Post Spay Care For Cats and Kittens: Tips For a Smooth Recovery

Also known as desexing or ovariohysterectomy, spay is a surgical procedure performed by a veterinarian to remove the uterus and ovaries of a female kitten or cat. Its purpose is to eliminate the chance of unwanted pregnancy and reduce or remove the risk of uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, mammary cancer, and pyometra.

Most kittens are spayed before they reach six months, which is when most kittens reach sexual maturity and are capable of becoming pregnant. Most rescue organisations and cat breeders spay their kittens before they go to their new home.

Post-spay surgery care

Cats can take a few hours to recover from general anesthesia, but it may take as long as 24 hours. During this time, cats may be unsteady on their feet, sleep more and may have a decreased appetite. Your veterinarian will provide you with specific instructions on how to care for your cat during this time, including any necessary medication, dietary restrictions, and physical activity limitations.

  • Provide an area for the cat to recuperate: After surgery, your cat will need a quiet, comfortable, and warm place to rest. Keep your cat in a clean, quiet room such as a spare bedroom or home office that is away from other pets and noise. Make sure the room is not too cold or too hot. Provide a soft bed with a washable blanket and place food and water bowls close by. A clean litter tray should also be placed in close proximity, but away from food and water bowls.
  • Toileting: Your cat may be constipated after the anesthetic, but this should resolve within 24 hours. Keep the litterbox within close proximity to the cat’s bed, but away from food and water bowls. Clean the litter tray twice a day to remove solids.
  • Limit physical activity: Do not allow your cat to jump, climb or engage in any strenuous activity for at least a week after the surgery. Keep her in a small, confined area to prevent her from being too active.
  • Food: After surgery, your cat may not feel like eating for a day or two. However, it is important to provide small, frequent meals. Lightly warmed cooked chicken or gourmet cat food is often enough to encourage a cat to eat. If the cat does eat, she may vomit afterwards as the anesthetic can cause nausea in some cats.
  • Keep the incision site clean: Your vet will give you instructions on how to keep the incision site clean and dry. Check the incision site regularly for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. If you notice any signs of infection, contact your vet immediately.
  • Prevent your cat from licking the incision site: Your cat may try to lick or bite the incision site, which can cause infection or delay healing. To prevent this, you can use an Elizabethan collar to prevent your cat from reaching the site. The Elizabethan collar will need to stay on until the stitches are removed.
  • Love and support: It is fine to give the cat a gentle stroke and chin scritches after her spay surgery, but avoid picking her up or cuddling for the first few days.

Most cats should be back to their normal selves by two days post-surgery, however, it will take up to two weeks for the incision site to fully heal.

Managing pain and discomfort

The cat will have received an injection of narcotic pain relief immediately after surgery which will remain effective for 36 hours after surgery. Oral analgesics may also be prescribed post-surgery, and administer as directed. Do not give your cat human pain medications, as they are toxic to cats.

Signs of pain:

Cats are expert at hiding signs of pain, but often give subtle cues, which may include:

  1. Decreased appetite or refusal to eat
  2. Lethargy or decreased activity level
  3. Hiding or avoiding interaction with people or other animals
  4. Vocalizing or crying out in pain
  5. Restlessness or inability to get comfortable
  6. Panting or rapid breathing
  7. Increased heart rate or breathing rate
  8. Flinching or pulling away when touched or picked up
  9. Excessive licking or chewing at the surgical site
  10. Changes in posture, such as hunching over or guarding the abdominal area

If you notice any of these signs in your cat after spaying surgery, speak to your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to prescribe pain medicine to relieve discomfort.

What happens if my cat jumps after being spayed?

If your cat jumps after spay surgery, it can slow down the healing process and potentially cause the incision site to reopen which can lead to infection and other complications. In the event that your cat jumps, monitor the incision site for any signs of redness, swelling or discharge. If you notice any of the above symptoms, or if your cat seems to be in pain, contact your veterinarian.

To keep your pet safe and entertained, consider confining them to a quiet room or crate where they won’t be able to climb or jump on furniture. It’s important to ensure that the space is comfortable and includes interactive games such as food puzzles to keep them stimulated. However, make sure to avoid any activities that may be too strenuous for them.

Cats can walk around after their spay surgery, but running, climbing and jumping should be avoided.

When to contact the veterinarian

  • Bleeding and discharge: A small amount of bleeding and discharge at the incision site is normal in the first 24 hours after surgery, however, if bleeding is persistent, contact your veterinarian.
  • Swelling and inflammation: Swelling around the incision site is normal, watch out for inflammation or tenderness.
  • Pain or discomfort: It is normal for your cat to experience some pain or discomfort after surgery. This should not persist longer than 2-3 days.
  • Difficulty urinating: Spay surgery can sometimes cause urinary problems, such as difficulty urinating or urinating outside of the litter box.
  • Sutures have come undone: In the event that the sutures become undone, it is imperative to promptly seek veterinary care. Sutures are utilised to close the surgical incision and facilitate wound healing.

It is important to keep in mind that the post-operative recovery period following a spay procedure may span 10-14 days. With appropriate post-operative care, your feline companion can promptly resume their regular activities and enjoy a long and healthy life.

What are the most common post-spay complications in cats?

The most common complications are surgical site infections. This highlights the importance of keeping a close eye on the surgery site to ensure the area heals well. Check daily for signs of redness, swelling and discharge, and avoid touching the surgical site to minimise contamination.

Author

    by
  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio