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Strategies to Help Your Cat That is Recovering From Surgery

A surgical procedure itself is just the first step on the path to recovery for our feline friends. While it is the biggest step, cat owners are behooved to have strategies in place to care for their cat after the procedure - so in today's post, our Tumwater vets discuss how to care for a cat recovering from surgery, what to do for a cat not eating after surgery, and how to stop a cat from jumping after surgery.

Strategy #1: Always Follow The Post-Op Instructions

Pets and pet owners are bound to feel some anxiety both leading up to and following surgery. But, knowing how you need to care for your feline companion after they return home is key to helping your pet get back to their regular selves as quickly as possible.

After your pet's surgery, your vet will provide you with clear and detailed instructions about how to care for them while they are recovering at home. It is critical that you follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you are unsure about, make sure you 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.

Strategy #2: Restricting Movement - Keep Your Cat From Jumping!

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 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:

Take Down All Cat Trees to Keep Your Cat From Jumping

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.

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

Keep the Cat Inside Your Home to Keep them From Jumping

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 cannot know what your cat is up to when they are out of sight, so it is best to keep them within reach while they recover from surgery.

Keep the Cat Away From Other Cats to Discourage Jumping

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.

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

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.

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

Obviously 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 aside from extended crate time in order for them to get their rest.

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 frustratingly infatuated with jumps, 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.

Strategy #3: Making Sure Your Cat Eats After Surgery

Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and 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.

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 a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to 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.

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 around 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 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

Cat parents will often find it challenging to stop their pet from scratching, chewing, or messing around with the site of 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 Pets 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 Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment

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

The veterinary team at Tumwater Veterinary Hospital 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 your cat is scheduled to undergo surgery at Tumwater Veterinary Hospital, contact us to learn more about how you can prepare for your pet's after-care.

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