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What to Do When Your Cat is Recovering from Surgery

After your cat comes home from surgery, they'll need a little extra tender loving care to help their incision heal without becoming injured, infected or otherwise aggravated. Our vets in New York list some strategies for caring for your kitty as they recover from surgery.

Always Follow Post-Op Instructions

Up to and after your cat's surgery, you and your kitty may feel anxious. That said, understanding how to give your cat the care and attention they need will help them return to their regular selves as quickly as possible. 

As you care for your cat after surgery, your vet will give you detailed instructions on how to care for your feline friend as they recover at home. It's important to follow these instructions carefully. If you are unsure about any steps, make sure to ask your vet to clarify. Even if you return home and realize you've forgotten one or more aspects of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call and confirm. 

How to Keep Your Cat from Jumping After Surgery

Your veterinarian will recommend limiting your cat's movements for a specific time period (typically a week) after surgery. Because sudden jumping or stretching can cause an incision to reopen and disrupt or lengthen the healing process, you'll need to keep a close eye on your cat's activities. 

Fortunately, few procedures will require significant cage or crate rest during your cat's recovery, and most outdoor cats will cope well with remaining indoors for a few days as they recover. Read on for specific strategies on how to keep your cat from jumping:

Dismantle All Cat Trees to Keep Your Cat from Jumping

Laying cat trees down on their side or using a blanket to cover them is an excellent first step to discourage your feline friend from jumping. In contrast, leaving the cat tree up will result in you fighting an uphill battle to keep your cat from testing their luck and leaping onto platforms. While it may not be the most elegant solution, this will only be for a short while as your cat recovers from surgery. 

Keep Your Cat Inside Your Home to Keep Them From Jumping

If your cat is outdoors a lot of the time, they might not be happy out being forced to remain indoors. However, this is in their best interest as they recover. Unsupervised trips outside can invite disastrous consequences for cats who choose to jump. When they are out of your sight, it's impossible to know what your cat will get up to, so it's best to keep them within reach as they recover from their procedure. 

Keep Your Cat Away From Other Cats to Discourage Jumping

Socializing after their operation might not be the best idea for your cat, since when kitties are in the presence of other cats, they are more likely to jump around playing or trying to keep up. If you live with multiple cats, consider separating them for a brief period while one recovers from surgery. 

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

The more stimuli your cat is surrounded by, the less likely your cat is to be able to lay down and relax. Consequently, their odds of jumping will increase. Try to isolate your cat from children and other pets while they recover - this will help them chill out until they are back to their usual selves. Explain to others in the household about how the noise level needs to be down for the next short while as your cat rests. 

Use a Crate to Stop Jumping From Cats After Surgery

Many cat owners find they need to resort to confining their cat to a crate. While we do not want to encourage days of rest on end for any animal, if your cat proves especially wily and unable to relax, you might not have another option. If crating is the only solution to prevent your cat from jumping, speak with your vet about anesthetics to help your cat chill outside their crate. 

If you've got a kitty who's particularly fond of jumping, it's best to put them in their crate when you'll be away from home, only allowing them to roam the house when you are there to supervise. 

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 and vigilant to their activity. You cannot try and correct behavior you cannot see, and if your cat does reinjure themselves it is important to contact a vet right away, so cat owners should be especially attentive to their feline friends when they are recovering from surgery.

If Cat Won't Eat Following Surgery

It is not uncommon for a general anesthetic to leave your cat feeling slightly nauseated, meaning that they will likely experience appetite loss after a surgical procedure. If your cat is not eating after surgery, try feeding them something small and light, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but ensure that you only provide them with 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 their 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.

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 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.

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 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 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 need to remove them approximately 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 an essential step in helping your cat's incision heal quickly.

If your kitty 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.

Caring For The Incision Site

Cat owners often find it challenging to stop their feline friend from scratching, chewing, or messing around with 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.

Recovery Times for Cats After Surgery

Our veterinary team finds that most often, any pet will recover from a soft tissue surgery like abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries like c-sections or spays and neuters than operations that involve bones, joints ligaments, or tendons. Often, soft-tissue surgeries are mostly healed within two or three weeks, taking about a month-and-a-half to heal completely.

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 in order 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.

Effects of general anesthetic may include temporary sleepiness or shakiness on their feet. These after-effects are quite normal and should fade with rest. Temporary lack of appetite is also quite common in cats who are recovering from the effects of general anesthesia.

Attend Your Cat’s Follow-Up Appointment

Your cat's follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your kitty's recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.

The veterinary team at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Winston-Salem have been trained to correctly dress wounds. 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.

Do you suspect your dog may have a bowel obstruction? Contact our New York vets right away to arrange an urgent care appointment. For after-hours assistance, visit the emergency veterinary clinic near you.

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