Cat Spay Procedure and Aftercare

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Published: July 27, 2021

A spay, also known as an ovariohysterectomy, is a common procedure that is performed on female cats. Spaying is performed to sterilize cats, which means they can no longer have kittens. 

There are many benefits to spaying your cat. Spaying prevents uterine infections (pyometra), significantly reduces the risk of mammary cancer when performed before adulthood, and decreases behavior changes that can occur during reproductive heat cycles, like vocalizing and escape behavior.

Here’s some helpful info on the procedures used and what to expect after spaying your cat.

Cat Spaying Procedures

There are two types of procedures for spaying a cat: ovariohysterectomy and ovariectomy. 

Ovariohysterectomy

The most commonly performed spaying procedure is called an ovariohysterectomy. This includes the removal of the uterus and the ovaries. 

When your cat undergoes an ovariohysterectomy, your vet makes an abdominal incision on the underside of her stomach. The hair around the incision will need to be removed to decrease the chance of infection. 

The procedure involves complete removal of the reproductive tract: the ovaries, uterus, and uterine horns (where the uterus and fallopian tubes meet). Typically, sutures are placed on the outside or inside (intradermal).  

Ovariectomy

Some veterinarians perform what is called an ovariectomy, where only the ovaries of a cat are removed. The incision can be made on both the underside of your cat’s belly or on the side of their belly, called the “flank.” 

This procedure is not as commonly performed as an ovariohysterectomy, since it leaves the uterus behind, which means that uterine cancer is still possible. 

Laparoscopy

Both procedures can also be performed via laparoscopy using an endoscope, which is a long, thin tube equipped with a light and a camera. Veterinarians who perform the procedures via this method have received additional training to master this surgical technique. 

Aftercare for Cat Spaying

If you notice any of the following, contact your vet or an emergency clinic immediately, because these can be signs of a serious surgery complication like an internal hemorrhage or urinary tract damage: 

  • Unwillingness to eat more than 12 hours after surgery

  • Lethargy or weakness

  • White-colored gums

  • Belly swelling

  • High or low breathing rate

  • Multiple episodes of diarrhea and vomiting

  • Straining to urinate with no urine production

  • No urination within 12-24 hours after surgery

Follow all of your veterinarian’s postoperative instructions, which could include:

  • Ensuring strict rest, such as confinement to a crate or small room to avoid jumping, running, and climbing stairs 

  • Monitoring the incision site(s) daily 

  • Keeping an E-collar on your cat to avoid your cat licking at the incision  

Although a cone will not be fun for your cat, most veterinarians consider it a necessity until the recheck examination.

You cannot leave your cat alone for the first 12-24 hours after she is spayed, since this is a critical time to monitor for postoperative bleeding and normal urination. After this, as long as your cat seems comfortable and is urinating, you may leave her in a confined area with her E-collar in place.

How To Keep the Spay Incision From Opening or Getting Infected

Opening of your cat’s incision could lead to medical issues that may require emergency attention. You should call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any:

  • Redness

  • Bruising

  • Swelling

  • Bad odor

  • Discharge

  • Opening of the incision

A small amount of blood-tinged discharge and mild redness at the incision line is normal up to 24 hours after spay surgery. Continue to give your cat all prescribed medications. 

On average, sutures will remain in place for 10-14 days, which is the amount of time it takes a cat to heal after being spayed.

Do Not Let Your Cat Lick the Incision

Cats licking their incision is one of the leading causes of infections and premature suture removal. An E-collar or bodysuit will be required for your cat after spaying surgery to protect the incision site and prevent her from licking her sutures. 

Do Not Let Your Cat Do High-Impact Activities

The second leading cause of opening an incision is increased activity or movement after spay surgery. Sutures will stay closed if your cat is only doing normal, low-impact movements. 

Jumping, running, and playing with other cats are high-impact activities that can cause the sutures to rupture. Typically, activity restrictions are in place for at least 10-14 days after surgery.

How To Manage Your Cat’s Pain After Spay Surgery 

Pain from inflammation can occur 5-7 days after spay surgery. Pain in cats is hard to detect since they do not respond to pain as humans do. Your veterinarian will provide you with any necessary pain relief medications.

Do not stop medications without direct approval from your veterinarian. Inflammation and pain can cause secondary complications, such as licking the incision and swelling around the surgery site. 

Do not give your cat any over-the-counter pain medications or human pain medications. Many of these products can be highly toxic to your cat. If you are concerned about pain management, call your veterinarian for advice.

Most veterinarians do not send cats home with antibiotics, as an ovariohysterectomy is considered a sterile procedure. If significant bleeding is noted during surgery, or if your cat is older and/or currently in heat during the spay, antibiotics may be sent home to avoid infection.  

Give your cat all prescribed antibiotics until they are completely gone. Do not stop the course of antibiotics even if your cat is feeling better or seems to be back to normal. A full course of antibiotics will prevent antibiotic resistance and ensure all harmful bacteria are eliminated.

Using the Litter Box After Spay Surgery 

If you have noticed that your cat has not urinated in 24 hours, that is considered a medical emergency. Contact your vet or an emergency clinic immediately. 

Monitor your cat during recovery to ensure normal pee and poop. A possible complication of ovariohysterectomy is trauma to the urinary tract, so monitoring urination for the first 24 hours after surgery is particularly important.  

As long as your cat passes urine within the first 24 hours, then you can stop watching their urination habits so closely.

Constipation may occur, but most cats should have normal bowel movements after surgery.  Anesthesia can cause soft stool or constipation, depending on an individual cat’s reaction.  

If you are noticing diarrhea for longer than 24 hours or constipation that lasts longer than 2 days, reach out to your veterinarian to determine the next steps in your cat’s care. 

Please do not use over-the-counter medications or human food products to help your cat with these conditions, as many products can have toxins and dangerous side effects. 

What To Feed Your Cat After Spay Surgery

Your cat should be interested in food after surgery, although it may take 12-24 hours for her appetite to return after anesthesia and the stress of the procedure.  

Continue to feed your cat according to your veterinarian’s instructions. If you are concerned about your cat’s appetite, please contact your veterinarian, as some oral medications can cause decreased appetite and nausea (such as oral antibiotics and certain pain medications).