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Cat Recovering From Surgery: How to Help Them Get Better

Did you know there are some things you can do at home to help your cat recover well after surgery and return to their normal life as soon as possible? Our Gaithersburg vets offer tips and advice on how to help your cat recuperate after a procedure. 

Follow Post-Op Instructions

You and your kitty will likely be feeling nervous in the days leading up to and after your cat's surgery. That said, understanding how to care for your four-legged friend after they come home will help you assist your pet in returning to their daily routine as soon as possible. 

Your vet will provide clear and detailed instructions for you to follow on how to care for your cat while they recover at home after the surgery. It is critical that you adhere to these recommendations precisely, without deviating from them. 

If you have any questions about any of the steps, please contact your veterinarian. Even if you arrive home and realize you've misunderstood something about your cat's aftercare, don't be afraid to call and clarify. 

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Our veterinary team at Veterinary Referral Associates has discovered that pets tend to recover faster from soft tissue surgeries such as reproductive surgeries (spay and neuter procedures or C-sections) or abdominal surgery than from procedures involving bones, joints, tendons, or ligaments. Soft tissue surgeries typically heal within two three weeks and take about six weeks to completely heal. 

On the other hand, areas of the body that have undergone orthopedic surgery (which involves bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures) tend to heal much more slowly and gradually. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, cats tend to take six months or longer (on average) to recover from orthopedic surgery. 

Below, our Gaithersburg vets will share some advice on how to keep your cat comfortable and content while they recover at home. 

Recuperating From Effects of General Anesthetic 

Our team will administer a general anesthetic to render your cat unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain during their surgical procedures. However, the effects of the anesthesia may take some time to wear off after your cat comes out of surgery. 

General anesthetics can cause your cat to be temporarily unsteady on their feet. Sleepiness and temporary loss of appetite are also normal side effects. Both of these should fade after your cat has had some rest. 

Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery 

Your cat may experience slight nausea and lose some appetite due to the effects of general anesthetic. Try to feed them a small, light meal after surgery such as fish or chicken. You might also consider giving them their regular food, but only a quarter of their usual portion. 

If you see that your cat is not eating after surgery, this is normal – closely monitor them. Your cat's appetite should return within 24 hours of their surgery. At that point, your feline companion can gradually resume eating their regular food. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours. Loss of appetite can point to pain or infection. 

Managing Your Pet's Pain 

Before you take your cat home after surgery, a veterinary professional will describe which pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your pet so you'll be able to manage your cat's post-operative pain or discomfort. 

They will tell you which dosages are appropriate, how frequently to administer the medication, and how to do so safely. Follow these instructions precisely to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to decrease the risk of side effects. If you have any doubts about any of the instructions you receive, ask more questions. 

Veterinarians often prescribe pain relievers and antibiotics following surgery to prevent discomfort and infection. If your cat is hyperactive or anxious, our veterinarians may prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm during the healing process. 

Never administer human medication to your cat without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that help us feel better are often toxic to our pets. 

Keeping Your Cat Comfortable At Home

While your cat is recovering from surgery, it is critical to provide a comfortable and quiet place for your kitty to rest, away from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Setting up a comfortable and soft bed for your cat and providing plenty of space for them to spread out will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.

How to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery

Your veterinarian will most likely advise you to restrict your pet's movement for a specified period (usually a week) following surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt 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 recommends crate rest for your cat after surgery, there are some precautions you can take to ensure they are as comfortable as possible while confined for extended periods.

Make sure your pet's crate is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate. Don't forget to leave plenty of 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 bandages to become wet and soiled.

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, they will need to be removed by your vet about 2 weeks after the procedure. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision, as well as any necessary follow-up care.

Another important step in assisting your pet's surgical site to heal quickly is to keep bandages dry at all times. 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. When your pet returns home, remove the plastic covering, as leaving it on may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, resulting in infection.

The Incision Site

Cat owners will frequently find it difficult to prevent their pet from scratching, chewing, or otherwise tampering with the site of their surgical incision. To keep your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in soft and hard versions).

Many cats adapt quickly to the collar, but if your pet is having trouble, there are other options. Inquire with your veterinarian about less cumbersome options, 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 veterinary team at Veterinary Referral Associates has been trained to properly dress surgical sites and wounds. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for a check-up allows this process to take place — and allows us to help ensure your cat's healing is on track. We will also address any concerns or questions you may 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.

Does your cat have an upcoming surgical procedure at Veterinary Referral AssociatesContact our Gaithersburg vets to learn more about how to prepare for your feline friend's aftercare.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Referral Associates is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gaithersburg companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (301) 926-3300