Cat Surgery - Preparing For Your Cat's Surgery and Recovery

When is cat surgery considered elective, non-elective, or an emergency?

Elective procedures, as the name implies, means you're electing to do them. They are not anything that has to do with life or death situations. So it's something that we are choosing to do. And the most common procedures I would say with those types of surgeries would be either a spay or a neuter, male or female. And most times, dental work would even be considered to be an elective procedure if it's done early.

Non-elective things need to be done to ensure the good health of the animal, but they're not on an emergency level. Maybe there's a growth somewhere that we don't like, and we want to take it off. It's not necessarily something that has to be done today, right at this minute, but it's probably something that should be done sooner rather than later. So I would consider that to be a non-elective surgery.

And then, of course, an emergency surgery, as the name implies, is something critical to that animal's survival. So maybe the dog was hit by a car, or in my mind, I think of various traumatic wounds or injuries that can cause a ruptured spleen, those kinds of things that have to be addressed quickly. There is also the case of an intestinal surgery, like an intestinal blockage, something like that, that has to be done sooner rather than later, because if you don't do it now, you may not be able to do it later. So that's kind of the breakdown of the three categories.

Dr. Scott Broussard
The Waggin Train Veterinary Clinic

What are the most common cat surgeries?

There are a lot of them. The most common on a female would be a spay or an ovariohysterectomy. And then on a male it would be a neuter or a castration. Those are, by far the most common things that we do. Beyond that, I don't know if I'd say a surgery, but at least an anesthetic procedure would be dental work. That's probably next in the order of prevalence or commonality.

We're talking about everything from fracture repairs to tumor removals, bladders surgeries, bladder stone removal, intestinal foreign body surgeries, and declawing. I know that's frowned upon a lot of times, but it's an option. That's a surgery we do on them. All of those things are possible surgeries that we do or can do on cats.

Will cats need lab work done before having surgery?

It's certainly advisable to do so. It depends on the veterinarian you use, as some veterinarians make it mandatory; others don't. But I think it's always a wise idea to do it because it gives you a picture of what's happening inside with the liver, the kidneys, the electrolytes, the blood sugar, the proteins, etc. that you just can't see or detect on a physical exam. So perhaps is not mandatory but it’s certainly advisable, in my opinion.

What do I need to know before my cat has surgery?

Just like if you and I have undergone an anesthetic procedure, your doctor is going to want you to be fasted the day of or perhaps even the night before the procedures going on. That's just for safety with anesthesia. Well, the same applies to us in veterinary medicine. So that would be number one.

You might need to know specifics, like how long do you want them to go without food, because in the case of certain GI surgeries, I want them fasted maybe even longer than usual. So that would be information that you would need to know ahead of time.

And then there also things like, what's the aftercare going to be? You need to know that going in so that you can be prepared and not just when you pick the cat up at four o'clock that afternoon and say, "Oh wait, I need what?" No. So you need to know what surgery is done, what the recovery time is, is there any physical therapy, and then you should prepare for those things ahead of time so that way when you do pick the animal up when it's ready to go home, you have all that laid out, ready to go. You’re not scrambling around trying to make last-minute preparations.

Who will be monitoring the cat while under anesthesia?

Most times, it's going to be one of the veterinary team, one of the veterinary technicians if you will. Every practice I've ever worked at has a whole slew of very well-trained individuals that can run anesthesia and monitor vital signs while I, the veterinarian, is doing surgery.

I'm there to hear the monitors beeping at me, and I can usually see the numbers, but once I'm scrubbed in, and I'm sterile, I can't do much. I can't break the sterile field and start adjusting dials and knobs and doing all that. So we have well-trained technicians that can help us with that. We have monitoring equipment that does it. We have blood pressure monitors, EKGs, heart rate, oxygen level—all of that is being monitored. And 99% of the time, it's being monitored by one of my technicians during the procedures.

How long is recovery after a cat surgery?

It's an impossible question to answer for the simple reason that when you say surgery, it's like saying how much does a car cost? Well, what kind of car? The surgery can be anything.With orthopedic surgeries,, you might be talking about weeks to months of recovery until they're fully recovered. The more common one is an ovariohysterectomy, where you are making an abdominal incision. In that case, it’s maybe a week or so to 10 days before they're fully recovered. With castration of a male cat, recovery is more like a day or two, and they're fully recovered. It's a much less invasive procedure. Again, that's where the consultation with your veterinarian beforehand comes in so that you know what to expect when you get home.

