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Helping a Cat Recover After Surgery

After surgery, it is important to give special attention to your cat's care to avoid re-aggravating the injury. Today our San Gabriel vets discuss strategies to care for a cat recovering from surgery.

Always Follow The Post-Op Instructions

Pets and pet owners are bound to feel some anxiety both leading up to and following surgery. But, knowing how you need to care for your feline companion after they return home is key to helping your pet get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.

Following your pet's surgery, your veterinarian will give you clear and detailed instructions on how to care for them at home while they recover. It is critical that you carefully follow these instructions. If you have any questions about any of the steps, consult with your veterinarian. If you get home and realize you forgot something about your cat's aftercare, don't be afraid to call and clarify.

Restricting Movement - Keep Your Cat From Jumping!

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.

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.  Read on for specific strategies on how to keep your cat from jumping after surgery:

Take Down All Cat Trees to Keep Your Cat From Jumping

Laying cat trees on their sides or covering them with a blanket is an excellent first step toward reducing jumping in your home. Leaving the cat tree up simply invites your feline companion to try their luck at leaping.

It is not the most elegant solution perhaps, but it is only for a short while well your cat recovers from surgery

Keep the Cat Inside Your Home to Keep them From Jumping

Outdoor cats might put up a fuss about being kept inside, but it is for their good following surgery, as unsupervised trips outside invite disastrous consequences for jumping cats.

You cannot know what your cat is up to when they are out of sight, so it is best to keep them within reach while they recover from surgery.

Keep the Cat Away From Other Cats to Discourage Jumping

Socializing in the post-operative period might not be the best idea for your cat. 

When in the presence of other cats, your recovering feline friend is more likely to jump about the house to keep up with them. 

If you own multiple cats, consider keeping them separate for a brief period while one is recovering from surgery.

Maintain a Calm Home Environment to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery

The more stimuli in your home, the less likely your cat is to be able to lie down and relax.  This makes the odds of them jumping much higher.

Try to keep your cat isolated from children or other pets while they are recovering, as this will help them chill out and ride it out until they are back to their usual selves.

Explain to those in the household the need to maintain a quiet volume for the next short while on behalf of your resting cat.

Make Use of a Crate to Stop Jumping From Cats After Surgery

We do not want to encourage crate rest for days on end for any animal, but if your cat is especially willful and unwilling to settle down, you may have no other option other than extended crate time for them to get their rest.

If this is the only option that works, consider speaking with your Vet about anesthetics that may help your cat relax outside the crate.

If your cat is particularly jump-happy, it is best practice to keep them in their crate when you are outside the home, only letting them wander about when you are present to supervise them.

Stay Alert and Focused on Keeping Your Cat From Jumping

Finally, while it might go without saying, the most important strategy to keep your cat from jumping is to stay alert to their activity.

You can't correct behavior you can't see, and if your cat does reinjure themselves, you should contact a vet right away, so cat owners should be extra careful with their feline friends while they're recovering from surgery.

What if my cat is not eating after surgery?

Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat may feel slightly nauseated and lose appetite after 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 make sure you only give them a quarter of their usual portion.

You can expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours post-surgery. At that point, your pet can gradually start to eat its regular food again. If you find that your pet’s appetite hasn’t returned within 48 hours, contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. In these prolonged cases, loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.

Other Useful Tips to Help Care for Your Cat After Surgery

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 appropriate dosage, how frequently you should administer the medication, and how to do so safely. Follow these instructions precisely to avoid unnecessary pain during recovery and to reduce the risk of side effects. If you have any doubts about any of the instructions, ask more questions.

Vets will often prescribe antibiotics and pain medications after surgery 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

It's critical to provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place to rest after surgery, away from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Making a soft and comfortable bed for your cat and giving them plenty of space to spread out will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.

Helping Your Pet 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 confined.

Make sure your pet's crate is big enough for him to stand up and turn around. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate. Don't forget to leave plenty of space for your cat's water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and unpleasant place to spend time, as well as cause bandages to become wet and 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 its 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 goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to keep wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your pet returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, leading to infection.

The Incision Site

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

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.

Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

Our veterinary team has discovered that soft tissue surgeries such as abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries such as c-sections or spays and neuters are more likely to be successful than operations involving bones, joints, ligaments, or tendons. Soft-tissue surgeries are typically healed in two to three weeks, with full recovery taking about a month and a half.

For orthopedic surgeries, those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures, recovery takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur about 8 to 12 weeks after surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more for complete recovery.

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

Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic

We use general anesthetics during our surgical procedures to render your pet unconscious and to prevent them from feeling any pain during the operation. However, it can take some time for the effects to wear off after the procedure is completed.

General anesthetics can cause temporary sleepiness or shakiness on the feet. These are normal side effects that should fade with rest. A temporary loss of appetite is also quite common in cats recovering from general anesthesia.

Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment allows your vet to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.

The veterinary team at Temple City Animal Hospital has been trained to properly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for a follow-up appointment allows this process to occur - and allows us to assist in keeping 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.

If your cat is scheduled to undergo surgery at Temple City Animal Hospital, contact us to learn more about how you can prepare for your pet's aftercare.

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