Spaying and neutering procedures are fairly simple. In fact, most vets will perform hundreds of these surgeries each year. But as a cat owner, it’s your job to learn how to take care of your cat after surgery, restrict their activities, and keep a close eye on their sutures to make sure there are no signs of infection present. If this is the first time you’ve taken a pet for a spay or neuter, then this guide will tell you everything you need to know to ensure your pet makes a full, fast recovery.
How to Take care of Your Cat After Surgery
A spay is a pretty straightforward procedure that takes anywhere from twenty to sixty minutes, whereas a male can be neutered in under five minutes. The recovery time can differ for each pet based on their weight, health, age, and activity level.
How Can I Help My Cat After Surgery?
In most cases, your vet will recommend restricting activities for a period of two days for males and up to two weeks for females. During this time, you cannot give your pet a bath, encourage running or play, and you must check their incision two times a day.
An Elizabethan collar will be a must if you have a cat that cannot stop licking their incision. An Elizabethan collar, or e-collar for short, will encircle the cat’s head, creating a type of protective barrier between the mouth and head from the rest of the cat’s body. This will prevent the cat from licking or biting at their incision site. These collars come in a variety of sizes and designs and some are more comfortable than others. Soft E-collars are more comfortable, but if you have a cat that’s determined to lick their incision, then a rigid traditional e-collar is often the most effective option.
Choose the Right Fit
The cone should be loose enough to get a couple of fingers between their neck and the collar, but snug enough that they cannot back out of it or shake it off. Keep in mind, it will take a day or two for your cat to become accustomed to the collar. They may have trouble walking, eating, and drinking. If your cat is having trouble stooping down to eat or drink with their collar on, you can elevate the bowls, placing them on books or a small box, to make them more accessible. The collar should be placed on your cat as soon as possible. Most vets will place the collar on immediately after the surgery, so you’ll take your pet home in a cat carrier, with the cone on. If you want to use a different type of collar for your pet, then you must purchase one before the procedure and give it to your vet right before surgery, so they can place it on after.
Bringing Your Cat Home After Surgery
Once your vet releases your pet after the procedure, your cat will seem a little drowsy and may not want to leave their cat carrier once you’re home. Their normal energy level should return within a period of twenty-four hours.
If you have a female cat, she will have a green tattoo next to the incision site. This tattoo is designed to alert vets that a spay has been performed. Females will have buried sutures, which means you will not have to return to the vet to have the sutures removed once the incision has healed.
Fortunately, a male cat does not need sutures.
Check Your Cat’s Gums
Take a look at your cat’s gums and note their color. The mucous membrane color should be red or pale pink. When you press on the gums, the color should quickly return once you stop applying pressure. If your cat has naturally black gums, then take a look at the membranes inside the lower eyelid. This membrane will be pink or red. If the color turns white at any point, you must contact your vet. White mucous membranes can indicate anemia, which can be life threatening in some cases. If a cat has anemia, they will also be very lethargic and will not eat or drink. If you believe your cat is anemic, contact their veterinarian for immediate advice.
Check Incision Site for Signs of Infection
Take a look at your cat’s incision site in the morning and before bedtime. You need to keep a close eye on the healing progress and look for any signs of infection, such as gaping, discharge, an incision that’s bright red and/or hot to the touch, and swelling. The incision should remain dry during the healing process, so avoid cleaning it and do not give your cat a bath during this time. If the incision becomes dirty, you can clean it by flushing it with saline solution.
As I mentioned above, a cat should not be bathed during this time. This can be a problem if your cat has urinated or defecated in their carrier during the ride home. However, if you bathe a cat following a spay, you will introduce bacteria to the incision site, which can lead to a serious infection. If you have to clean your pet, you can use fragrance-free baby wipes, or cat-specific pet wipes, which you can find at your local pet store. Avoid using wipes on the incision. If the incision becomes dirty, you’ll use saline solution to gently flush away debris.
Drinking and Eating After Surgery
Your cat probably won’t be very hungry or thirsty following surgery. This can be due to exhaustion, or the anesthesia used may have made them nauseous. If your cat doesn’t show any interest in eating or drinking after twenty-four hours, contact your vet.
Monitor Urination and Bowel Movements
Keep an eye on your cat’s litter box and note whether they’re defecating and urinating regularly. Take a look at the incision site after your cat has used the litter box. If their incision has litter in it, you can use saline solution to flush out the debris.
Activity Levels Following Surgery
If you have a cat that is indoor/outdoor, you will need to keep them inside for at least ten days. After surgery, your cat will be vulnerable to predators, may have low energy levels, and can be at a higher risk of infection, if you allow them to run and play outdoors.
Instead, keep your cat indoors and safe.
Place their bed or cat carrier in a quiet room in the home. The cat does not need to be crated, instead, they can have free range of your home as usual, but you’ll want to place them in a quiet room until the effects of the anesthesia have worn off. Additionally, if your cat is sore and more tired than usual, they’ll appreciate a quiet spot to recuperate. A cat may prefer to stay in their carrier for several hours following the procedure, until the anesthesia has worn off.
The Recovery Process
If you have a normally high energy cat, then it can be a little alarming to see your pet sleeping more than usual, not playing, and not eating as much as they normally would.
Common signs that your cat is recovering well after a procedure include:
- Eating less
- Playing less
- Sleeping more
- Walking slowly
- Not jumping or climbing
The first day or two following the surgery your cat will be quieter and will not be as playful as usual. In many cases, the cat is more affected by the effects of the anesthesia than the surgery itself.
Will My Cat Be in Pain?
Your cat’s comfort will be a priority after surgery. Like people, a cat will feel pain after surgery. Your cat will be given anesthesia before the surgery, which will relieve pain. The goal during and after surgery is to keep a pet as comfortable as possible. Signs your cat may be in pain include the following:
- Your cat may be more vocal than usual
- Your cat may seem very restless
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Trouble standing, walking, or lying down
- Your cat may show signs of aggression when you touch them, such s growling, scratching, or hissing.
If you believe your cat is in pain, contact their veterinarian immediately. Fortunately, many vets will prescribe pain medications following surgery.
If your vet has prescribed pain relievers following surgery, administer the medication based on the vet’s instructions. Not all vets will provide a course of pain medication, but many will. It’s important to administer the medication as directed by your vet, to ensure your cat remains comfortable and pain-free.
In rare instances, a cat can experience a serious complication after being neutered or spayed. This is often the result of running around, causing gaping in the sutures, the suture site has become dirty, or the cat has laid on an unclean surface that made direct contact with their sutures. Additionally, if you did not use an e-collar on your cat and they licked their sutures, this can cause a bacterial infection, or serious irritation.
Signs of Infection
Signs and symptoms that indicate your pet will need to see the vet include:
- Swelling of the incision site
- Unpleasant odor
- Redness at the suture line
- Extreme lethargy
- Walking with a hunched back the day after surgery
Taking proper care of your cat after surgery can help to prevent any complications. By closely monitoring their incision site, urine output, bowel movements, and appetite, and restricting their activity for two weeks, you can avoid many potential complications. During this time, make sure you give your cat the extra love and attention they’ll need, and contact your vet as soon as possible if you notice any signs of discomfort, pain, or infection.