You can assist your cat in returning to its normal life faster after surgery by taking some steps at home. Our veterinarians in San Mateo offer tips and guidance on aiding your cat's recovery following a procedure.
Follow Post-Op Instructions
You might feel anxious before and after your cat's surgery. It's important to know how to take care of your cat once they're back home, so they can get back to their normal routine quickly.
Your vet will give you specific and detailed instructions for caring for your cat after surgery. It's really important to follow these instructions closely.
If you have any questions or if you're unsure about anything, don't hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian. Even if you're at home and realize you misunderstood something about your cat's care, it's okay to call and get clarification.
Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery
Our veterinary team has found that pets recover faster from soft tissue surgeries, like C-sections, spays, neuters, or abdominal surgery, compared to procedures involving tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints. Soft tissue surgeries typically take 2 to 3 weeks to heal and about 6 weeks to fully recover.
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 San Mateo 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 on their feet or sleepiness. These are normal side effects that should fade with rest. A temporary loss of appetite is also a common side effect in cats recovering from anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
After your cat undergoes surgery with general anesthesia, it might feel a bit queasy and may not want to eat much. To help, offer them some light and easy-to-digest food like chicken or fish. You can also give them their usual food, but only about a quarter of what they usually 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. However, if your cat still isn't eating after 48 hours, it could be a sign of infection or pain. In that case, it's important to contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon for guidance.
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 appropriate dose, how frequently you should administer the medication, and how to do so safely. Follow these instructions precisely to avoid unnecessary pain during recovery and to reduce the risk of side effects. If you have any doubts about any of the instructions, ask more questions.
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 give your cat human medicines without talking to your vet first. Some drugs that help us can harm our furry friends.
Keeping Your Cat Comfortable At Home
When your cat is healing after surgery, it's essential to create a cozy, peaceful spot for them to relax. Keep them away from the commotion in your home, like other pets and kids. Set up a soft bed for your cat, and make sure there's enough room for them to stretch out. This will ensure that no part of their body experiences too much pressure.
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 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.
Ensure the crate is spacious enough for your cat to stand and turn around. You might need a larger crate if your cat wears a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Remember to leave room for food and water dishes to avoid spills, which can make the crate unpleasant, and soil bandages.
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 on extended cage rest, consider using feeding enrichment to alleviate 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 outside their incision, your vet will remove them about 2 weeks after the procedure. Your veterinarian will also explain the type of stitches used and any follow-up care needed.
Another important step in assisting your pet's surgical site to heal quickly is always to keep 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 to avoid sweat buildup under the bandage, which could lead to infection.
The Incision Site
Cat owners will 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 (available in soft and hard versions) to keep 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.
Our veterinary team at South Hillsdale Animal Hospital has been trained to dress surgical sites and wounds properly. 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.