A recently neutered cat will require a lot of sleep in a peaceful place. Photo by Doris Hausen .
Spaying or neutering is often the first (and hopefully, the last) surgery pet owners face. Bleeding and infection risks as well as the cat's different behaviour make many pet parents anxious and uneasy. This article should provide you with all the necessary information about post surgery care for your cat.

The first hours after neutering

Ask the vet any questions you have. Most neutering surgeries are performed in the morning so the owners can reunite with their cat in the evening. Before you take your companion home, the veterinarian will usually discuss the cat's condition. Make sure you've asked all the questions you want to have answers for; ask the vet to give you a few tips about post surgery care for your cat; ask him about the Do's and Don't's.

Bring your cat home. Most cats don't enjoy riding in a car. Since stress doesn't help healing, try to choose the shortest road. Minimize travelling time as much as possible.

Let your cat rest. Leave your cat in a quiet spot where it can rest peacefully. Keep kids and other pets away. Even if your cat is usually friendly and affectionate, its behaviour can temporary become more aggressive. Aggression is typical in injured animals in the wild; they use it as self-defence. As your cat heals, it will gradually return to its normal self.

Expect odd behaviour. While the cat recovers after anesthesia, its coordination can remain weird for about 12-18 hours after the surgery. Grogginess, nausea, and lots of sleeping are quite typical, too. If this odd behaviour persist for more than 18 hours, call your veterinarian for advice.

Eating and drinking. Make sure fresh water is available at any time. Food can be offered in a moderate amount. However, most cats will usually refuse food for 12 to 24 hours after neutering. If your cat has vomited after its first post-surgery meal, don't panic - as we've just mentioned, anesthesia has a nauseous effect.

Urination. More frequent urination is common after neutering because the cat's body will try to "flush" the medications used during the operation. Make sure the cat's litter box is near the resting spot so the animal doesn't have to travel through your house to ease itself. Some cats may have a very sound sleep after anesthesia. As a result, they may occasionally urinate in their bed.

Incision care

Check the incision daily to make sure it's clean and healing properly. During the first hours after the surgery, the incision will appear swollen. There can also be minor redness and discharge from the incision. All these should reduce greatly within the next 48 hours. If it doesn't happen, call your veterinarian for advice. If these symptoms get worse, or if there are other symptoms like a gap in the edges of the incision, discharge or unpleasant odor from the incision, call your vet immediately! These are signs of an infection.

Other tips - Do's and Don't's

  • Keep the cat indoors, discourage jumping, avoid active games, use a buster (Elizabethan) collar or a tube sock if necessary (many pet owners don't use them unless it's really necessary, for example, when the cat licks the wound excessively or starts biting the incision).
  • Handle your cat with care as pressure or movement on the surgery area can be painful, which will therefore cause your cat to scratch and defend itself.
  • Don't use cat litter, especially with male cats. Instead, use shredded paper (not newspapers!) for at least a week. Dust from cat litter could get into the incision and cause an infection.
  • Don't bathe your cat for at least a week.
  • If your cat disappears or hides following surgery, it could mean he's in more pain than he should be, and you should consult your vet. Do not give him or her any pain medication before you talk with your vet.
  • Neutering surgery causes a lot of stress. It takes a cat some time to recover fully. During this time, the cat's energy is spent for self healing, and its immune system weakens. Recently neutered cats can be prone to various respiratory infections and other diseases. The symptoms to look out for are loss of appetite, refusal to drink, nasal discharge, sneezing, and any other unusual conditions. Should any of these be present, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.