Being aware of how to care for your cat after they have undergone a surgical procedure is important to helping them return to their normal selves as soon as possible. Here, our Torrance vets explain some of the ways you can help your cat to recover from veterinary surgery.
Follow The Post-Op Instructions From Your Vet
Pets and pet owners are bound to feel some anxiety both leading up to and following surgery. But, knowing how you can care for your feline companion after they return home is key to helping your pet get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.
After undergoing a surgical procedure, your vet will be sure to give you clear and detailed instructions about how to care for them as they are recovering at home. It's important that you follow these instructions as closely as possible. So, if you have anything you are unsure about or if you can't remember your vet's instructions clearly, don't hesitate to contact them for more information.
Recovery Times for Your Cat After Surgery
After soft tissue surgeries, such as abdominal, ocular, reproductive or mass removal surgery, your cat will be mostly recovered after about 2 to 3 weeks and completely healed after about 6 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 within 8 to 12 weeks following surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Here are a few tips from our Torrance vets to help you keep your cat happy, healthy and comfortable as they recover at home:
Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic
We use general anesthetics during our 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.
The effects of general anesthesia on your cat can include shakiness when standing and temporary lethargy. Both of these are quite normal and should fade over time as your cat rests after their procedure. If you notice your cat not eating after surgery, this is also quite a common side-effect of anesthesia and their appetite should be restored shortly after their procedure.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
Because of the effects that general anesthesia has on your cat, they will likely feel nauseous and lose their appetite after undergoing surgery. When feeding your feline friend after a surgical procedure, try to make sure you serve them something light like fish or chicken. You can feed them their regular food too, but make sure you only give them a quarter or so of their usual portion so they don't make themselves sick.
If your cat is not eating after surgery, don't be alarmed. Expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours following their procedure. 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.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
Before you and your kitty are able to return home from their surgical procedure, one of our vets will explain to your what medications or pain reliever they have been prescribed. This is to help you manage your cat's pain and mitigate the chances of complications throughout recovery.
They will explain the dose needed, how often you should provide the medication, and how to safely administer the meds. 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.
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 Pet Comfortable At Home
After your cat's surgery, it's critical that your create a quite, clean and safe place for them to rest in your home. Set up a comfortable bed for your cat with lots of room to stretch out. This will help prevent them from putting too much pressure on sensitive parts 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 are wondering how to keep your cat from jumping after surgery, monitoring them, confining them to a room without things to jump on and crate rest are all options.
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 cat is prescribed crate rest after their surgery, there are some things you can do to help them remain as comfortable as possible despite having to be confined for long periods of time.
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 cat likes to walk around or go outside, make sure they do so supervised and that their bandages are covered with cling wrap or a plastic page to stop them from getting wet. When your kitty comes back inside, remove their plastic covering to prevent bacteria from building up under the covering and causing infection.
Protect 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.
We find that many pets adapt quite quickly to a collar, but if they are struggling to adjust to it there are other options available to stop them from creating problems at their incision site. 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 Torrance Companion 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.