I’m a worrier. And although I’ve been through many same-day cat surgeries, I still worry about what could go wrong or what might happen. I am sure that many of you are the same way.
My black cat Rama recently had surgery to remove recurring sarcomas. (One was removed, and it was discreet and defined — a good thing.) These tumors recur in the same spot (an area on his side, and not necessarily a vaccine site) and I’ve had them removed for many years. Early on, we biopsied to determine that the lumps were indeed cancerous sarcomas. It was unusual that such a young cat would develop cancer like this, but such has been life with Rama. Rama is also on a lot of other immune boosting supplements and a grain-free diet. This might be why he has such bouncy spunk and vibrancy and that he’s such a big, athletic boy (read: house panther).
I’ve been through five or six of these same-day surgeries with Rama (we adopted him when he was a year old; and he wrote about his story in Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes), but I still worry. I worry about whether he can handle these repeated surgeries (he does just fine). I worry about what the vet will find. I worry about his future in general. I’ve noticed that I take certain actions to take care of myself, and him, when I go through this process.
Here are some of the things I do, for me, and for Rama. Some are simple, but I believe they make the process go more smoothly.
1. Take out the carrier early
Get the cat carrier ready ahead of time, so all of the cats can get used to its presence. I believe the cats pick up on my anxiety in general, so I try to make things relaxed prior to heading to the vet. I might get a cat carrier out in the main living area an hour or so before leaving. Some of the cats may get into it.
I get Rama in the carrier slightly ahead of time, before leaving so Rama can be as relaxed as possible. He usually has no problem going into the carrier — he seems to view it as a kind of a secure hiding location.
2. Use Rescue Remedy
I use Rescue Remedy (for me, too): I apply pet Rescue Remedy to the skin under Rama’s ear (not inside the ear) and rub into the skin. When we made our long cross-country move, Feliway and “Composure” treats seemed to work better for stress relief, but for these short rides/events, Rescue Remedy works well. I put some on my skin as well and do my best to think calm, good thoughts and to breathe deeply.
3. Keep your schedule clear
I don’t book much else that day: I love to overschedule sometimes, but I have learned that I’m not good for much on these same-day surgery events. I make sure my schedule is open so that if I need to get back to the vet soon, I can. Some of this is probably a little bit of anxiety about a past cat surgery that ended sadly. I try not to think about that, but I want to be as available as I can if I am needed.
4. Keep tasks simple
Whatever I have to do on the day of the surgery, I ensure it doesn’t require a lot of mental or emotional energy. I’ve found that I’m not good for some kinds of work while waiting for a pet to come out of surgery. So, I am conscious of what I do. I’ll try do something repetitive that doesn’t require a lot of thought. On these days, if I have writing work, technical writing is easier to handle than anything purely creative. If I don’t have to write at all — even better. Something where I can use my body and not have to think too hard (like gardening or a long, fast walk) are good for me.
5. Keep your cat close
I put Rama in the front seat with me on the way to the vet. This is a no-brainer anymore, but something that I used to not think about. I do believe that Rama loves being up front with me, so he can see me better and so that I can pet him and talk to him to and from the vet.
I have an amazing vet who calls me the instant Rama is out of surgery: I find it really reassuring and a really nice customer service touch. I like knowing that everything has gone fine.
6. Ease the ride home
I make sure that there’s something soft on the bottom of the carrier for the trip home: This certainly makes Rama feel better, and if Rama feels better, I feel better, too.
7. Apply the cone quickly
I get the cone on him, right away, so that he doesn’t try to rip out his stitches: Rama’s a guy who will do this, given the chance. It has happened, fortunately to no ill effect. I’ve learned to get a cone or donut around his head right away. He’ll wear that for 10 days until the stitches come out.
Do you have some tips for how to make same-day surgery more bearable for you and your cat? Share your thoughts!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, 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.