Surgery Education

Before and after: how to prep for spay/neuter and plan for recovery

Before Surgery

A well-run clinic will provide simple instructions for surgery prep. The night before surgery, your feline friend will need to fast. That means no food or snacks after early evening, before bed or the following morning. This helps reduce the risk of stomach upset and vomiting as a reaction to anesthesia. Drinking water is okay and encouraged. If your cat is comfortable with baths, a good scrub the evening before surgery helps cut down on bacteria. 

After Surgery

In the days immediately following surgery, your feline will need a quiet, clean, indoor recovery area. A bathroom or bedroom equipped with food, water and a comfortable sleeping spot works well and provides isolation. Toys and one-on-one time provide entertainment and company. Activity should be restricted–no rough play or jumping–until the surgical site is fully healed, about 7 to 10 days. Make sure the litter box is accessible without jumping, climbing or heading upstairs. Restricting activity helps make sure incision sites do not reopen and can heal properly. All cats, even outdoor and indoor/outdoor felines, should be kept inside for the full recovery time. And if bathing is a regular practice, wait at least 14 days before bath time.

Veterinarians use both removable and dissolving sutures. Removable sutures will need to be removed during a post-operative vet visit about 7 to 10 days after surgery. Dissolving sutures will be absorbed as the incision heals. Check with your vet about which type of sutures will be used.     

Above all, do not give your cat human pain medication, especially acetaminophen (Tylenol ©). Many human pain medications can be toxic to cats. If you are concerned about your feline’s post-surgery comfort, ask your vet about prescribing pain medication.

Spay/neuter recovery is quick. Your feline will be back to feeling fine in about 1 to 3 days.

What to Watch For After Surgery

Complications from spay/neuter are rare. But there are a few things to watch for post-surgery that could be indicators of a problem. 

Inspect the incision site regularly for persistent swelling, increased redness or discharge. Some swelling or redness may be present immediately following surgery, but should not last long. Check daily for missing sutures or reopening of the incision and stop excessive licking, which can cause infection or reopening of the incision site. Ask your vet for an Elizabethan or E-collar (or cone collar) to help curb licking. 

Watch your cat for loss of appetite, refusal to drink water, vomiting, diarrhea or other suspicious bowel movements, unusual urine color or extreme tiredness. Eating and drinking less water can be common when your cat first returns home from surgery, but you should contact your veterinarian’s office if these or any symptoms last beyond your cat’s first day home. 

After 1 to 3 days, your feline friend should be back to normal and completely healed after about 7 to 10 days. If anything seems out of the ordinary, take note of the severity and frequency of any concerning behaviors or symptoms and call your vet immediately.  

After-Surgery Recovery Tips

After spay/neuter, your feline will need 7 to 10 days for a complete recovery. Follow this quick checklist to help create a comfortable recovery. 

  • Provide a quiet, private recovery space.
  • Offer food, water and a sleeping spot.
  • Limit activity. No jumping, climbing or rough play.
  • Keep kitty inside the entire recovery time.
  • Check with your vet about a post-op visit.
  • Never give a cat human pain medication. Ask your vet. 

What to Watch For After Surgery

In 1 to 3 days, your feline should be back to normal. If he or she is out of sorts, call your vet’s office immediately. Though complications from spay/neuter are rare, here are a few things to watch for:

  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Abnormal urine or bowel movements
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Increased or persistent redness, swelling or discharge at incision site
  • Reopening of the incision site

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