As your cat recovers from scheduled surgery, providing the right at-home care can make all the difference to helping them return to their normal routine as soon as possible. Our the Pacific Northwest vets have some advice to share with you about how to care for your cat after surgery.
Follow Post-Op Instructions
Both you and your cat may feel some anxiety leading up to and after surgery. That said, understanding how to provide care for your feline friend after they come home is critical to helping your beloved companion return to their regular selves as soon as possible.
Following your pet's surgery, you will receive clear and thorough instructions about how to care for them during their recovery period at home. Following these instructions carefully is key to their health and quick recovery. If you are unsure about any instructions, feel free to contact your vet to clarify. Even if you arrive home and realize you've forgotten any aspects of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and ask questions.
Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Typically, pets recover from soft tissue surgery such as spays and neuters, reproductive surgeries, C-sections and abdominal surgery faster than procedures involving bones, tendons, ligaments or joints. Soft tissue surgeries heal within 2 to 3 weeks on average, and take about 6 weeks to heal completely.
Recovery after an orthopedic surgery, such as those that involve ligaments, bones and other skeletal structures, typically takes much longer. About 80% of recovery from these procedures will occur within 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Our the Pacific Northwest vets have a few tips for you to help keep your cat comfortable and contend during their recovery at home.
Coping With the Effects of General Anesthetic
General anesthetic is used during surgical procedures to keep your pet unconscious and prevent them from experiencing any pain during the procedure. However, the effects may take some time to wear off after the procedure has been completed.
Effects of general anesthetic can include shakiness on their feet or temporary sleepiness. It's quite normal for pets to feel these after-effects, and they should fade with rest. It's also quite common for cats to experience a temporary lack of appetite as they recover from general anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Pet After Surgery
Because of the effects of general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of their appetite 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 your 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. Loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
Pet Pain Management
Before you and your cat return home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you what pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage your cat's post-operative pain or discomfort.
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 with a sedative or anti-anxiety medication ot 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 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.
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 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 Pet 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 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 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.
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.
The 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 Pet’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 Broadway Animal Hospital have been trained to correctly dress wounds. 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.