How To Care For Your Cat After Surgery
- This is general guidance to help you care for your cat after surgery, if any of it differs from what your vet team has told you, follow their advice which is specific to your cat and the surgery they have had.
- There are a lot of things to think about when your cat has had surgery – rest, food, medication, check-up appointments, their wound… but don’t worry, because we’ve got it all covered here for you, and your vet team are on hand to support you during your cat’s recovery.
- Bring your cat straight home in a secure carrier and allow them to come out in their own time.
- Give them a warm quiet room away from children and other animals to rest in for as long as they need.
- Give them their favourite bed or blanket.
- Avoid picking them up or moving them around where possible.
- Block off anything they might jump up onto, such as window ledges and cupboards - they could hurt themselves if they are disorientated or haven’t fully regained their strength. If necessary, make a temporary ramp or some steps so they safely get to the places they want.
- Keep them indoors until your vet says they’re okay to go out.
- Only cage rest your cat if your vet has told you to.
- Make sure the crate is large enough to fit your cat’s bed, litter tray, and food bowls but not large enough for them to run/jump/climb when they’re meant to be resting!
- If your cat likes company, put the crate in a room where you spend a lot of time.
- Keep them busy with mind games such as a puzzle feeder.
- Give your cat extra TLC – sit with them, stroke them, and if they enjoy it, groom them, especially if they are wearing a cone and can’t groom themselves.
Food and water
- Make sure your cat has clean drinking water at all times.
- Unless your vet has recommended a special diet, feed them their normal food little and often - avoid anything rich or fatty.
- If your cat doesn’t want to eat, try warming their food for a few seconds in the microwave (mix well afterwards), or offer them some plain cooked chicken breast/white fish.
- Contact your vet if your cat refuses food for more than 24 hours or is vomiting.
- Provide your cat with a litter tray that is easy to get in and out of, ideally with at least one low side.
- Use a litter that won’t get stuck to their wound – paper or wood-based pellets tend to be good.
- Your cat should wee as usual, if they are having trouble passing urine, contact your vet immediately.
- It might take your cat a few days to poo because anaesthetic tends to slow the guts down a bit, but contact your vet if they are straining, or passing diarrhoea.
- Make sure you give your cat all their prescribed medication on time –use a medication chart to keep track and set alarms to remind you when they’re due the next dose.
- Contact your vet if your cat seems in any pain or discomfort.
- Don’t stop any of your cat’s medication early, even if they seem fully recovered.
If your cat has been prescribed tablets, check our video below:
Stitches and Wounds
If your cat has a surgical wound, you’ll need to keep an eye on it to make sure it’s healing as expected. Your cat might have visible stitches on the outside, or dissolvable stitches on the inside, either way, here’s what you need to know:
- You may notice some shaved areas around their wound or on their legs – don’t worry, their fur will grow back in time.
- Fit them with a protective cone inflatable collar, or protective body suit to stop them from licking/nibbling their wound. Otherwise, they may remove stitches, break the wound open and/or cause an infection.
- Make sure they wear it until their wound has healed.
- If they are struggling to eat with it on, you can take it off for meal/grooming times; as long as you’re confident you can put it back on! Alternatively, you could move/raise their food bowl and help them groom by brushing them/washing their face with a damp cloth (if they are comfortable with it).
- We sell a range of protective collars/bodysuits in our PDSA pet store.
- Check their wound a few times a day. If you notice any redness, swelling, bleeding, missing stitches, or discharge – contact your vet.
- Avoid cleaning or putting any creams on the wound, unless your vet team has told you to.
- It’s important to attend all your cat’s check-up appointments even if they seem fine, your vet team will be thrilled to see them doing so well.
- They may need their wound checked, stitches removed, or a pain check to see if they are comfortable enough to stop having pain relief.
- If your cat’s check-ups are by telephone, you might need to send your vet some photographs of your cat’s wound. Check out our tips on how to take good photos for your vet.
When to contact your vet
Contact your vet immediately if your cat has any of the following symptoms:
- How long should a cat wear a cone after being neutered/spayed?
- My other cat is trying to lick the cat’s wound – is this okay?
- Why is my other cat frightened of the cat that’s had surgery?
- My cat has a mild cough after their surgery – is this normal?
How long should a cat wear a cone after being neutered/spayed?
Your cat will need to wear a cone for anywhere between 7-14 days, depending on the type of stitches used, and how quickly their wound heals. If you are unsure, contact your vet team for advice.
My other cat is trying to lick the cat’s wound – is this okay?
No, cat mouths are full of bacteria so you’ll need to stop your other cat from doing this. You may need to use a body suit, or keep them separate when you aren’t watching them.
Why is my other cat frightened of the cat that’s had surgery?
This is likely to be because your cat that had surgery will smell different than they did before. Cats are big on scent so your cat will be feeling confused and worried about why their friend doesn’t smell familiar. Their fear should pass within a few days, until then it might help to use a pheromone diffuser to make them feel more at ease.
My cat has a mild cough after their surgery – is this normal?
This is quite common because the endotracheal (windpipe) tube used to help them breathe during surgery can irritate the throat. However, if it’s getting worse, or continues for more than 24 hours, we would recommend speaking to your vet.
Published: January 2023
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.