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Caring for Your Cat After Surgery

Caring for Your Cat After Surgery

Post-surgery, cat owners will want to take care of their feline companion to ensure a smooth recovery. Today, our Seattle vets provide you with some tips and guidance for taking care of a kitty after surgery.

Following Post-Op Instructions

Cats and their owners alike will usually feel some anxiety leading up to and following any type of surgery. Knowing how you should care for your feline companion after they return home is the key to helping them recover to their normal selves as quickly as possible.

Following a surgical procedure, our vets will provide you with clear instructions about how to care for them and aid their recovery. Make sure you follow these instructions as closely as possible.

If you are unsure about any of the steps, or if there are new developments in your cat's behavior, follow up with your vet for clarification. If you find that you've forgotten some aspect of the required post-operative care, our vets will be happy to clarify their instructions. 

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Cats will typically recover from soft tissue surgery, like abdominal or reproductive surgeries, quicker than procedures involving bones, ligaments or tendons. Generally, soft tissue surgeries will be mostly healed by the 2 to 3 week mark. After a month-and-a-half, soft tissue surgical areas should be completely healed. 

The recovery process is much longer for orthopedic surgeries, some taking as long as 6 months to fully heal.

Here are a few tips from our Seattle vets to help you keep your cat contented and comfortable as they recover at home:

Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic

During most surgical procedures, we use a general anesthetic to put your cat to sleep and prevent them from feeling pain during the operation. It can take some time, however, for the effects of the anesthetic to wear off post-op.

Effects of general anesthetic may include temporary sleepiness or shakiness on their feet. These after-effects are quite normal and should fade with rest. Temporary lack of appetite is also quite common in cats who are recovering from the effects of 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 you're only providing them with a quarter of their usual portion. 

Expect your cat's appetite to return within 24 hours of surgery. At that mark, your cat will gradually be able to start eating their regular food again. If you find that your cat's appetite hasn't returned to normal within 48 hours, contact your vet. A persistent loss of appetite can be a sign of pain or infection at the incision site. 

Pet Pain Management

Before returning home, a veterinary professional will explain to you what pain relievers, antibiotics or other medications they have prescribed for your cat so you can manage their pain and discomfort. Make sure you follow medication administration instructions carefully in order to prevent unnecessary pain and eliminate the risk of side effects. Don't hesitate to contact us with any follow-up questions if you're unsure!

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 or "alternative" medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.

Keeping Your Kitty Comfortable

After your cat's surgery, it's important that you provide them with a comfortable and quiet place to take solace apart from the hustle and bustle of your home. Try setting up a place with a comfortable bed and blankets with food and water dishes as well as their litter box nearby. The spot should have room for them to spread out and be relatively away from noise if possible.

Restricting Movement

Our vets will probably recommend that you limit your cat's jumping, running and stretching as much as possible for around a week following their surgery. Consult your vet on the best practices to keep your cat from jumping after surgery.

Thankfully, very few surgeries require significant crate rest to help your cat to recover. Most outdoor cats will be able to cope with staying indoors as they recover too.

Helping Your Pet Cope With Crate Rest

While most surgeries fortunately won't require crate rest for your cat, it's important to handle it smoothly for those that do, like some orthopedic surgeries.

If your vet prescribes crate rest for your cat following surgery, it's for good reason, especially considering how most cats like to jump and get themselves into small spaces. There are some measures you can take to make sure your kitty is comfortable while spending long periods of time confined:

Make sure your cat's crate is large enough to allow them to stand and turn around. If you already had a crate for your cat, you may need to purchase a larger one to accommodate for a plastic cone or e-collar.

Make sure your cat has plenty of room for their food and water. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and uncomfortable place to spend time, and cause any bandages to become 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. 

Making sure your cat's bandages are always dry will be critical to helping their surgical incision 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 owners may have a difficult time stopping their little one from chewing, scratching or otherwise disturbing their incision site. A cone shaped collar can be an effective way of preventing licking or irritating the surgical site.

Many cats adapt to the cone quickly, but if yours is struggling to adjust, other options may be 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 is just as important as the surgery itself; this time gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change bandages with minimal discomfort. 

Our veterinary team at Aurora Veterinary Hospital have been trained to correctly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows us to help keep your kitty'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.

If you have more questions about your cat's condition following surgery, contact our Seattle vets today.

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