It is always a worry when our pets have to go into the vets to have a procedure done. Then the worry continues because it’s then us as owners that have to look after them. We never know how quiet they should be, how much food should they have eaten. Just what is normal? What should we do next?
Collecting your cat
When you go to collect your cat, it is very important to listen to the discharge advice that is being given. During this they will discuss how the procedure went and what pain relief your cat has been given and when to give the next dose. If you have any questions then now is the time to ask.
When at home
Now you’re home, what do you do? If possible, I would confine your cat to a room so you can monitor them. Ideally, we do want to avoid jumping on furniture, onto window sills, that kind of thing – given where the wound is, any stretching could burst the stitches. Some people may be able to make use of a dog crate, enough room for a bed, litter tray and feed bowls is ideal. When you first let the cat out of the basket, they may seem quiet, this can be expected for 24/48 hours. Just keep an eye on them and keep them quiet; they may well just want to sleep off the anaesthetic. Whilst some may be as lively as ever, running around like nothing has happened, these are the ones we do need to keep quiet.
Your cat may have had the surgery performed via their flank (wound on its side) or midline (wound under the belly). Just because it has been done either of these ways doesn’t really make any difference to the procedure or the recovery, a wound is a wound. However, it is always good to check the wound when you first get your cat home to familiarise yourself with what it should look like.
Some wounds may have stitches that you can see, whilst others may not: this doesn’t make any difference to recovery it just depends on how the vet prefers to close a wound. It is vitally important that wounds aren’t interfered with, which means: no, your cat cannot lick her wound! A cat’s tongue has so many bacteria on it that when they’re ‘cleaning’ a wound they’re just causing themselves an infection. Licking a wound is a big no, no!
Likewise, the wound doesn’t need to be cleaned by you or have any creams applied. Just keep an eye on it. Remember, it is healthy that scabs will form, but if any discharge is noticed then this could indicate infection and you should contact the vets.
Cones or t-shirt?
Now for the dreaded lamp shade, the cone of shame or the buster collar (as we call it in practice). Now, we know how much our cats hate to wear these, they stand there in protest, pretend they can’t eat or fling themselves around the room and that’s if we can even get it on them! Even though they will throw strops and protest, it is for the best that cones are used if needed. Remember, the cone is being used to prevent the wound being touched, to protect the wound from infection.
Another way of stopping them getting to the wound is to use pet medical t-shirts. These are a bit like babygrows: they go over the head, through front legs and clip round either side of the tail. Again, these are a great idea because they cover the whole cat; but we do see again that some cats don’t always tolerate these very well either. At the end of the day, we want a wound to heal quickly with no problems, so as owners we need to persevere and protect it at all costs. Unfortunately, our cats don’t understand this!
This all depends on the vets; some vets dispense pain relief for after surgery whilst some may not. They will have done their research to make this decision, and it will depend what painkillers they have been given during surgery. If you go home with pain relief, follow the guidelines on the prescription label and give as indicated. If you think your cat is in pain, though, always call your vet – some cats are more sensitive than others, and if they need more pain relief, your vet will arrange it.
Recovering from an anaesthetic can sometimes make you feel sick – the same is true of our cats. For this reason, we normally recommend feeding a light bland diet for 24 hours. We have to remember that the cat has been starved prior to surgery so your cat may be hungry; however, feeding a sachet of meat in gravy may upset their stomachs, so it is usual practice to recommend chicken or tuna, a nice light meal that should be kind on the belly.
As they have been starved for 12 hours it can take them a while to start passing motions. As long as they’re eating and not straining then it’s nothing to worry about. If you do start to get concerned then always contact your vet. They should be urinating as normal – any difficulty urinating is potentially an emergency.
Can I let my cat outside?
When discharging cat spays, I personally say not to let them out until the wound has healed, which is normally at 10 days. I wouldn’t want to risk any wound breakdown. This again depends on the advice of your own vet.
Returning to the vets to check the wound
This is completely normal. As part of the routine care your vets may ask to see your cat at 3- and 10-days after surgery. This is so that we can check the wound and check she has recovered well. Any problems between these times, it’s always important to take them back to get checked.
So basically, it is so important that:
- the wounds aren’t licked,
- the cat isn’t jumping around,
- you report any problems to the vets.
Cats are quite resilient and bounce back rather quickly from this procedure (sometimes too quickly and they are too lively!). We have to be strong and keep them from touching the wound: a week of wearing the cone of shame is a lot less than they would need if they had to have a wound re-stitched and then start all over again. If you ever have any concerns about your cat’s recovery, always contact your vet for advice.