Since April, my black cat Rama had surgery twice to remove lumps. He got his stitches out from the second surgery a few weeks ago and is doing well. We biopsied the tumor this time, and the result was the same: low-grade neurofibrosarcoma. These tumors are unlikely to metasticize, but they can keep recurring in the same area.
I’ve been through this with Rama many times — the sarcomas come back in the same place on the side of his body — and I’ve made note of things I do around the house, or that I watch out for, when a cat comes home from surgery. Here are some of my thoughts about things to consider, so that your cat’s recovery is as uneventful, and as good, as possible. Some of how you implement these, will, of course, depend upon your particular cat and his or her personality aspects.
Find out what kind of anesthesia your vet used for the surgery, and follow your vet’s post-surgery instructions carefully: Your vet will tell you whether your cat will be drowsy, or clumsy and uncoordinated, after surgery. Your vet should have instructions for how quickly, and in what amounts, you can feed your cat after surgery. Follow these directions.
In Rama’s recent surgeries, my vet has used what she calls a quickly reversible anesthesia. When I pick Rama up from the same-day surgery and get him home, he is pretty much moving at his normal speed and he’s ready to eat. But this will vary, according to your vet’s instructions. I have early memories of cats coming home from spay and neuter procedures and really being drowsy.
If your cat is drowsy from surgery, limit her opportunities to jump, possibly hurt herself, and potentially bother the incision site. You might have to temporarily enclose your cat in a room without jumping opportunities, or put her in a large crate, and/or have her near you in an enclosed area so that you can monitor her movements.
Can your cat get to the incision, and will he bother it? Will he try to lick or bite his stitches out? (It has happened in my household.) If so, he’ll need to wear a cone or an inflatable doughnut around his neck. There may be cats who are content to leave their incisions alone, but I’ve not had one yet.
It is possible that another cat might be drawn to lick or bite at your cat’s incision. That could cause problems, so watch for that kind of behavior. Worse, if you have a multicat household, and a cat fight erupted for some reason, your post-surgery cat might be at risk. So watch for escalating moods, or prevent it from happening in the first place, if possible. I have heard stories from a friend of bringing a cat home from surgery, and the other cats attacking the first cat. Behaviorist Marilyn Krieger covers the reasons familiar cats can get into fights.
In that vein, I have had my very smart cat Norton untie (with his teeth) the soft cloth that I looped through the cone to keep it around Rama’s neck. You might have a cat like this, too.
Avoid putting pressure on the incision. Even after Rama had been out of surgery for days, and even though his incision looked really good (and just about healed), I was careful about picking him up. I’ve avoided it, mostly, and if I had to pick him up and take him down off a counter, for example, I placed him gently and levelly onto the floor. I don’t want any vertical motion pulling at the incision. The location of your cat’s incision will determine how careful you should handle him.
Do this by controlling your cat’s environment where possible. If you have a basement or crawl space, with a dirt floor, for example, avoid letting your cat roll around in the dirt. My cats don’t go outside at all, but if I had a cat with a fresh incision from surgery, I would wait until it healed before he went outside. He could run the risk of getting the incision dirty, pulling it on something, or possibly struggling and fighting with another animal.
Your cat will appreciate quiet and reduced stimulation after the stress of surgery. Some vets use a painkiller or antibiotic after surgery — mine does. And it goes without saying: Give your cat a lot of love and attention. We like to think this helps with healing, and it surely can’t hurt.
What precautions do you take when your cat comes home from surgery?
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About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.