Your only goal after surgery for your cat is to get them back to normal as fast as possible. Our Franklin vets are here to give you the knowledge you need to help your kitty companion while they recover.
Follow The Instructions From Your Vet
Cats and their owners are inevitably going to experience some anxiety in the days before, and following surgery. Knowing how to properly take care of your pet once they come home is key to helping them get back to their usual antics as quickly as possible.
After your cat's surgery, your vet will give you straightforward and detailed instructions regarding your cat's post-operative care while they are home. It is imperative that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps that are unclear, make sure to ask your vet for guidance. If, once you've returned home, you realize there are steps you've forgotten, give your vet a call to clear things up.
Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery
Cats will typically recover from soft tissue surgeries - such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries - more quickly than surgeries involving bones, joints, ligaments, or tendons. Often, soft-tissue surgeries are predominately healed within two or three weeks, taking about 6 weeks to become fully healed.
For orthopedic surgeries - those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures - recovery takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur within 8 to 12 weeks following surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.
Here are a few tips from our Franklin vets to help you keep your cat contented and comfortable as they recover at home:
Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic
At Advanced Veterinary Care we use general anesthesia during surgical procedures so your pet remains unconscious and in a pain-free state while we operate. However, it can take some time for the effects to wear off after the procedure is over.
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 Cat 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 only provide them with about a quarter of their usual portion.
If your cat is not eating after surgery, don't be alarmed. You can expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours after their procedure. At that point, your pet can gradually start to eat their normal food again. If you find that your pet’s appetite hasn’t returned within 48 hours, contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
Before you and your cat return home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you 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 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.
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 a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm throughout 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 Pet Comfortable At Home
After surgery, it is crucial for you to provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place to rest, far enough away from busy or loud areas of your home. Keep other pets and children away from them while they recover. Make sure to set up a soft, cozy bed for your kitty with lots of room so they can comfortably stretch out thus preventing them from putting pressure on any one part of their body.
Restricting Your Cat's Movement
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. If you are struggling with how to keep your cat from jumping after surgery, good news, there are some options including crate rest.
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. If you need to keep your cat from jumping after surgery crate rest may be required.
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 prescribes crate rest for your cat 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.
Make sure that your pet's crate is large enough to allow your fur baby to stand up and turn around. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your cat has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure that your kitty has plenty of room for their water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and uncomfortable place to spend time, and cause bandages to become wet and soiled.
Dealing With Your Cat's 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 bandages are always dry is very important for your cat to heal in a timely manner.
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.
Your Cat's Incision Site
Cat parents will often find it challenging to stop their pet from scratching, chewing, or messing around with the site of their surgical incision. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.
Many cats adapt to the collar quickly, but if your pet is struggling to adjust, other options are available. Ask your veterinarian about less bulky products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.
Attend Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment
The follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.
The veterinary team at Advanced Veterinary Care have been trained to dress wounds effectively in order to protect your pet's incision and provide the best possible healing. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen - and for us to help keep your pet’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.