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How to Help Your Cat Recover After Surgery

How to Help Your Cat Recover After Surgery

If your cat is recovering from surgery they are going to require a little extra care and attention to properly heal and avoid infection. Today, our Rockland County vets share some advice on how you can care for your feline friend while they are recovering from a procedure. 

Caring for Your Cat After Surgery

You are bound to feel anxious leading up to and following your cat's surgery, but knowing how to provide your cat with the care and attention they need will help your kitty get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.

After your cat's surgery, your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions about how to care for your cat as they recover at home. It is critical that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you are unsure about, be sure to 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 and clarify.

Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic

General anesthesia is used during surgical procedures in order 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 anesthesia may include temporary sleepiness or shakiness on their feet. These effects should wear off within a day or two. Temporary lack of appetite is also quite common in cats who are recovering from the effects of general anesthesia.

How to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery 

Regardless of the type of procedure, it is a good idea to limit your cat's movement while they recover. You'll especially want to have your cat avoid jumping as this can disrupt the healing and may cause the incision to reopen. 

Your vet will let you know how long to limit your cat's movement for and may want to examine them to give the all-clear before they can resume regular activity. 

Here are a few strategies on how to keep your cat from jumping:

  • Remove all cat trees or perches from the area in which they will be recovering 
  • If you have an outdoor cat it is best to keep them inside while they recover 
  • Keep your cats away from other pets that may encourage playing and jumping 
  • Maintain a calm home environment so your cat stays as relaxed as possible 
  • If possible, keep your cat in a room without high surfaces (like countertops or tables)
  • If necessary, you may have to keep your cat in a crate for a period of time following surgery 

    What to Do if Your Cat is Not Eating After Surgery 

    It is not uncommon for general anesthesia to leave your cat feeling slightly nauseated, meaning that they will likely experience appetite loss 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 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.

    Pet Pain Management

    Vets will often prescribe antibiotics and pain medications after surgery in order to prevent infections and relieve discomfort. If your cat has anxiety, your vets may also prescribe them a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm throughout the healing process.

    Your vet will outline the proper protocol for administering your cat's medication. They will explain which medication they are prescribing, how often, and how much to give your cat. They will also let you know about any side effects you should watch for. 

    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.

    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.

    Helping Your Pet Cope With Crate Rest

    While most surgeries won't require crate rest for your cat, if they underwent orthopedic surgery, part of their 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 that your pet's crate is large enough to allow your cat 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 cat 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 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 approximately 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 an essential step in helping your cat's incision heal quickly.

    If your cat 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.

    It is best to keep your cat indoors if possible while the incision heals. 

    Caring For The Incision Site

    Cat owners often find it challenging to stop their cat from scratching, chewing, or messing around with 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 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.

    Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

    Generally speaking, pets will recover faster from soft tissue surgery like abdominal surgery or spays and neuters procedures 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.

    Attend Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment

    It is very important that you attend any follow-up appointments that your vet has requested. Your cat's follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor their recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.

    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.

    Do you have questions or concerns about helping your cat recover from an upcoming surgery at Rockland Veterinary? Don't hesitate to contact us for more information.

    We are now accepting new patients!

    At Rockland Veterinary we are passionate about animals and enjoy helping cats and dogs feel well. Contact our vets in Hudson Valley, North Rockland or Pomona today to schedule your furry companion's first appointment!