sometimes necessary, process. However, it is actually the after-care of the operation that has a higher risk of causing your cat harm if not performed correctly. Here, our Rancho Cucamonga vets discuss how to care for your cat recovering from surgery.
Always Follow The Post-Op Instructions From Your Vet
Recovery for your cat after surgery can be a stressful situation for both you and your pet. Learning how to take care of your feline friend once they return to your home is important to make sure you and your pet cant get back to your normal lives as fast a possible.
Your veterinary specialist will give you all the information you need to help you care for your cat recovering from surgery. It is necessary for you to follow all these instructions to make sure your cat recovers properly. Your vet will be happy to clarify any details you may need clarification on. Don't hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian if you have forgotten any of the instructions, or have any questions regarding your cat's recovery.
Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery
Cats will typically recover from soft tissue surgeries - such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries - more quickly than surgeries involving bones, joints ligaments or tendons. Often, soft-tissue surgeries are predominately healed within two or three weeks, taking about 6 weeks 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 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 Rancho Cucamonga 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 cat 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 general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of their appetite 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 you notice your cat not eating after surgery, don't worry. Their appetite should return within 24 hours after surgery. Once your cat's appetite returns, gradually start feeding them their typical food. If after 48 hours, your cat is still not eating, contact your veterinarian. This can indicate infection or 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 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 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
To best help your cat after surgery, provide them with a quiet and comfortable place to sleep, away from anything that might cause stress like other pets or children. Make sure to have a warm, comfortable bed ready for your cat that allows them to stretch and alleviate any discomfort from surgical areas.
Restricting Your Cat's Movement
Limiting your cats movement for a specific time frame (typically a week) after surgery will likely be recommended by your vet. Sudden movement can be detrimental to the healing process and can cause incisions to reopen.
You might be wondering how to keep your cat from jumping after surgery. For some, a crate or cage can insure your cat recovers without complications from movement. Many procedures do not require crating thankfully, many cats do well with staying indoors for a few days while they heal.
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 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 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 their 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 cat'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 cat 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 during your cat's recovery from surgery. 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.
Attend Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment
Follow-up appointments give your vet the chance to monitor your cat's recovery and ensure there are no signs of discomfort or infection and make sure your cat's bandages are being changed properly.
The veterinary team at Rancho Regional Veterinary Hospital have been trained to dress wounds effectively in order 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.