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Post-Operative Instructions For Cats

May 22 2022

What to do when your cat arrives home after surgery

After arriving at home, you should keep your cat warm and comfortable by providing a soft clean bed, ideally in a quiet and draft-free room at a comfortable room temperature (68-75°F or 20-24°C).

Your cat should remain indoors. For most procedures, your cat’s activity should be restricted for one full week after surgery. It is essential to avoid running, jumping, and other strenuous activity that could cause excessive strain on the wound.

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Feeding your cat post-surgery

A few hours after arriving at home, you may offer your cat approximately half of his normal dinner. If she eats this and still seems hungry, you may offer the rest of her meal approximately one hour later. Some cats experience nausea after general anesthesia, so dividing the meal into smaller portions may decrease the risk of nausea and vomiting. 

Unless otherwise instructed, your cat’s access to water should not be restricted.

What to do if your cat is licking or chewing the stitches

Your cat instinctively may try to clean her surgical site by licking. If you have been given an Elizabethan-type protective collar (often referred to as a “cone” or E-collar), please ensure it is used in order to prevent chewing. If you have not been given an E-collar and your cat begins licking or chewing the incision, please contact the hospital and request one.

"If you have been given an Elizabethan-type protective collar (a 'cone' or E-collar), please ensure it is used in order to prevent chewing."

Not surprisingly, many cats find these collars strange at first and will attempt to remove them. However, after a short period, most cats will settle down and tolerate wearing the collar. It is better to keep the collar on all the time, rather than to take it on and off. It only takes a few seconds of chewing for a cat to remove her stitches or damage the surgery site. If your cat does succeed in removing any stitches, please call the hospital as soon as possible.

Observing the surgical incision

The incision should normally be clean and the edges should be together. The skin surrounding the incision should be a normal or slightly reddish- pink color. In pale-skinned cats, bruising is often seen around the surgical site. This may not appear until a few days after the operation and in some cases can seem excessive in comparison to the size of the incision. This is due to seepage of blood under the skin edges and is a normal occurrence. In some cases, a small amount of blood may seep intermittently from a fresh incision for up to twenty-four hours, especially if the animal is active.

You should be concerned and should contact the hospital immediately if you see any of the following at the surgical site:

  1. Continuous or excessive blood draining.

  2. Intermittent blood seepage that continues for more than twenty-four hours.

  3. Excessive swelling or redness of the skin.

  4. Unpleasant smells or discharge.

When to remove the stitches

In general, most skin stitches or sutures are removed seven to fourteen days after the operation; the actual time depends on the type of surgery performed. You will be instructed if and when your cat should return for suture removal.

In some cases, your veterinarian may use sutures that do not require removal. These sutures are placed under your cat’s skin and will dissolve in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions regarding your cat’s stitches, please contact your veterinarian.

When can my dog resume normal activities?

This will depend upon the type of operation your cat underwent. In most cases, your cat’s activity will need to be restricted for at least one to two weeks, or until the sutures are removed (if the sutures are to be removed). During this time, it is important to limit your cat’s activity in order to prevent the incision from opening. It is also essential to avoid baths during this time, as moisture can help introduce bacteria into the wound and lead to infection. Your veterinarian will give you detailed instructions on activity restrictions and any other post-operative instructions.

"Your cat’s activity should be restricted for at least one full week after surgery.

Contributors: Ernest Ward, DVM; Updated by Catherine Barnette, DVM

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