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There’s no denying that sending your feline family member in for surgery is frightening. Whether it’s a routine procedure— like a spay or neuter — or something much more complex, a bit of anxiety is normal when your pet needs an operation.

As veterinarians, we understand and are here to put your mind at ease. By learning how to prepare your cat for surgery and what you can do to aid in their recovery, you can guarantee the best possible outcome for your precious pet. Taking the appropriate steps before and after surgery helps ensure that the procedure will go well and your cat won’t experience any postoperative complications. Read on to learn how to help your cat prepare for surgery and recover at home.

Getting Your Cat Ready for Surgery

Your cat’s exact pre-operative care needs vary depending on the type of surgery they are having and whether it’s a planned procedure or an emergency operation.

Planned surgeries for cats include:

  • Spays/Neuters
  • Dental extractions
  • Lump removals

Emergency operations for cats include:

  • Fracture repairs
  • Foreign body removals
  • Abscess repairs
  • Skin cancer treatments
  • Skin laceration repairs

With emergency procedures, there generally is not much time for preparations. If your cat has a planned surgery, though, we’ll provide you with pre-surgery instructions. While these instructions vary slightly depending on the type of procedure, the general guidelines remain roughly the same.

General Pre-Op Instructions

Pick up your cat’s food the night before surgery, but allow them to have access to water. We may suggest a specific time to take away your cat’s food to ensure there is time for the food to digest. If your cat has diabetes or other chronic illnesses, you may need to follow a specific fasting protocol. Please inform us of any health problems your cat may have when scheduling their appointment.

Food restrictions are necessary because the anesthesia used during surgery makes swallowing impossible and can allow food and water to enter the lungs. If your cat throws up during surgery, they could develop aspiration pneumonia due to inhaling vomit. Having an empty stomach eliminates the risk of this serious complication.

Unless we instruct you otherwise, please give your cat their usual medications the night before and the morning of surgery.

Plan to arrive on time for your cat’s operation. We perform several pre-surgical tasks to ensure our patient’s safety, and your cat needs to be in our facility early enough for us to complete these tasks. If you do not arrive on time, we may need to reschedule your cat’s procedure. Our staff will let you know when you can pick your cat up following their procedure.

Post-Surgical Care for Cats

We will provide detailed post-surgical instructions when you arrive to pick up your cat. Again, these may vary slightly depending on the nature of the procedure, your cat’s overall health, and if we encountered any problems during surgery. However, you can do a few general things to help your cat recover at home.

What to Expect After Surgery

Following surgery, there are a few things you should be aware of. Your cat may appear disoriented or groggy for a few hours after waking up from general anesthesia. For the first 24 hours, they may sleep longer or deeper. Due to the sedating effects of anesthesia, your cat will likely seem less vibrant and lively than usual for 24 hours after surgery. All of these things are completely normal.

Additional symptoms that are normal in the first 12 to 24 hours following cat surgery include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Minor cough
  • General crankiness
  • Slight redness at the incision site

If your cat experiences any of the following more severe post-surgery complications, please contact us right away:

  • Refusal to eat 48 after surgery
  • Hyper-aggression
  • Continual meowing or crying out in pain
  • Withdrawal or hiding
  • Lethargy that persists more than 48 hours after surgery
  • Excessive swelling or redness at the incision site
  • Incision leaking blood for more than 24 hours
  • Foul odor coming from the incision site

Contact us right away if you have any reason to think that your cat may be suffering from post-surgical complications. You know your pet better than anyone else, and we always recommend listening to your instincts and seeking veterinary care when you think something is wrong.

General Tips for Helping Your Cat Recover at Home

Our staff will provide detailed aftercare instructions. Follow these instructions carefully to help your cat recover in the days and weeks following their operation. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Some of the post-surgical instructions for your cat that we’ll cover include:

  • How to care for stitches
  • Medication administration
  • Appointments for follow-up care

Set up a quiet, warm space in your home where your cat can recover. Keep young children and other pets away to minimize stress. Monitor your cat closely for the first 24 hours, and contact us immediately if there are any problems. Don’t let your cat jump while they are in recovery. If necessary, confine them to a large dog crate. This may not seem like an ideal setup to your feline friend, but it’s much better than letting them hurt themselves by jumping or climbing. If your cat normally goes outside, keep them indoors for the first 24 hours or until we remove their sutures.

Keep your cat from licking their incision. Check the incision for signs of infection daily, and continue to follow all aftercare instructions until we tell you to change or discontinue your cat’s care. We may recommend keeping an Elizabethan collar (better known as a cone) on your cat while they recover.


Most cats recover from surgical procedures without complications with proper pre and post-operative care. As your cat’s pet care team, we understand that sending your precious pet in for surgery is scary, and we are here to put your mind at ease.