How to Care for Your Cat After a Spay

If you've ever had surgery under anesthesia, then you know that the recovery can leave you feeling pretty crummy for a bit. If your cat is scheduled to be spayed, you may be concerned about how she'll recover. Will she be in pain? What should you do to help her? By following your vet's advice and keeping a close eye on your cat, you can help her recover in the comfort of her home.

Woman kissing cat
credit: Rafael Elias/Moment/GettyImages

Understand the procedure

Cats are spayed under general anesthesia, so your cat is unconscious for the procedure. The vet makes a small incision in your cat's abdominal wall and removes the uterus and ovaries. Then, the incision is stitched back up, and the surgery would be complete. Your vet may or may not decide to keep your cat overnight for monitoring before letting her go home.

During your cat's discharge, your vet or a veterinary technician will meet with you to discuss the procedure. They will provide you with some discharge instructions, usually on a printed sheet, and if your cat is to be on any medication, they'll give that to you and go over the dosage details.

This is the time to ask any questions you may have. It's a good idea to take a look at your cat's incision at that time and ask about any signs of infection you should watch for. There's a lot of information, so write down any details that you might forget. You should also ask your vet about their after-hours emergency policy, and find out who you should contact if your cat needs treatment during the weekend.

Assess your cat’s demeanor

Your cat will probably be a bit sleepy and quiet for the first 12-to-24 hours after surgery because of the anesthesia she was given. However, you should see her perk up and start to act like her usual self soon after that. Let her recover in a warm, cozy spot, and give her a light meal. She should regain her normal appetite in about 24-to-48 hours.

If your cat doesn't eat within 24 hours of her surgery, acts listless, or otherwise doesn't seem like herself, give your vet a call. They may want to recheck her to make sure she's feeling OK.

Give medications

If your vet has provided you with medications to give your cat, follow the dosage directions to a T. Watch your cat for signs of pain, like a reluctance to move around, or a loss of appetite.

Prevent licking

Cats instinctively lick wounds, so your cat will likely try to lick her incision. This can re-open the incision and potentially cause an infection, so it's important to prevent your cat from licking the area. An e-collar or Elizabethan collar can physically prevent your cat from being able to access the incision, and most vets will suggest you purchase one when you pick up your cat.

Keep your cat quiet

As your cat recovers and starts to feel better, she may be tempted to race around the house and play, especially if she's young. Your task? Keep your cat quiet for the initial 7-to-10 days after surgery that she'll need to heal. That means no running, jumping, or playing, which could tear the sutures and reopen the incision.

Sound impossible? It's not as difficult as you think. You can keep your cat indoors, and confining her to a single room or two may help to keep her quiet. Remove any tempting toys, and if you have other playful cats in the home, try to keep them separated as your cat heals. Have kids in the home? Monitor them carefully and talk with them about how important it is for your cat to rest and recover.

Check the incision

You should check your cat's incision twice a day to make sure that it is healing properly. The area will be shaved, and the incision will be sutured closed, though many vets use materials that are underneath the skin. Your cat's body will gradually absorb these materials as the incision heals.

Call your vet if you notice that the incision is looking more irritated, or that it starts to smell or ooze. You should also check to make sure that your cat hasn't torn the sutures. If this has happened, you may notice that the incision is hanging open, which means a trip back to the vet for some more sutures.

Call the vet

When it comes to your cat's health, always err on the side of caution and give the vet a call if you have any questions or concerns. Many vets will call you a day or so after the procedure to check in and see how your cat is doing. While spays are common and fairly minor procedures, it's still possible for things to go wrong and for your cat to need follow-up care.