To help your cat return to their normal activities as quickly as possible after they've had surgery, it's essential to know how to care for your feline friend. Today, our Baltimore vets discuss how to care for your cat after surgery.
Follow Post-Op Instructions From Your Vet
Both before and after surgery, pets and their owners are bound to feel some anxiety. That said, knowing how you need to care for your feline friend after they arrive home is critical to helping your pet get back to their regular routine as quickly as possible.
After your cat's surgery, you will receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet about how to care for them while they recover at home. Following these instructions carefully will be key. If there are any steps you are not sure about, follow up with your vet for clarification as soon as possible. Even if you realize you've forgotten some part of your cat's aftercare after you return home, don't hesitate to call and clarify.
Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery
Typically, cats will recover from soft tissue surgeries such as reproductive or abdominal surgeries more quickly than surgeries involving tendons, ligaments, bones or joints. Soft tissue surgeries are often predominantly healed within 2 to 3 weeks, and take about 6 weeks to heal completely.
For orthopedic surgeries (such as those that involve bones, ligaments and other skeletal structures), recovery takes much longer. Approximately 80% of your cat's recovery will occur within 8 to 12 weeks after surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more to completely recover from.
Here are a few tips from our vets in Baltimore to help you keep your cat comfortable and content as they recover at home:
Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic
General anesthetics are used during surgical procedures to render your pet unconscious and to prevent them from feeling any pain during the operation. That said, it may take some time for the effects to wear off after the procedure is over.
Effects of general anesthesia can include shakiness on their feet or temporary sleepiness. These after-effects are quite normal and should vanish with rest. It's also quite common for cats to experience temporary lack of appetite while recovering from the effects of general anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
Due to the effects of general anesthetic, your cat will probably lose some appetite and feel slightly nauseated after a surgical procedure. While feeding them after surgery, try something small and light, such as fish or chicken. While they can also eat their regular food, ensure they only receive about a quarter of their usual portion.
Do not be alarmed if your cat is not eating after surgery. Expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours after their procedure. At this point, your pet can gradually begin to eat their regular food again. If you notice 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 pain or infection.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
Before you take your cat home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain which pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your pet so you can appropriately manage your cat's post-operative discomfort or pain.
They will explain the dose required, how often the medication should be administered and how to safely administer the meds. Make sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. Ask follow-ip questions if you are unsure about any instructions.
Vets will often prescribe pain medications and antibiotics after surgery to prevent infections and relieve discomfort. If your cat is somewhat high-strung or has anxiety, our vets may also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm while they heal.
Never administer human medications to your cat without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our pets.
Keeping Your Cat Comfortable At Home
After their 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.
Restricting Your Cat's Movement
Your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’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. If you need to keep your cat from jumping after surgery crate rest may be required.
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 crate rest for your cat 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 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 their 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.
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 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 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.
Your Cat's Incision Site
Cat parents will often find it challenging to stop their pet from scratching, chewing or messing around with the site of 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.
Attend Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment
The follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.
The veterinary team at Dockery, Mobley, & Associates Animal Hospital have been trained to dress wounds effectively in order to protect your pet's incision and provide the best possible healing. 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.