How to Care for Your Cat After a Spay

Coming out of anesthesia after surgery can leave you feeling pretty crummy, and you'll be glad for the special care that a family member or friend offers you. If your cat needs to be spayed, you may worry about how she'll feel after the procedure and what her recovery process will be like. Any great cat owner will want to do the best for his cat, and by following your vet's advice and learning for what to watch, you can give your cat a quiet recovery in the comfort of her own home.

British short hair Cat in bed
Cats usually take between 10 to 14 days to recovery from being spayed.
credit: chendongshan/iStock/GettyImages

Understanding the spay procedure

The more that you understand about what the spay procedure entails, the better you can help your cat to recover. When your cat is spayed, she will be put under general anesthesia, leaving her unconscious during the surgery. Your vet will make a small incision in the wall of your cat's abdomen and will then remove her uterus and ovaries. Next, the vet will stitch up your cat's incision, and your cat will be monitored as she wakes up from anesthesia.

Depending on factors like your cat's age, medical history, and any abnormalities during the procedure, your vet may decide to keep your cat in the veterinary hospital overnight. This allows vets and technicians to monitor your cat and to be nearby in case she experiences any complications. Many cats are able to go home on the same day of their surgery, but don't be surprised if your vet wants to monitor your cat a little bit longer.

Picking up your cat

Your vet's office will schedule a time for you to come and pick up your cat after her surgery is complete. During the discharge, you'll meet with your vet or with a veterinary technician. He will tell you how the procedure went and will give you some discharge instructions on how to monitor your cat for infection and will provide any medication that your cat needs to take.

During this discharge meeting, you'll get a lot of information. Be sure to take notes and ask any questions that you might have about your cat's care. You might also want to ask your vet about their after-hours emergency policy so that you have contact information ready in case you need some help during the night.

This is also a good time to look at your cat's incision and take a photo of what it looks like currently. Taking cat spay healing photos each day can help you to monitor your cat's progress and spot any signs of potential infection. Your vet may send your cat home with an e-collar to keep her from licking her incision and will show you how to fit the collar to your cat during the discharge.

Typical cat spay recovery time

Your vet should advise you on just how much time your cat will take to recover from her spay procedure. Cats usually recover from this surgical procedure in about 10 to 14 days. During this time, you'll need to give your cat special care and monitor her to make sure that she's healing well.

This may seem like a long time, but it will pass quickly. You'll probably see that your cat is back to her normal self after just a few days, but it's still important to keep an eye on her incision, appetite, and behavior to make sure that she fully recovers without any complications.

Keep your cat quiet

Your cat may naturally keep herself quiet for the first few days, but you'll need to ensure she doesn't run and jump, which could tear her stitches, aggravate the spay site, and potentially cause bleeding. Keep your cat confined to a small room like a bedroom or bathroom to encourage her to stay quiet. If you have other pets in the house, keep your cat separated to discourage them from trying to play.

Usually, you only have to keep your cat separated from others for a few days, but your vet will advise you on your cat's exact activity restrictions. Be sure to share this information with others in the house and teach your kids that it's important to not play with your cat while she's recovering from surgery.

Watch your cat’s behavior

Observing your cat is an important part of spaying a cat aftercare. Your cat may be unusually quiet and reserved for a day or two after her surgery. During this time, she may have less of an appetite, which is probably a result of the anesthesia.

Cats who have recently been spayed tend to sleep more and walk more slowly. Your cat will jump less, which is actually a good thing because it can help to keep her stitches intact. If she's on medications, she may develop a "zoned out" appearance, but this should go away as soon as she's no longer on her medications.

Give your cat her medications

Precisely follow the directions on your cat's medications. Give her the medications on time and at the prescribed doses. Don't stop giving your cat medications early unless your vet has informed you that it's OK to do this. If you have multiple cats in your household, give your cat her medications directly so that you know she's the one getting them and not the other cats.

Keep on the e-collar

If your vet sent your cat home with an e-collar, make sure that she wears it. The collar will keep your cat from licking her incision, which can interfere with its healing. Your cat may not be happy with the collar, but remember that she only needs to wear it for a short amount of time.

Watch for signs of pain

You should also look for any signs that your cat is having a problem in her recovery from surgery. She may be lethargic for about 12 hours after the spay, but if that lethargy remains or gets worse after 12 hours, call your vet right away. Your cat should also regain her appetite after the first day post surgery, so if she doesn't resume her normal eating habits, let your vet know.

Other signs of trouble include walking with a hunched appearance, meowing unusually, or bleeding from the suture area. If you have any concerns about your cat's recovery, call your vet or your local emergency vet if the issue occurs after hours.

Monitor the suture site

You'll also need to regularly take a look at your cat's suture site to make sure it's healing as expected. Your cat's incision should have a clean appearance with the edges touching. A light, reddish-pink color is normal, and the suture may get a bit redder as it starts to heal during the first few days.

If your cat has light skin, you may notice some bruising around her suture site that appears a few days after the surgery. This is normal. Fresh incisions may also seep a little bit of blood for up to 24 hours after the surgery.

If you notice that the site continues to seep blood or other fluids after 24 hours, call your vet. You should also contact your vet if the skin around the site swells, becomes excessively red, or develops a bad smell.

Stay in touch

If you have any questions about your cat's recovery, contact your vet sooner rather than later. You'll want to stay ahead of potential issues like infection since it can be more difficult to correct an infection once it's been going on for days.

The best way to help your cat recover is to follow your vet's directions and keep a close eye on your cat, especially during the first few days after her surgery. While a spay is a common and fairly minor procedure, things can still go wrong, so be sure to get your cat any follow-up care that she might need.