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How to Help Your Cat Recover Well After Surgery

Diligent post-operative care - and a little extra TLC - can help your cat recover well after surgery and minimize the risk of complications. Read on for information about common post-operative recommendations for cats.

Follow Your Vet's Instructions Carefully

Both you and your pet are bound to feel a little anxious 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 cat's surgery, your vet will provide you with clear and detailed instructions about how to care for your kitty while they are recovering at home. You must follow these instructions carefully. If you are unsure about any of the instructions, make sure you follow up with your vet for clarification. If you return home and realize you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, just give your vet's office a quick call and clarify.

Pain Management for Cats Recovering from Surgery

You must never give your cat human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends. 

Before you take your kitty home after their surgery, your veterinarian will explain to you what pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your kitty and how to administer these medications.

The vet or veterinary team will explain the dose needed, how often you should provide the medication, and how to safely give the medications to your cat. 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.

Help to Keep Your Cat Calm & Comfortable

After 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.

Strategies for Helping Cats Cope with Crate Rest

Most cat surgeries won't require crate rest unless your cat has undergone orthopedic surgery, in which case strict limits on their movements will be necessary while they heal.

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 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.

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 and will not need to be removed.

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 cat wanders 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 kitty returns inside, remove the plastic covering, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, leading to infection.

Caring for Your Cat's Incision Site

Many cat owners find it extremely difficult to stop their feline family members from scratching, chewing, or messing around with their incision sites. 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 vet about less cumbersome products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars that can help to stop these behaviors.

How to Keep Your Cat from Jumping after Surgery

There is a good chance that your vet will recommend limiting your cat’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.  Read on for specific strategies on how to keep your cat from jumping:

Remove All Cat Trees & Climbing Structures

Placing cat trees on their side or covering them with a blanket, is a great first step to discourage jumping in your home. 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

Keep Your Cat Inside - Even If They Hate It

Outdoor cats might put up a fuss about being kept inside, but it is for their good following surgery, as unsupervised trips outside invite disastrous consequences for jumping cats.

You cannot know what your cat is 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 Away From Other Cats If Possible

Socializing in the postoperative period might not be the best idea for your cat. If you own multiple cats, consider keeping them separate for a brief period while one is recovering from surgery.

When in the presence of other cats, your recovering feline is more likely to jump about the house to keep up with their friend. 

Keep Your Home Environment Calm After Your Cat's Surgery

The more stimuli in your home, the less likely your cat is to be able to lay down and relax.  This makes the odds of them jumping much higher.

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.

Utilize Crate Time as a Way to Prevent Jumping After Surgery

A final resort for many cat owners, we do not want to encourage crate rest for days on end for any animal, however, if your cat proves especially willfully and unwilling to settle down, you may have no other option aside from extended crate time for them to get their rest.

If this is the only option that works, consider speaking with your Vet about anesthetics that may help your cat relax outside the crate.

If your cat is particularly fond of jumping on and off of things, it may be necessary to keep them in their crate whenever you are unable to supervise their activities.

Stay Alert & Keep a Close Eye on Your Cat's Activities

Finally, while it might go without saying, the most important strategy to keep your cat from jumping is to stay alert to their activity.

You cannot try and correct behavior you cannot see, and if your cat does re-injure itself 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.

What To Do If Your Cat Won't Eat After Surgery

If your cat's not eating after surgery, try not to be alarmed. The general anesthetic used during surgery can leave pets feeling slightly nauseated. In fact, a brief loss of appetite after a surgical procedure is considered normal.

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 a quarter of their usual portion.

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.

Recovery Times for Cats Following 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:

Recovery From 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.

Attend Your Cat's Follow-Up Appointment

Follow-up appointments for cats after surgery are common. These post-surgery checkups allow your vet to monitor your kitty's recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.

The veterinary team at Carolina Veterinary Specialists has been trained to correctly dress wounds. 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.

If your cat is scheduled for surgery at Carolina Veterinary Specialists, our team will be happy to answer your questions and provide advice on how to best care for your kitty. Contact us today.

Caring for Pets in Huntersville

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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