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Cat Recovering from Surgery: How to Help Them Get Better

You can help your cat return to normal life as soon as possible after surgery by doing some things at home. Our Douglasville veterinarians provide tips and advice on how to help your cat recover after a procedure.

Follow Post-Op Instructions

You're probably nervous in the days leading up to and after your cat's surgery. That being said, understanding how to care for your feline companion after they return home is critical to assist your pet in returning to their routine as soon as possible.

Following your cat's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet on how to care for your kitty at home while they recover. It is critical that you strictly adhere to these instructions.

Please contact your veterinarian if you have any questions about any of the procedures. Even if you get home and realize you misunderstood something about your cat's aftercare, don't be afraid to call and ask for clarification.

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Our veterinary team has discovered that soft tissue surgeries, such as C-sections or spays and neuters, or abdominal surgery, allow pets to recover faster than procedures involving tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints. Soft tissue surgeries typically heal in 2 to 3 weeks and completely heal in 6 weeks.

Parts of the body that have undergone orthopedic surgery (involving ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) tend to heal much more slowly. Approximately 80% of your cat's recovery will take place 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, the average recovery time from orthopedic surgery is 6 months or longer.

Today, our Douglasville vets will share a few tips to help keep your cat comfortable and content as they recover at home. 

Recuperating from Effects of General Anesthetic 

During surgical procedures, a general anesthetic is used to render your cat unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain. However, the effects of anesthesia may take some time to wear off after the procedure is completed.

General anesthetics can cause temporary shakiness or sleepiness. These are normal side effects that should go away with rest. A temporary loss of appetite is also a common side effect in cats recovering from anesthesia.

Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery

Following a surgical procedure, your cat may feel slightly nauseated and lose some appetite due to the effects of a general anesthetic. After surgery, try to feed them something small and light, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but only a quarter of what they normally eat.

If you notice your cat not eating after surgery, this is normal — monitor them closely. The appetite of your cat should return within 24 hours of surgery. At that point, your pet can gradually resume eating its regular food. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours. Loss of appetite can indicate an infection or pain.

Pet Pain Management

Before you and your cat go home after surgery, a veterinary professional will explain 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 correct dosage, how often you should administer the medication, and how to do so safely. Follow these instructions precisely to avoid unnecessary pain and side effects during recovery. If you have any questions about any of the instructions, ask them again.

Antibiotics and pain relievers are frequently prescribed by veterinarians following surgery to prevent infection and discomfort. If your cat is anxious or hyperactive, our veterinarians may prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm during 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 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 chaos of your home, including other pets and children. Setting up a soft and comfortable bed for your cat, as well as 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

Following surgery, your veterinarian will most likely advise you to limit your pet's movement for a specified period of time (usually a week). Jumping or stretching too quickly can disrupt the healing process and even cause the incision to reopen, especially after fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries that necessitate 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.

Check that your pet's crate is big enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, a larger crate may be required. Remember to leave enough room for your cat's water and food dishes. Spills can cause your pet's crate to become wet and unpleasant to spend time in, 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 because leaving it on may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, resulting in infection.

The Incision Site

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

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 change your cat's bandages. 

Kay Animal Hospital's veterinary team 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 occur — and allows us to assist in ensuring your cat's healing is on track. We will also address any issues or concerns 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.

Is your cat going to have surgery at Kay Animal Hospital? To learn more about how you can prepare for your kitty's aftercare, contact our Douglasville veterinary team.

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At Kay Animal Hospital, we can't wait to welcome you and your four-legged friend into our veterinary family. Learn more about the services we offer and the difference our care and compassion make by booking your first appointment today!

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