Cats Recovering from Surgery

After your cat's surgery, extra love and attention are going to be needed to allow for healing. In this post, our Riverbank vets share some strategies for caring for your cat as they recover from surgery, including what to do for a cat not eating after surgery, and how to stop a cat from jumping after surgery.

Follow The Post-Op Instructions

After your cat's surgery, your vet will provide you with detailed instructions about how to take care of your cat so they may recover at home. Follow these instructions carefully. If you are unsure about any of the instructions, ask the vet for clarification. If you return home and realize you've forgotten or are unsure about some part of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and clarify.

No Jumping

Your veterinarian will recommend limiting your cat's movements for a specified period (usually a week) after surgery. Jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.

Few procedures require a significant crate or cage rest to help your cat recover. If your cat is an outdoor cat they should be able to cope with staying indoors for a few days as they recover. Read on for specific strategies on how to keep your cat from jumping:

Take Down All Cat Trees

Leaving the cat tree up will encourage your cat to try and jump. Laying cat trees on their side or covering them with a blanket is a way to discourage jumping in your home. It is only for a short while well your cat recovers from surgery

Keep the Cat Inside Your Home

If you have an outdoor cat, they may not be happy about being forced to stay indoors but it is necessary. It's impossible to know what your cat does when they are out of sight, so it is best to keep them within reach while they recover from surgery.

Keep the Cat Away From Other Cats

 When in the presence of other cats, your cat is more likely to jump and try to keep up with them. If you own multiple cats, consider keeping them separate for a brief period while one is recovering from surgery.

Maintain a Calm Home Environment

 Try to keep your cat isolated from children or other pets while they are recovering. This will help them relax until they are back to their usual selves. 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. Explain to those in the home the need to be quiet while your cat is resting and recovering.

Make Use of a Crate to Stop Jumping

Confining your cat to a crate is the 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 is unwilling to settle down, you may have no other option. If crating is the only solution for preventing your cat from jumping, consider speaking with your vet about anesthetics that may help your cat relax outside the crate. If your cat is particularly fond of jumping, it is best practice to keep them in their crate when you are outside the home, only letting them wander about when you are present to supervise them.

Stay Alert and Focused on Keeping Your Cat From Jumping

The most important strategy to keep your cat from jumping is to stay alert to their activity. You cannot correct behavior you cannot see. If your cat does re-injures itself it is important to contact a vet right away, so keep an eye on your cat when they are recovering from surgery.

If Your Cat Won't Eat After Surgery

It is not uncommon for a general anesthetic to leave your cat feeling slightly nauseated 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. If you find that your cat’s appetite hasn’t returned within 48 hours, contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. In some cases, loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.

Pet Pain Management

After their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you what pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your cat so you can manage their post-operative pain or discomfort.

They will explain the dosage  and how to safely administer the meds. 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.

Never give your cat human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help humans are toxic to our four-legged friends.

Keeping Your Pet Comfortable At Home

Set up a comfortable and soft bed for your cat and giving them lots of room to spread out will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body. After their surgery, will need a comfortable and quiet place to rest, well apart from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children.

Helping Your Pet Cope With Crate Rest

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 cat to stand up and turn around. You may need a larger crate if your cat has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Make sure that your kitty has plenty of room for its water and food dishes to avoid spills that 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 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  the bandage wet. 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.

Caring For The Incision Site

Cat owners often find it challenging to stop their feline friend from scratching, chewing, or messing around with their surgical incision. A cone-shaped plastic collar is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.

If your cat struggles with the cone ask your veterinarian about less cumbersome products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.

Recovery Time After 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 will be mostly healed within two or three weeks.

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 to complete and recovery.

The Effects of General Anesthetic

General anesthetics is used during our surgical procedures in order to render your pet unconscious and to prevent them from feeling any pain during the operation. It can take some time for the effects to wear off after the procedure is completed.

Effects of general anesthetic may include:

  • Temporary sleepiness
  • Shakiness on their feet
  • Temporary lack of appetite
These after-effects are quite normal and should fade with rest. 

Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment

Your cat's follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your cat's recovery, check for signs of infection, and change your cat's bandages.

Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment to 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.

Do you have more questions about your pet’s upcoming surgery? Contact us at River Oak Veterinary Hospital today.