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Recovery After Surgery in Cats

If your cat has recently undergone surgery then it is important to ensure that the wound has the opportunity to heal properly in order to avoid complications. In today's post, our Kingman vets discuss how to care for your cat while they recover from surgery and offer advice to keep your cat from doing many of the activities they should avoid.

Follow All Post-Op Instructions

You are bound to feel anxious leading up to and following your cat's surgery, but knowing how to provide your cat with the care and attention they need will help your kitty get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.

After your cat's surgery, your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions about how to care for your kitty as recover at home. It is critical that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you are unsure about, be sure to follow up with 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.

Ways To Prevent Your Cat From Jumping

No doubt that your veterinarian will recommend limiting your cat's movements for a specified period of time (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:

Temporarily Make Cat Trees Inaccessible

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

Do Not Allow Your Cat To Roam Outside

  • If you have an outdoor cat, they may not be thrilled about being forced to stay indoors but it is truly in their best interest. Unsupervised trips outside invite disastrous consequences for jumping cats. It's impossible to know what your cat may get up to when they are out of sight, so it is best to keep them within reach while they recover from surgery.

Limit Interaction With Other Cats

  • 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.

Ensure a Calm Home Environment

  • The more stimuli in your home, the less likely your cat is to be able to lay 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.

Utilize a Crate If Necessary

  • Confining your cat to a crate is a final resort for many cat owners, we do not want to encourage crate rest for days on end for any animal, however, if your cat proves especially willfully and unwilling to settle down, you may have no other option. If crating is the only solution for preventing your cat from jumping, consider speaking with your vet about anesthetics that may help your cat relax outside the crate. If your cat is particularly fond of jumping, 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.

Monitor Your Cat Closely

  • 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.

What To Do If Your Cat Won't Eat

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. When feeding them after surgery, try for 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.

Pain Management For Your Cat

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.

How To Keep Your Cat Comfortable

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.

Utilizing Crate Rest For a Faster Recovery

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.

Managing 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 Wound

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.

Typical 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:

Recovering From 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.

Ensure You Return For Any Follow-up Visits

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.

If you have any questions or concerns about your cat's surgery or recovery contact our Kingman vets today.

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