There are a few things you can do at home to help your cat get back to normal as soon as possible after surgery. Our Weldon Spring veterinarians offer tips and advice on how to help your cat recover from surgery.
Follow Post-Op Instructions
Leading up to and after your cat's surgery, you're likely feeling some anxiety. That said, understanding how to care for your feline friend after they come home is critical to helping your pet return to their regular routine as quickly as possible.
After your cat's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet about how to care for your kitty as they recover at home. It's imperative that you carefully follow these instructions.
If you have any questions about any of the steps, contact your veterinarian for clarification. Don't be afraid to call and ask questions if you return home and realize you've misunderstood something about your cat's aftercare.
Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Soft tissue surgery, such as C-sections or spays and neuters, and abdominal surgery, are found to recover more quickly in pets than procedures involving tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints, according to our veterinary team. Soft tissue surgeries usually heal in two to three weeks and take about six weeks to complete.
Parts of the body that have had orthopedic surgeries (which involve ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) tend to take much longer to heal. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur about 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, the typical complete recovery time from orthopedic surgery is 6 months or more.
Today, our Weldon Spring vets will share a few tips to help keep your cat comfortable and content as they recover at home.
Recuperating from Effects of General Anesthetic
A general anesthetic is used during surgical procedures to render your cat unconscious and to keep them from feeling any pain during the procedure. However, it can take some time for the effects of anesthesia to wear off after the procedure is complete.
Temporary shakiness on their feet or sleepiness is a common side effect of general anesthetics. These side effects are normal and should go away after some time. In cats recovering from anesthesia, a temporary loss of appetite is also a common side effect.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
After a surgical procedure, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and lose some appetite due to the effects of a general anesthetic. Try to feed them something small and light after surgery, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but only a quarter of their normal portion.
If you notice your cat is not eating after surgery, this is normal — monitor them closely. 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. Loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
Pet Pain Management
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 dosage, how often the medication should be given, and how to safely administer the medication. To avoid unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects, make sure to carefully follow these instructions. Ask follow-up questions if you have any doubts about the instructions.
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 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 Cat Comfortable At Home
It's critical to provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place to rest while he or she is recovering from surgery, away from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Providing your kitty with a comfortable and soft bed, as well as plenty of space to spread out, will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.
How to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery
Following surgery, your veterinarian will most likely advise you to restrict your pet's movement for a period of time (usually a week). Sudden jumping or stretching can sabotage the healing process and even cause the incision to reopen, especially after fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries that require rest.
For the duration of your cat's recovery period, you can place them in a smaller area of the house and remove furniture that they may want to jump onto.
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.
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 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.
Make sure your pet's crate is big enough for him or her to stand up and turn around in. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you may need to upgrade to a larger crate. Don't forget to leave enough space for your cat's water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and unpleasant place to spend time, as well as cause wet and soiled bandages.
Cage rest can be difficult for cats and boredom may set in. Ask your vet whether limited periods outside the cage for gentle play and interaction are possible.
For cats that must be on extended cage rest, feeding enrichment can help relieve boredom.
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 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 goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your pet returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, resulting in infection.
The Incision Site
Stopping your cat from scratching, chewing, or messing around with the site of your surgical incision can be difficult for cat parents. To keep your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions).
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
At your follow-up appointment, your vet will check in on your cat's recovery, look for signs of infection, and changes your cat's bandages.
Our Tender Care Animal Hospital veterinary team has been trained to properly dress surgical sites and wounds. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for a follow-up appointment allows this process to take place, as well as allows us to monitor your cat's progress. We'll also address any concerns or questions you have.
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.