How to Care for Your Cat After a Spay

By Amber Kelsey

Called an ovariohysterectomy in medical terms, a spay surgery makes a cat unable to breed by removing her reproductive organs. Although not considered a risky surgery, many pet parents still feel anxious about the procedure. Your kitty's incision only needs 10 to 14 days to heal. She should feel like her old self after just a day or two of rest. Knowing the proper way to care for your girl after she's spayed should help ease your mind during the healing process.

Arriving Home

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When you bring your kitty home, she'll likely be feeling some of the effects of the anesthetic. Vets typically apply a protective ointment on a cat's eyes to keep them from drying out, so she might not be able to see well. Because she might be startled easily, place her in a quiet, warm, dark indoor location to recover for at least 24 hours after surgery. Keep kids and other pets away from her during that time. Even the sweetest, most affectionate pet can become aggressive and scratch or bite in self-defense when frightened. Anesthesia hangovers typically go away within 24 hours and your cat's personality should go back to normal. Stay with your pet through the first night to monitor her recovery and activity levels.

Food and Water

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Offer your kitty water immediately after you bring her home. Drinking too much might cause her to vomit; keep only a small amount of liquid in the bowl and top it off as needed. You can offer your kitty one-quarter to one-half of a portion of her regular food when she is awake and alert. If she vomits, take away the rest of the food and don't offer it again until the next morning. Give her the regular amount of food and water the day after surgery. The anesthetics make many cats nauseous, so don't panic if she doesn't eat right away. Call your vet if she isn't eating or drinking normally after being home 48 hours.

Bathroom Habits

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Even if your cat chooses not to eat, she should still urinate. Place a clean litter box near her resting spot so she won't have to walk too far. Dust from kitty litter can get into incisions and cause infections, so use crystal or shredded paper litter for at least seven days after surgery. Monitor her urine for blood. Although a small amount of blood might occur within 24 hours of a spay surgery, call your vet if you spot bloody urine beyond that time. The anesthetics often cause constipation or diarrhea that last 24 to 48 hours after the surgery. Contact your vet if your cat doesn't urinate or defecate normally within 72 hours after surgery.

Pain Medication

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Cats frequently experience some soreness and minor discomfort for 24 to 36 hours after surgery. Vets typically give cats an injection of long-acting pain medicine after surgery; most cats won't need any more medication. Never give your cat human pain medication. Many medicines, including those containing ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen, can cause serious complications or even death. Contact your vet if you think your kitty requires pain-relieving medication. Follow your vet's instructions exactly if he prescribes medication.

Incision Care

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Inspect the incision site once you bring your cat home. The site normally looks a little red and slightly swollen. Check the incision site once or twice a day for seven days. Call your vet immediately if you spot any bleeding, drainage or discharge, excessive redness or large swelling at the site.

Chewing, licking or scratching the incision can cause the wound to open and become infected. Consider using an Elizabethan collar to keep her from reaching the site. Incisions need to stay dry, so gently pat the site with a soft, clean towel if it becomes wet. Don't try to clean the incision or apply topical lotions or ointments unless instructed by your veterinarian. Doing so can slow the healing process.

Activity Levels

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Although your kitty will start acting like her old self within a day or two, she needs to be kept indoors for at least the first seven days after surgery so you can keep an eye on the healing process and her activity levels. Don't allow your cat to jump, run, climb stairs or even play for the first week, because those activities increase the risk that the incision site won't heal properly. Keep your cat in a carrier, crate or small room with no high furniture if she's a rebel who insists on racing around, jumping and rough-housing. Gradually increase the amount of activity you allow your kitty over the second week, but keep a close eye on the surgical site for any problems.

When to Call Your Vet

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Spaying is considered a safe surgery, but complications still occur. Consult your vet if she exhibits depression, lethargy or weakness lasting longer than 24 hours. Other signs of an abnormal recovery include difficulty breathing, pale gums and a reduced or increased body temperature. Call your vet immediately if any of those symptoms are present as they might be a sign of internal bleeding.