If your cat has just had surgery, there are a few things you can do to help them recover. Here, our Vancouver vets share some tips on caring for your cat while they recover from surgery.
Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
Pets and their owners are likely to feel some anxiety leading up to and following surgery. However, knowing how you can best care for your feline friend after they return home is critical to helping your cat to recover back to their regular self as quickly as possible.
After your pet's surgery, your veterinarian will provide you with clear and detailed instructions about how to care for your feline companion while they are recovering at home from a surgical procedure. It's key that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you are unsure about, follow up with your veterinarian for clarification. If you return home and realize that you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's care, don't hesitate to call and clarify things with a veterinary professional.
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 re-open.
Thankfully, very few procedures require a significant amount of cage or crate rest to help your cat to recover. Most outdoor cats will be able to cope pretty well with staying indoors for a couple of days. Read on for some of the specific strategies for keeping your cat from jumping:
Take Down Cat Trees
Either laying cat trees on their side or covering them with a blanket, is a great first step to discourage jumping in your home. Leaving the cat tree up simply invites your feline friend to test their leaping luck.
While it may not be the most elegant solution, it will only need to last a short while for your cat to recover.
Keep Your Cat Inside While They Recover
Outdoor cats might put up a fuss about being kept inside, but it is for their own good following surgery, as unsupervised trips outside invite disastrous consequences for jumping cats.
You won't know anything about what your cat is up to when they are out of site, so it's best to keep them within easy reach while they recover from their procedure.
Isolate Your Cat to Discourage Jumping
Socializing in the post-operative period might not be the best idea for your cat.
While in the presence of other cats, your recovering feline friend will be more likely to jump around the house to keep up with them.
If you own more than one cat, consider separating them as much as possible while one is recovering from a procedure.
Maintain a Calm Home Environment
The more stimuli your cat encounters in your home, the less likely they are to lie down and relax. This will make to odds of them jumping around or otherwise doing activities that they shouldn't 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.
Initiate Crate Time to Prevent Jumping
A final result for many cat owners is imposing crate rest on their cats. While we don't encourage crate rest for days on end for any animal, if your cat is unwilling to settle down and is at risk for seriously injuring themselves, you may have no other option but to extend their crate rest for them to heal.
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 fond of jumping on and off of things, it may be necessary to keep them in their crate whenever you are unable to supervise their activities.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Cat's Activities
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 can't correct the behavior that you don't see. If your cat reinjured themselves, make sure that you contact your vet as soon as possible. Because of this, cat owners need to be especially attentive to their feline friends while they are recovering from surgery.
What to Do if Your Cat Won't Eat After Surgery
Since the effects of a general anesthetic can last a little while, your cat will probably feel a bit nauseated and will experience some loss of their appetite after a surgical procedure. When feeding your pet after surgery, try something small and light such as fish or chicken. You can also give your cat their regular food, but make sure you only give them about a quarter of what you usually would.
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.
More Tips for Caring for Your Cat After Surgery
Pet Pain Management
Before you and your cat return home after their surgery, your vet 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.
Your vet will explain the dosage of your cat's pain management medications as well as the frequency with which you should administer it. Make sure to follow these instructions as closely as possible to prevent unnecessary pain during your cat's recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects arising. If you are unsure about any of the instructions that you received, ask follow-up 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.
NOTE: 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 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
Most cat surgeries won't require crate rest unless your cat has undergone orthopedic surgery, in which case strict limits on their movements will be necessary while they heal.
If your cat is prescribed crate rest after their surgery, there will be some measures that you can take to make sure that your feline companion remains as comfortable as possible when spending time in confinement.
Ensure that your pet's crate is large enough to allow your cat to stand up and turn around. You may need to buy a bigger crate if your pet has an e-collar or plastic cone around their neck to prevent licking. Remember that your cat will also need room for their water bowl and food. Spills may make your pet's crate uncomfortable if the crate is too cramped, causing bandages to become wet and impacting recovery too.
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 bandages or stitches on the outside of the surgical incision site, a vet will remove them after around 2 weeks from their procedure. Your vet will let you know what kind of stitches were used to close your cat's incision and what follow-up care (if any) 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
Many cat owners find it difficult to stop their feline friends from chewing, licking, or scratching at their incision site. Preventive collars, in both soft ad hard versions, are effective options to stop your pet from licking their wound by obstructing their access.
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 Time for Cats Following Surgery
Our veterinarians find that most often, pets who have undergone soft tissue surgeries like abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries take less time to recover from when compared to surgeries involving joints, bones ligaments, and more. 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.
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 Columbia River Veterinary Specialists has 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.