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How can I help my cat with recovering after surgery?

You can help your cat return to normal life as soon as possible after surgery by doing some things at home. Our Pleasant Hill veterinarians provide tips and advice on how to help your cat recover after a procedure.

Follow Post-Op Instructions

You're probably nervous in the days leading up to and after your cat's surgery. That being said, understanding how to care for your feline companion after they return home is critical to assist your pet in returning to their routine as soon as possible.

Following your cat's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet on how to care for your kitty at home while they recover. It is critical that you strictly adhere to these instructions.

Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions about any of the steps. Don't be afraid to call and ask questions if you realize after you get home that you were unclear about something pertaining to your cat's aftercare.

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Our veterinary team has discovered that pets recover faster from soft tissue surgeries such as reproductive surgeries (C-sections or spays & neuters) or abdominal surgery than from procedures involving tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints. Soft tissue surgeries typically heal in 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to completely heal.

Orthopedic surgery, which involves ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures, usually results in areas of the body that heal much more slowly. Eight to twelve weeks following surgery, your cat will complete about 80% of its recovery. However, it typically takes 6 months or longer to recover from orthopedic surgery.

Today, our Pleasant Hill 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 

In order to make your cat unconscious and to keep them from feeling any pain during surgery, a general anesthetic is used. Nevertheless, after the procedure is finished, the anesthesia's effects might not disappear right away.

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

Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat may feel slightly nauseated and lose some appetite following a surgical procedure. Try to feed them something small and light after surgery, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but only a quarter of their usual portion.

If you notice your cat not eating after surgery, this is normal—but still 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. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours. Loss of appetite can indicate an infection or pain.

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 correct dosage, how often you should administer the medication, and how to do so safely. Follow these instructions precisely to avoid unnecessary pain and side effects during recovery. If you have any questions about any of the instructions, ask them again.

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 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 Cat Comfortable At Home

While your cat is recovering from surgery, it is critical to provide a comfortable and quiet place for your kitty to rest, away from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Setting up a comfortable and soft bed for your cat, as well as 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

Following surgery, your veterinarian will most likely advise you to restrict your pet's movement for a specified period of time (usually a week). Spontaneous jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and even cause the incision to reopen, particularly after fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries that necessitate 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.

Make certain that your pet can stand up and turn around in its crate. You might need to buy a bigger crate if your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking. Remember to leave enough room for your cat's food and water dishes. Spills can result in bandages becoming wet and soiled, making your pet's crate an unpleasant place to spend time.

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. 

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, they will need to be removed by your vet about 2 weeks after the procedure. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision, as well as any necessary follow-up care.

Another important step in assisting your pet's surgical site to heal quickly is to keep bandages dry at all times.

If your pet goes outside, wrap the bandages in plastic wrap or a plastic bag to keep wet grass or other moisture from getting between the bandage and their skin. When your pet gets home, take off the plastic cover because leaving it on could lead to sweat building up under the bandage, which could lead to infection.

The Incision Site

It can be challenging for cat owners to keep their pet from destroying the area of their surgical incision with scratches, chewing, or other mischief. Use a plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar on your pet to prevent them from licking their wound (available in soft and hard versions).

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 changes your cat's bandages. 

Our veterinary team at Diablo View Veterinary Medical 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 going to have surgery at Diablo View Veterinary Medical Hospital? To learn more about how you can prepare for your kitty's aftercare, contact our Pleasant Hill veterinary team.

New Patients Welcome

Diablo View Veterinary Medical Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinarians are passionate about the health of Pleasant Hill companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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