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Cat Recovering from Surgery: How to Help Them Get Better

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

Follow Post-Op Instructions

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

After your cat's surgery, your vet will give you clear and detailed instructions on how to care for him at home while he recovers. It is critical that you strictly follow these instructions.

If you have any questions about any of the steps, please talk to your veterinarian. Even if you arrive home and discover that you have misunderstood something about your cat's aftercare, don't be afraid to call and clarify.

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Our veterinary team discovered that soft tissue surgeries, such as C-sections or spays and neuters, or abdominal surgery, help pets recover faster than procedures that involve tendons, bones, ligaments, or joints. Soft tissue surgeries typically heal in 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to fully recover.

Orthopedic surgery on parts of the body (involving ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) causes healing to take much longer. Approximately 80% of your cat's recovery will occur 8 to 12 weeks following surgery. However, the average recovery time for orthopedic surgery is six months or more.

Today, our Tigard 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 

A general anesthetic is used during surgical procedures to keep your cat unconscious and pain-free. However, the effects of anesthesia may take some time to wear off once the procedure is finished.

General anesthetics may cause temporary shakiness or sleepiness. These are normal side effects that should subside with rest. A temporary loss of appetite is another 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 — 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 leave the hospital, a veterinary professional will explain what pain relievers or other medications have been prescribed for your pet so that you can manage your cat's post-operative pain and discomfort.

They will explain the proper dosage, how frequently the medication should be administered, and how to do so safely. Follow these steps exactly to avoid unnecessary pain during recovery and to reduce the risk of side effects. If you are unsure about any of the instructions, ask more questions.

Veterinarians frequently prescribe antibiotics and pain relievers after surgery to prevent infection and discomfort. If your cat is anxious or hyperactive, our veterinarians may prescribe sedatives or anti-anxiety medications to help them relax 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 that you provide a comfortable and quiet place for him to rest away from the chaos of your home, including other pets and children. Making a comfortable and soft bed for your cat and giving them plenty of room to spread out will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.

How to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery

Your veterinarian will most likely advise you to limit your pet's movement for a set period of time (typically a week) after surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and 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 sure your pet's crate is big enough for them to stand up and turn around. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you might need to get a bigger crate. Don't forget to leave enough space for your cat's water and food dishes. Spills can turn your pet's crate into a wet and unpleasant place to spend time, as well as cause bandages to become wet and dirty.

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 cling wrap or a plastic bag to keep wet grass or moisture from getting between the bandage and their skin. When your pet returns home, remove the plastic covering because leaving it on can cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, leading to infection.

The Incision Site

Cat owners frequently struggle to keep their pets from scratching, chewing, or otherwise tampering with the site of their surgical incision. To prevent your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in soft and hard versions).

Many cats quickly adjust to the collar, but if yours is having trouble, there are other options. Consult your veterinarian about less cumbersome alternatives, 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 Cascade Veterinary Referral Center is trained to properly dress surgical sites and wounds. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for a check-up allows this process to begin – and allows us to help ensure your cat's healing progresses as planned. We will also discuss 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 Cascade Veterinary Referral Center? To learn more about how you can prepare for your kitty's aftercare, contact our Tigard veterinary team.

New Patients Welcome

Cascade Veterinary Referral Center is accepting new patients! Get in touch with us today for information on how to book a specialty appointment for your pet. 

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