How to care for a cat after surgery

Cat recovery after the surgeryWith most pet cats being spayed or neutered these days, surgeries have become very common and can be considered a routine procedure in most vet clinics, including our own. While it’s a routine procedure for vets, it is not routine for owners, especially when it comes to remembering what the vet said about postoperative care.

Did you just bring your cat home from a veterinary clinic and noticed that you don’t remember much of what your vet told you? Don’t worry!

In this article, you are going to learn how to take care of your cat after surgery and to make sure the recovery process is fast, safe and as pleasant to you and your animal as possible.

Don’t be reluctant to call your veterinarian! It’s okay, people forget stuff all the time, and the best way to find answers to your questions is to call your veterinarian. Vets do not mind it.

Learn: How your cat’s behavior will change after the neutering/spaying surgery.

Keep it calm the first day after surgery

  • Do not bother your cat during the first day. It is good if you can accommodate your cat in a quiet room, but keep in mind that your cat requires frequent supervision. Do not allow your kids, pets and other family members to distract your cat. He will be sleeping a lot today and will still be affected by anesthesia.
  • Place your cat on a blanket on the floor, in a warm place, but not next to heating elements. Avoid placing him on any elevations, and eliminate the possibility for him to wander to the stairway or any other place he could fall off. Due to anesthesia, your cat will act abnormally after surgery.
  • Your cat may be shaking after surgery. That happens as a response to anesthesia and blood loss and that does not necessarily mean he is cold. If you want to warm your cat, you may place a thermos or warm bottles of water by his side. Your cat may also be vomiting, sneezing and coughing due to anesthesia during the first day or two after surgery.
  • Do not feed your cat at least for 12 hours after surgery. It may cause vomiting, which is dangerous for a cat still under the influence of anesthesia. If your cat’s surgery was in the afternoon, better leave the first meal for the next morning. If your cat had surgery in the morning, it’s probably okay to provide a meal in the evening.
  • Provide drinking water for your cat, but do not leave a deep bowl accessible to him when you are not supervising, as there’s a risk he may fall asleep with his head first in the bowl due to the anesthesia. The best approach is to offer drinking water to your cat every few hours, or whenever he wakes up. If your cat is not drinking, don’t force it in the first day. He will get to it tomorrow.

Your cat must feel well a few days later

  • In the second day, your cat must already feel and act normally. He might be slower, may not jump, run or play, and it is important not to force those activities. However, he should no longer be affected by the anesthetic medications. His reaction and response to stimuli must be normal. Of course, keep in mind that more complicated surgeries may have longer recovery periods. However, if you think your cat is acting abnormally during the second day, a call to your vet’s office is highly recommended.
  • What to feed your cat after surgery? As said above, during the first day, probably nothing. For the first meal and for the following week it’s okay to provide your cat his regular food, while we suggest to aim for a wet food, because your cat needs extra liquid, and wet foods usually contain ingredients of higher quality. You can find more information about recognizing a quality cat food here. If your vet prescribes a special diet after surgery, it’s okay to go with it. While not completely necessary, after surgery diets such as “Hill’s Critical Care” provide higher amounts of protein and higher digestibility of the food – two characteristics that should have been provided in an everyday food in the first place. After surgery cat foods also provide larger amounts of certain vitamins and minerals to help your cat recover faster.
  • Prevent your cat from licking the stitches. Your cat likely won’t do it during the first day or two after the surgery due to tiredness, which often leads to cat owners forgetting to pay attention to it. Contrary to popular belief, wound licking does not help to heal them faster, but in many occasions will postpone the recovery. The best solution is a cone collar, which, again, contrary to popular belief, does not affect your cat’s self-esteem, but you may want to take it off while your cat eats. Alternatively, you may use clothes to cover the stitches.
  • Caring for stitches may not be necessary during the first day, as they are already taken care of at the veterinary clinic. However, in the next few days you may need to clean them up to twice daily or as instructed by your veterinarian. Most common practice is rinsing sutures with a hydrogen peroxide solution and soaking the excess up with a cotton pad. However, specific cases may require different treatment and be sure to ask the veterinarian if you are unsure.
  • There may be a little bleeding from stitches during the first few days, which is okay; however, it must not contain any matter. If you are having problems telling if the amount of bleeding qualifies as “a little”, call your veterinarian.
  • Your cat should have a period of calmness for about a week or two. Do not insist on playing, try to avoid having him need to jump on heights (place a bed and food on the floor), and try to make sure other pets and family members are not bothering him.
  • Stitches are usually removed after seven to ten days. At checkout after surgery, it’s common practice to book a consecutive visit for removing stitches and a checkup. After some surgeries, such as male cat neutering, there may be no stitches to be removed, or sometimes veterinarians use sutures that dissolve over time.

If you still have problems figuring out how to care for your cat after surgery, do not feel ashamed to phone your veterinarian for a double check. Answering these questions is included in the surgery fee. And there are no stupid questions, did you know that? If there is something that brings up a question “is that normal?”, it’s another good reason to call your vet.