What can I do to help my cat recover at home after surgery?

The biggest thing after any surgical procedure will be rest. When you're doing surgery, usually that involves cutting of tissue and manipulation and trying to put that tissue back together. There's going to be healing time; whether it's a couple of days or it's a couple of weeks—there will be substantial healing when that's done, along with pain control, of course. That's all going to be affected by what's done and how active that cat is afterward. So if I had to give one answer to that question, it would be to have them confined, whether it's a kennel, whether it's a room, or whether it's keeping them at the hospital if you have to. But keep them confined so they can rest, the tissues can begin healing quicker, and you're not aggravating suture lines. Those are the first and foremost issue.

And I won't go into specifics because there are so many surgical procedures done, I can't touch on all of them. Still, I can tell you that rest, initially, especially, is going to be crucial on pretty much every make or model of surgery.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Surgery - FAQs

Dr. Scott Broussard
The Waggin Train Veterinary Clinic

What question should I ask my veterinarian about my cat surgery?

It depends on what the procedure is, as to other questions you may want to ask. The most obvious things would be, "What do I have to do to prepare my cat before, i.e. fasting, water intake, all that kind of stuff?"

I think what’s as or maybe even more important is asking, "What do I need to prepare for afterward?" Again, that depends on what the surgery is. Some surgeries are very mild and quick, and have very quick recovery times where others might be a lot more involved, so, you just need to ask questions such as, "How should I prepare for when I take my cat home? Do I need a special kennel? Do I need a special diet, pain control?" Anything like that, which we'll cover in a second.

Will my cat go under anesthesia during surgery?

They should be under anesthetic because, otherwise, you're cutting on a cat that's awake. I’m ot trying to be silly, but to answer that question, yes. I would think if it is a true surgery, then that cat should be under anesthesia.

Will my cat be intubated for surgery, and what does that mean?

Intubating a cat is when you use an endotracheal tube that insett into the trachea, the windpipe, if you will. We do that in the vast majority of cases, especially those that require a general anesthetic. When I say general anesthetic, that is that a surgical plane, and we give them a drug to induce anesthesia, usually propofol. Once the cat loses consciousness, we insert the trach tube just described. Then the cat is breathing oxygen, and a certain gas isofluorane, cepofluorine, something like that that holds them under anesthetic for as long as they keep breathing that gas.

That is what's called general anesthetic, and that's how the bulk of our anesthetic procedures are done. Occasionally, you might have a milder surgery if I can use that term. Maybe it's a surgery to debride a wound or clean up an abscess...even a male cat neuter. These types of procedures don't require a general anesthetic because they're pretty fast procedures. In some of those cases we can just do heavy sedation, and those cats are not always intubated for those more minor procedures because they don't entirely lose consciousness. There's pain control. They do lose consciousness, but not the ability to swallow. So, we don't have to worry about them aspirating anything.

How will my veterinarian communicate with me after my cat's surgery?

There are some times when I have a full surgical day, I’ll go straight from one procedure to make sure the animal's waking up fine, turn it over to my staff, and I have to jump back in the next surgery. That means that sometimes it will be the veterinary staff that will contact you and explains how your animal did, how they're doing now, and how long before they're awake.

I do lean on my staff quite heavily, but certainly, when possible, I try to make the phone calls myself at least to explain, "Hey, I'm done. This is how it went," because nobody knows how well it went better than me. I was the one doing it. I try to make the phone call whenever possible—either immediately after surgery, or when the client picks up at the time of discharge.

Will my cat be in pain after surgery?

Again, it depends on what the procedure is. In my mind, when I hear surgery, I think of cutting. I think I'm making an incision somewhere, and so yes, anytime you do that, there will be some form of pain.

The good news is though, is we have a bunch of different modalities to control that pain. There are anti-inflammatory drugs that we can use. There are other analgesic drugs like opioids that can control pain quite well.

So, if it's a procedure that warrants any kind of pain control, and most of them do, there are many very effective and user-friendly modes that we can use to control pain in cats.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.