In this blog, our Powder Springs vets share some tips and advice for helping your cat recover from surgery as quickly as possible, and what you can expect during your kitty's recovery.
Follow Post-Op Instructions
You will probably feel some anxiety before and after your cat's surgery. However, by knowing how to care for them once they come home you can help your kitty recover as fast as possible.
Following your cat's procedure, your vet will provide you with detailed, clear instructions on how you are supposed to care for your feline friend at home during their recovery. It's very important that you follow these instructions carefully.
If you are unclear about any of the steps, you should call your vet so they can give you clarification. Even if you get home and realize you've misunderstood an aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to contact your veterinarian and ask questions.
Recovery Time For Cats After Surgery
Our veterinary team finds that on average, pets recover from soft tissue surgery such as reproductive surgeries (C-sections or spays & neuters) or abdominal surgery more quickly than procedures that involve tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints. Soft tissue surgeries most often heal within 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to heal completely.
Parts of the body that have had orthopedic surgeries (which involve ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) tend to take much longer to heal. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur about 8 to 12 weeks after surgery. However, the typical time for a complete recovery after orthopedic surgery is 6 months or more.
Today, our Powder Springs vets share tips that can help you keep your cat as content and comfortable as possible as they recover at home.
Recuperating After General Anesthetic Effects
During surgical procedures, a general anesthetic is used to render your cat unconscious, this keeps them from experiencing any pain during the operation. But, it could take a bit of time for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off once the procedure is over.
The effects of the general anesthetic for cats can consist of sleepiness or temporary shakiness on their feet. These are normal after-effects that should go away with rest. It's also common for cats to have a temporary lack of appetite when they are recovering from the effects of anesthesia.
Your Cat's Diet & Feeding After Surgery
As a result of the general anesthesia effects, your cat will probably feel slightly nauseated and will lose a bit of their appetite after their surgery. When feeding your kitty, try giving them something small and light, like fish or chicken. You can also give them their regular food, but remember to only provide them with a quarter of their usual portion.
It's normal for cats not to eat in the time immediately following their surgery, but you will need to monitor them closely. You can expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours post-surgery. At that point, your pet can gradually start eating their usual food again. If you find that your pet’s appetite hasn’t returned within 48 hours, contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
Managing Your Cat's Pain
Before you take your kitty home after their surgery, your veterinary team will explain to you which pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your cat so you will be able to manage any post-operative discomfort or pain your kitty may be experiencing.
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.
After performing surgery, vets will often prescribe pain medications and antibiotics to help alleviate discomfort and prevent infections. If your cat is a little high-strung or has anxiety your vet might also prescribe them anti-anxiety medication or a sedative to help keep them calm during the healing process.
Never give your cat human medications without asking your veterinarian first. Lots of drugs that help people feel better are toxic to our feline companions.
Making Your Cat Comfortable At Home
During your cat's recovery, it's essential to give them a quiet and comfortable place to rest, that's separated from the daily hustle and bustle of your home, this includes children and other pets. 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.
Preventing Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery
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, especially after procedures involving fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries where rest is essential.
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.
Only a few procedures require a significant crate or cage rest to help cats recover, and the majority of outdoor cats are able to cope well with staying indoors for several days as they get better.
Helping Your Cat Endure Crate Rest
While crate rest isn't needed for most surgeries, if your kitty has undergone orthopedic surgery, a portion of their recovery will consist of strictly limiting 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.
Ensure your kitty's crate is big enough for them to stand up and turn around in. If your cat has an e-collar or plastic cone to prevent licking, you might have to buy a larger crate. Don’t forget to give your feline lots of room for their water and food bowls. Spills may happen which could make your cat's crate an uncomfortable and wet place to spend time in, this can also make their bandages 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.
Bandages & Stitches
If your pet's stitches have been placed inside the incision site they will dissolve on their own as the site heals.
If the staples or stitches are on the outside of your cat's incision, your vet will have to remove them approximately 2 weeks after the procedure. Your vet will tell you which stitches they used to close your kitty's incision and explain any follow-up care your kitty will need.
It's imperative that you make sure the bandages are always dry, so the surgical site can heal as quickly as possible.
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
It's hard for many cat owners to keep their furry friends from chewing, scratching, or playing around with their surgical incision site. An effective way to prevent this is with a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions).
Lots of cats quickly adapt to the collar, however, if your kitty is struggling to adjust, there are other options 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
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 Powder Springs Animal Clinic is able to properly dress surgical sites and wounds. By taking your cat to our veterinary hospital for their follow-up appointment you are letting us make sure your kitty is healing according to schedule. We will also address any questions 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.