How should I help my cat recover after surgery?

Did you know there are some measures you can take at home to help your cat return to his or her life as quickly as possible after they've had surgery? Our vets in Orlando offer tips and advice on helping your cat successfully recover following a procedure. 

Stick to Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

In the days before and after your cat's surgery, you and your kitty will likely be feeling some stress or anxiety. That said, knowing how to care for your feline companion once they're settled in at home is vital to helping your cat get back to their regular routine as quickly as possible. 

Your vet will provide clear and detailed instructions after your cat's surgery to direct you on how to care for your four-legged friend as they recover at home. Following these closely is important to their health and well-being. 

If you are unsure about any steps, touch base with your vet to clarify. Even if you realize you've misunderstood some aspect of your cat's aftercare after you've returned home, don't hesitate to call and ask questions. 

Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

Our veterinary team has found that on average, pets tend to recover from soft tissue surgery such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgery (C-sections or spays & neuters) more quickly than procedures that involve bones, joints, ligaments or tendons. Most often, soft tissue surgeries heal within 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to completely heal. 

Pets that have had orthopedic surgeries (which involve bones, ligaments and other skeletal structures) tend to make much longer to heal. Approximately 80% of the recovery phase will occur about 8 to 12 weeks following surgery. that said, complete recovery time from an orthopedic surgery typically takes 6 months or more. 

Today, our Orlando vets will share a few tips to help keep your cat comfortable and relaxed as they recover at home. 

Recuperating from Effects of General Anesthetic 

During surgical procedures, your cat will be provided with general anesthetic to render them unconscious and to prevent them from experiencing pain during the procedure. However, effects of anesthesia can take some time to wear off after the procedure is complete. 

These effects may include sleepiness or shakiness on their feet. After-effects such as these are normal and should fade with rest. You may also notice a temporary lack of appetite in your cat as they recover. 

Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery 

Due to the effects of general anesthetic, your cat will likely experience slight nausea and lose some of their appetite after their surgical procedure. When you feed them after surgery, try something light and small such as fish or chicken. While you may also give them regular food, ensure that they only receive a quarter of their usual portion. 

If you notice your cat is not eating after surgery, not to worry — this is normal, but watch them closely. Your cat's appetite should return within about 24 hours after their operation. By that point, your pet can gradually begin to eat their regular food again. If you find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours, get in touch with your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon, as loss of appetite can indicate pain or infection. 

Pet Pain Management

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 with a sedative or anti-anxiety medication ot 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 Cat Comfortable At Home

As your cat is recovering from surgery, it's key to provide your kitty with a comfortable and quiet place to rest, well apart from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Setting up a comfortable and soft bed for your kitty and giving them lots 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 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, especially after procedures involving fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries where rest is essential.

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 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 prescribes your cat with crate rest 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.

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 the 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. 

Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s surgical site 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 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 cumbersome products 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 East Orlando Animal Hospital have been trained to dress surgical sites and wounds correctly. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen — and for us to help ensure your cat's healing is on track. We will also address any questions or concerns you may have. 

Is your cat scheduled for surgery at East Orlando Animal HospitalContact us today to find out more about how you can prepare for your furry best friend's aftercare.

Caring for Pets in Orlando

Caring for Pets in Orlando

East Orlando Animal Hospital is always happy to welcome new clients to our full-service animal hospital. We look forward to meeting you and your pet!

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(407) 277-3497