Cats tend to act so very independent, but after a surgical procedure your cat needs extra care and attention. Surgeries such as spaying and neutering, declawing and soft tissue operations require general anaesthesia, which wears off overnight after surgery. Keep your cat calm and inactive and avoid feeding it for 4 to 6 hours, after which you may offer a small amount of food and water. (Reference 1) Pay special attention to your kitty's incision site for the next 7 to 10 days, cleaning it only if necessary or as instructed by the veterinarian.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Cat treats (optional)
- Soft, clean, dry towels
- Mild facial soap or shampoo
- Cotton swabs
- Soft cloths
- Elizabethan collar or anti-lick product (optional)
- Hydrogen peroxide, Betadine, chlorhexidine or similar products (optional)
- Cotton balls
Stroke your cat and consider offering her treats, both before and after cleaning her incision. A calm, soothed cat is easier to work with and treats may distract it from your work. Allow your cat to choose the area where they feel most comfortable if possible; your lap, a favourite perch or a box may make your cat feel more secure, making it easier for you.
Inspect your cat's incision site at least twice daily for the next week or two. Look for signs of infection; while a small amount of redness, swelling, or a pink-tinged seepage for the first couple days is normal, (Reference 1) be aware of angry red marks spreading outward from the wound, thick yellow or white pus, a foul odour to the incision, gaping wounds or tissue protruding through the incision, a feeling of heat in the surgical area or signs that the wound is excessively painful to the cat. Gradually decreasing tenderness is common, but intense pain in the wound is not. Your cat will give signs if he is in pain, possibly growling or crying, biting or avoiding contact. (Reference 2)
Keep the wound clean and dry for at least 14 days. Do not give your cat a bath or allow it to get wet while the incision is healing. If she does get wet, gently towel-dry her fur, using a soft towel and patting carefully rather than rubbing. Wet fur attracts dirt and invites infection. (Reference 1)
Clean around and across the incision site only if it becomes dirty. Use cool, soapy water and cotton swabs or a very soft cloth to dab the incision gently. Towel dry, again patting softly. Pay attention to your cat while working to determine if you are hurting her. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing, while either washing or drying her wound, and do not remove any scab on her incision. (Reference 1)
Prevent your cat from licking his surgical incision; a cat's tongue is very rough, and he can easily damage his incision area and cause infection. Clean his wound if he licks it and use either an Elizabethan collar or an anti-lick product, applied around the wound but not on it, to deter licking. An E-collar does not prevent other animals from licking the wound, so consider what works best in your situation. (Reference 3)
Change any bandage or apply antibiotic or antiseptic solutions, ointments and salves only as directed by the veterinarian. In most instances, your veterinarian will leave the incision open, without bandaging, as bandages can trap dirt and many cats will fuss with the bandage, (Reference 6) attempting to remove it. Most topical medicines do little to promote healing in incisions, where the inner portion is what heals first, and may actually harm it. Follow your vet's instructions regarding bandages and topical medicines.
Clean wounds where infection is beginning, with hydrogen peroxide or antiseptic solutions like Betadine or chlorhexidine, (Reference 2) only until you are able to get your kitty to the veterinarian. Gently squeeze or press the wound, if possible, (Reference 5) to release puss that is building pressure underneath the incision surface. This can cause damage if you are rough, and the cat may not be willing to allow you to do so. Dab up leaking puss, then wet a cotton swab or cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide (Reference 4) or antiseptic. Touch to the wound, taking care not to rub the incision, to clean up surface infection. Call or visit the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Tips and warnings
- Use a paper-based cat litter for your cat after declawing surgeries, to prevent dust and contaminants entering her toe incisions. (Reference 1)
- Make sure you have an after-hours emergency number for your vet or a local animal hospital before emergencies arise.
- Return your cat for a check-up, as directed. If the cat has external stitches or staples, the vet must remove them in 10 to 14 days.
- Never give your cat medication the veterinarian has not approved. Aspirin, (Reference 1) Tylenol (Reference 2 gives an explanation why) and anti-inflammatory medications (Reference 5) can prove harmful or deadly to your cat.
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- The Humane Society of Tampa Bay: General Post-Operative Instructions
- Vet Surgery Central Inc; PEG (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy) Stomach Tube; Dr. Daniel A. Degner, DACVS
- Operation Pets: Post-Operative Instructions for Spay and Neutering Surgery
- Ask the Cat Doctor; Stitches Opened After Spaying Cat; Dr. Shelby Neely
- The Vet Blog; Why is My Cat's Incision Site Swollen?; Dr. Eric Barchas, DVM
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Bandage and Splint Care in Cats