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Helping Your Cat Recover From Surgery

Helping Your Cat Recover From Surgery

Following your cat's surgery, you can help your kitty recover by giving them a little extra love and attention. Here, our Visalia vets share some strategies to use as your cat is recovering from surgery. 

Always Follow The Post-Op Instructions

As you prepare to help your cat recover from surgery, you'll likely feel anxious. That said, knowing how to provide your cat with the attention and care they need will help your feline friend return to their regular selves as quickly as possible. 

As part of our state-of-the-art emergency veterinary services at Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services, we perform a complete range of surgical services for pets. After your cat's surgery, you'll be given detailed instructions about how to care for your kitty as they recover at home. It's critical to follow your vet's directions carefully. If you are unsure about any steps, make sure to follow up with your vet to clarify. If you return home and realize you've forgotten some aspect of your cat's aftercare, don't hesitate to call us. 

Preventing Your Cat From Jumping

Veterinarians typically recommend limiting a cat's movements for a specific period of time (usually a week) after surgery. They can also likely advise you on how to keep your cat from jumping after surgery, as sudden jumping or stretching can cause the incision to reopen and disrupt the healing process. 

Fortunately, few procedures will require significant cage or crate rest to help your cat recover, and most outdoor cats will be able to cope well with staying indoors for a few days while they recover. Here are some tips that may help to keep your cat from jumping:

Take Down All Cat Trees to Keep Your Cat From Jumping

  • Covering cat trees with a blanket and laying them on their side is a great first step to discourage jumping at home. Leaving the cat tree up will simply tempt your feline friend to test their limbs, likely before they are ready. Though it may not be the most elegant solution, it's only a temporary measure while your cat recovers from surgery. 

Keep the Cat Inside Your Home to Keep them From Jumping

  • Do you have an outdoor cat? They may not be thrilled about being confined indoors, but it's truly in their best interest. Unsupervised trips outside may have disastrous consequences for jumping cats. While it's impossible to know what your cat will get up to while out of your sight, you can keep them in reach while they recover from surgery. 

Keep the Cat Away From Other Cats to Discourage Jumping

  • During the post-operative period, socializing may not be the best idea for your cat. Your recovering feline friend is more likely to jump about the house if they are in the company of other cats. If you own multiple cats, consider separating them for a brief period while one is recovering from surgery. 

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

  • The more stimuli there is in your home, the less likely your cat will be able to lay down and relax. This increases the odds that they'll be motivated to jump. Try to keep your cat isolated from children or other pets while they're recovering, since this will help them chill out until they return to their usual selves. Explain to others in your household the need to maintain a quiet volume for the next short while to help your cat get the rest and relaxation they need. 

Make Use of a Crate to Stop Jumping From Cats After Surgery

  • 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.

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 you find that your cat is not eating 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.

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 otherwise interfering 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.

Your pet's veterinary team has been trained to correctly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen - and for them 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 have questions following your cat's surgery at Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services? Contact our compassionate Visalia emergency vet team for more information.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services is a pet emergency animal hospital providing 24/7 urgent care to cats and dogs in the Visalia area. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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