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Breed & Health Resources

What to Expect after Neutering or Spaying Your Cat

By Dr. Patty Khuly

orange cat in cone after spay surgery

Spaying or neutering your cat soon? Congratulations! Be sure your plans include a delicate spay or neuter recovery period. It’s during the important neuter or spay recovery time when your attention to aftercare can make the difference between comfort and pain.

The good news is that the post-operative recovery period is typically boring in cats. That is to say, cats almost always recover brilliantly. Most appear never to miss a step after being spayed or neutered.

However, in rare instances, cats can experience serious complications after being spayed or neutered. To be sure, some may be related to surgeon error, but most happen because cats aren’t necessarily happy about having stitches in their bodies, or because they don’t know enough to keep themselves quiet while their insides are healing up.

During the Cat Spay Recovery Time

A day or two of quiet behavior and diminished appetite is the typical feline reaction to having her insides exposed and her crucial reproductive bits removed. In fact, most cats seem more affected by the sedative effects of the anesthetics and pain relievers than by pain. Research into modern cat pain relief techniques confirms this observation.

Common cat spay recovery signs include:

  • Sleeping more often
  • Walking more slowly
  • Jumping less
  • Eating less
  • “Zoned-out” appearance if particularly affected by medications

Less common possibilities may require veterinary intervention. These include:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Redness or odor at the suture line
  • Walking with a hunch-back appearance more than a day after the procedure
  • Lack of appetite after the first day
  • Extreme lethargy at any point beyond the first twelve hours

During the Cat Neuter Recovery Time

Most often you’ll see absolutely nothing. Again, most after-effects are medication-related, not neuter-related. After all, feline testicles are tiny little things that tend not to have a lot of nerve endings associated with them – not at the age most kittens get neutered, anyway.

If there are any adverse, veterinary visit-worthy events to observe, they tend to be related to post-operative bleeding. Any bleeding or excessive licking should be cause to bring your recently-neutered cat to the vet for a follow-up visit.

Cat Neutering or Spaying Aftercare

  1. Keep Cats Calm

    The first thing veterinarians will explain is that cats should be kept quiet during the spay or neuter recovery time. That means no excessive running, jumping, or playing. This can be hard to do if we’re talking about a kitten as most kittens are unlikely to respect doctors’ rules. And since they usually feel well enough to do so, they’re likely to return to business as usual once they’re back at home.
  2. Keep Cats Indoors

    Part of keeping cats quiet means keeping them indoors after surgery, particularly after a major abdominal procedure like a spay. This ensures that cats won’t make huge leaps off walls or fences and risk their incisions with mad dashes across the backyard. Seeing them indoors also makes it possible for owners to observe their cats routinely during the healing process.
  3. Consider Keeping Cats Isolated

    The best approach to keeping cats quiet after surgery is to keep recently spayed or neutered cats in one cat-proofed room for a few days. This effectively isolates them from others who might play or harass them during their recovery. It also means you can limit the height of furniture (and of their jumps) by selecting rooms with low-lying furniture.
  4. Monitor the Surgery Site

    Owners should observe the surgery site at least once a day. Make sure it’s not red, swollen, weeping, bleeding, or appears licked at. Any of these findings is cause for a vet visit!
  5. Use the Recovery Collar

    Your veterinarian may recommend a recovery collar to keep your cat from being able to get to the incision site. Use this for the period of time your veterinarian recommends.
  6. Follow All Aftercare Instructions, Including a Follow-up Visit

    Some veterinarians have recommendations regarding keeping the surgery site clean, keeping it coated with ointments (like Aquaphor) or administering antibiotics while other prefer that cats receive no medications or special attention to the wound (apart from simple observation). Be sure to follow all recommendations.
  7. Baby Your Baby During Recovery

    After a neuter or spay, it should go without saying that a little extra attention is in order. Some cats need to be reassured that life will go back to normal after having to spend time at an alien place and that they are indeed adored.
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