Like humans, the recovery period following a surgery for cats is just as important as the operation itself. It's important that owners know how to properly care for their feline friends post-op. Here, our Boulder and Westminster veterinarians share what you need to know about cats recovering from surgery.
Follow Your Vets Instructions
If your kitty has a surgery coming up, it is normal for both you and your kitty to feel anxious during the process. Knowing how you need to care for your feline companion after they return home is an important step to helping them get back to their regular activity as fast as possible.
Following surgery, your vet will provide clear and detailed instructions about how to care for your cat while they are recovering at home. It is vital to carefully and closely follow those instructions to ensure their full recovery.
If there are any steps you are unsure about, do not hesitate to ask your vet for clarification! If you return home and realize you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and clarify.
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 heal completely.
Orthopedic surgeries, which involve bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures, tend to have much longer recovery periods. 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.
Below, our Boulder and Westminster vets have highlighted some steps you can take to aid your kitty through the recovery process:
Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic
We always use general anesthesia during surgery so that your pet is unconscious and is unable to feel any pain during the procedure. It can however take some time for the effects to totally wear off after surgery is complete.
Effects of general anesthetic may include temporary tiredness or shakiness on their feet. These side effects are normal and should go away once your pet has had some rest. Losing their appetite temporarily is also normal for cats recovering from surgery due to the after-effects of general anesthesia.
Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery
General anesthesia can make your cat feel nauseated and will likely lose some of their appetite following surgery. When offering them food after surgery, try to offer something small and light like chicken or fish. You can also provide them with their regular food, but only in quarter-sized portions.
If your cats not eating after surgery, don't be concerned yet! Their appetite should return within about 24 hours after their procedure. At that point, your cat can start to gradually eat their regular food again. If you've noticed their appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours, contact your vet right away. Persistent loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
Post-Surgery Pain Management for Cats
Before you and your cat leave the veterinarian after surgery, your vet will explain what pain relievers and other medications they have prescribed for your pet so you can effectively manage your cat's post-operative pain and discomfort.
They will explain the dose required, how often you need to provide medication, and how to safely administer their medications. Make sure you follow these instructions carefully to prevent and unnecessary pain during their recovery and reduce the risk of side effects. If you are unsure about any instructions, ask follow-up questions.
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 their surgery, it's key to provide your cat 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.
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.
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're wondering how 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 typically remove them 2 weeks after the procedure. It is important that these stitches are not irritated, scratched, or bitten during that time.
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 cumbersome 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 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.