Most cats will have at least one operation during their lives for neutering; others may have to come into the veterinary practice for other types of investigation, operations or dental work which require a general anaesthetic.
This is a general guide to the procedure and some advice on how to make sure that cats returning home to other cats integrate successfully back into the family after a stay in a veterinary practice.
The night before surgery
Anaesthetics are safest when the stomach is empty, so do not feed your cat in the late evening before the operation (your vet will specify from exactly when) and keep it indoors so that it cannot get food elsewhere (a litter tray may be appreciated). You do not need to restrict your cat’s access to water unless told to by your vet.
The morning of the operation
Don’t let your cat out on the morning of surgery in case it doesn’t return! Transport your cat in a secure cat basket. Your cat will be admitted to the hospital and checked to ensure that all is well before the operation and you will be asked to sign a consent form. This is a good time to ask questions or raise any concerns you may have and to find out when you can phone for an update or take your cat home. Ensure the practice has your most up-to-date contact information or mobile number.
After the operation
Your cat will be kept in for at least a few hours after the operation until it has recovered from the anaesthetic. Some cats, eg, those having more serious operations or with other illnesses, may need to stay in for several days. Your practice will have a policy on visiting hospitalised cats and/or providing food, beds and so on for your cat while there.
If your cat returns home on the day of an operation, it is likely to be a little quiet and may be a bit unsteady on its feet. It may have a clipped area of skin and skin stitches. It is important that:
● Your cat does not lick the operation site or pull out any stitches. If this happens contact your vet who may provide you with an Elizabethan collar for the cat.
● The wound is not red, swollen or oozy. If you are worried contact your vet.
● Any medication is given as instructed and that the course is completed.
Painkillers will already have been given and you may receive more to give your cat at home. Pain can be difficult to recognise in cats but signs can include loss of appetite, hiding or being withdrawn. If you experience problems administering medication or have any concerns about your cat then you should contact your vet for advice.
Depending on the operation performed, your vet will probably advise that you keep your cat indoors for at least the first night. Your cat will appreciate a quiet, warm place to convalesce with food, water and a litter tray (keep the food and litter tray apart).
Your cat may be reluctant to eat on the first night at home. Gently warming the food (to no warmer than body temperature), feeding by hand and offering tempting foods (eg, poached chicken or fish) may encourage eating. See also FAB’s leaflet on ‘Feeding a poorly cat’. Special convalescent diets are available from most veterinary practices. Your vet will advise you if your cat has special dietary needs. Cats that are unwell or convalescing often do not feel up to grooming and may appreciate time spent stroking and grooming them.
Your vet will probably ask you to return for at least one post-operative check in the days following the surgery. If you have any concerns about your cat before the time of the check-up then you should contact your vet straight away. Stitches are generally removed 10 days after surgery.
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