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Cat Recovering from Surgery

If your furry friend undergoes surgery, you will need to take certain steps to help ensure a good recovery and successful outcome. Here, our vets at Marcello Veterinary Hospital offer advice on how to help your cat while they are recovering from surgery.

Following Your Vet's Instructions While your Cat recovers from Surgery

You and your cat will likely feel nervous in the days before and after your cat's surgery. Understanding how to care for your four-legged friend after they come home will help your pet return to their daily routine as soon as possible. 

Your vet will provide clear and detailed instructions for caring for your cat while they recover at home after the surgery. You must adhere to these recommendations precisely without deviating from them. 

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

How long is recovery after surgery?

Our veterinary team at Marcello Veterinary Hospital 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 to three weeks and take about six weeks to heal completely. 

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. 

Here, our vets will share some advice on keeping your cat comfortable and content while they recover at home. 

Recovery from General Anesthesia

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 temporarily make your cat unsteady on its feet. Sleepiness and temporary loss of appetite are also normal side effects. Both should fade after your cat has had some rest. 

Feeding Your Cat After They've Had Surgery

If your cat is not eating after surgery, this is normal–closely monitor them. Due to the effects of the general anesthetic, your cat may experience slight nausea and lose some appetite. After surgery, feed them a small, light meal, such as fish or chicken. You might also consider giving them their regular food, but only a quarter of their usual portion. 

After 24 hours, your feline companion can gradually resume eating regular food. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours. Loss of appetite can indicate pain or infection. 

How to Manage Your Cat'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 can 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 unnecessary pain during recovery and decrease the risk of side effects. If you have any doubts about 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. 

Ensuring a Comfortable Recovery While at Home

While your cat is recovering from surgery, it is critical to provide a comfortable and quiet place to rest away from the hustle and bustle of your home, 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 orthopedic surgeries requiring rest.

For the duration of your cat's recovery period, you can confine them to a smaller area of the house and remove any furniture 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.

The Key to Successful Crate Rest

While some surgeries may not require crate rest, part of their recovery for other surgeries 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 and cause bandages to become damp 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. 

Keep Stitches & Bandages Clean

Stitches placed inside your pet's incision will dissolve as the incision heals. If your cat has stitches or staples on the outside of their incision, they must be removed by your vet about two weeks after the procedure. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision and any necessary follow-up care.

Another important step in helping your pet's surgical site heal quickly is always keeping bandages dry. 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.

Caring for the Incision

Cat owners frequently find it difficult to prevent their pets from scratching, chewing, or otherwise tampering with the site of their surgical incision. Use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (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.

Don't Miss the Follow-Up Visit

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. 

Our veterinary team at Marcello Veterinary Hospital 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.

Is your cat showing signs of pain or potential injury? Contact our vets at Marcello Veterinary Hospital today to schedule an examination.

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

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