Scheduling your cat to be spayed or neutered is a responsible thing to do as a pet parent, but watching our beloved pets recover from an operation can also be heart-wrenching. Luckily, there are plenty of practical steps you can take to make sure your cat is well cared for as they recover from their surgery.
In this article, we’ll go over considerations for how to make that post-operative period go smoothly. From keeping an eye on your cat’s vital statistics to monitoring their surgery site, there’s plenty you can do to support your kitty as they recover.
What Is Spaying and Neutering?
Before we look into how to care for your cat after they’ve been spayed or neutered, let’s take a quick look at what exactly those terms mean.
Spaying involves removing the reproductive organs of a female cat. The extent of organs removed varies depending on the procedure, but a typical spay will involve removing the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
Neutering refers to the procedure performed on male cats, where the testes are removed.
Some veterinarians will perform other operations, including hysterectomies and vasectomies, but these are less common.
Both of these procedures require a general anesthetic. Many cats will be able to go home on the same day that the surgery is performed, but others may need to be kept overnight for observation.
Picking up your cat
When your veterinarian lets you know that your cat’s surgery is complete, they will arrange a time for you to come and pick them up. They’ll let you know how the operation went and whether your cat will need any medication over the following days.
It’s a good idea to take notes at this point, and if anything doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification before you leave the clinic. If you don’t already have the after-hours phone number for your veterinarian, now is a good time to grab it, just in case.
Length of recovery
While many cats will start to feel a bit more like themselves in two or three days after surgery, you should expect that a full recovery will take around two weeks. Over this period, you’ll need to take special care of your cat to help them heal as quickly as possible.
Where to keep your cat
Rather than allow your cat the full freedom they’re used to, it’s a good idea to dedicate one particular room of your house as the “recovery room.” A small bedroom is ideal or a quiet bathroom that doesn’t get used too much. Keeping your cat settled in one room will stop them from playing with other pets if you have them, and give them time to sleep and heal.
Prepare this room ahead of time, so you’re not rushing around trying to find a cat litter box when your cat needs the toilet. You should make sure the room includes a litter box, food, water, and your cat’s normal bed.
While it might seem like a nice idea to leave your cat toys or their favorite scratching post, it’s probably best to keep this space fairly minimal. You don’t want to encourage your cat to do any jumping or stretching, which could tear their stitches.
You’ll probably only need to keep your cat separated like this for the first five days. After this, they should be recovered enough to rejoin the main family.
If you don’t have a separate room, consider allocating a corner of your bedroom or seeing if you can borrow a large crate from your veterinarian for a few days.
Things to look out for
Once you’ve brought your cat home, you should keep an eye out for common signs that your cat is recovering but still not feeling quite themselves. While it can be distressing to see your cat uncomfortable, these signs are usually due to the anesthetic. As that wears off, your cat will start to feel better and behave more like themselves. Signs include:
While the above are normal signs, you should also keep an eye out for the below symptoms, which are more serious:
These are all signs that your cat may have developed an infection or is still in pain. Call your veterinarian and ask if they would like you to bring your cat in for a consult.
Keep your cat’s e-collar in place
Cats don’t enjoy wearing e-collars after surgery, but they’re necessary. They’ll stop your cat from ripping out their stitches or licking the surgery site excessively. Your veterinarian will let you know how long the collar needs to stay in place, so don’t be tempted to take it off too soon!
Give prescribed medications at the correct times
If your cat was sent home with medications, make sure you give them at the correct times and dosages. It’s a good idea to write a list of which medications they need and at what times. Stick this to your fridge or anywhere else you’re sure to see it regularly, and tick each dose off.
If the medication is one that goes onto their food and you have multiple cats, make sure you feed your cat that has been spayed or neutered separately. Otherwise, they might swap bowls halfway through and not get their full dose!
Make sure you complete the full course, even if your cat seems to be fully recovered.
Food and drink
When your cat gets home, make sure they have access to a small bowl of fresh water right away. After a couple of hours, you can offer them a small meal of around half their usual ration. Bear in mind that the anesthesia may have reduced their appetite, so don’t worry if they don’t eat.
If your cat does eat but then vomits, remove any remaining food, and leave them with just a small bowl of fresh water. Keep the water bowl topped up as your cat drinks it.
By the following day, most cats will be hungry enough to eat a half-ration of their food again. If they don’t vomit, you can then feed them as normal.
If your cat continues vomiting, speak to your veterinarian.
At all times, make sure your cat can comfortably reach their food and water bowls while wearing their e-collar. If they’re having trouble, try a different bowl, or remove the collar only when your cat is eating and then replace it right away.
Make sure they can drink without you needing to remove the e-collar, as you don’t want to increase the risk of them becoming dehydrated.
Monitor your cat’s wound
As you spend time with your cat every day, take a look at their wound and check that everything seems to be healing well. While this may look a little redder than the surrounding skin, it shouldn’t feel hot to the touch or look swollen.
The suture site may leak a little blood or clear fluid within the first 24 hours. If it continues for longer than that, contact your veterinarian.
It can be a good idea to take photos of the wound site — if your cat will let you, of course! This is a great way to monitor the wound as it heals but also to send to your veterinarian if you’re worried things don’t look right.
Keep an eye on their litter box habits and the type of litter you use
As your cat is going to be confined in a limited space after surgery, it’s easy to monitor how often they’re using the litter box. If your cat hasn’t peed or pooped within the first 72 hours after their surgery, you should call your veterinarian. Likewise, if they seem to be straining to go but not producing anything, give your vet a call.
There may be a small amount of blood in both male and female cat’s urine for the first 24 hours after surgery. If you see any after this time, speak to your veterinarian and let them know.
Depending on which cat litter you usually use, you might want to switch out to a different brand as your cat recovers. Dust from clay-based cat litters can enter the surgery site and cause infections. So if you normally use clumping clay litters or any other type, like pine, it’s best to switch to a dust-free brand. Cat litters made from newspaper or crystal litters are a good choice.
You might want to make a gradual switch to this new litter a couple of weeks before your cat’s scheduled surgery, so they have a chance to get used to it.
As mentioned, you’ll want to keep your cat’s activity levels to a minimum for at least the first five days post-surgery. It is best if they stay confined to a small room or dedicated space during this time. After this, you can allow them to start roaming the house again, but try to avoid letting them go up and down the stairs too often. Try to keep play to a minimum during this time too.
If your cat usually goes outside, wait for the all-clear from your vet before you let them out of the house again.
One thing that you can give your cat plenty of as they recover from their surgery is cuddles! While some cats will be happy to hide in their bed and wait until they start to feel better on their own, other cats will take plenty of comfort from having a warm lap to curl up in and unlimited cuddles to enjoy.
You might want to keep small children away or at least let them know that they need to treat their cat with the utmost care while they’re recovering from surgery.
Spaying and neutering are common medical procedures, and with a little pre-planning on your part, it can be easy to help your cat back to full health after their surgery.
You know your cat best, so if anything about their behavior seems odd or unusual, it’s always best to speak to your veterinarian for clarification. But before you know it, your cat will be back to their usual enthusiastic self —just without the risk of any unplanned kittens coming along!
Featured Image: Public Domain Pictures
- What Is Spaying and Neutering?
- Picking up your cat
- Length of recovery
- Where to keep your cat
- Things to look out for
- Keep your cat’s e-collar in place
- Give prescribed medications at the correct times
- Food and drink
- Monitor your cat’s wound
- Keep an eye on their litter box habits and the type of litter you use