Spayed Cat Aftercare: How To Care For Your Cat After Surgery

Published Jun. 25, 2024
A cat with a recovery cone sleeps.

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What Is Cat Spay Surgery?

Spaying, or ovariohysterectomy, involves the surgical removal of a female cat’s reproductive organs, the ovaries and uterus.

An incision is made on the center of the belly, the ovaries and uterus are tied off and removed, and the incision is closed with sutures.

Cat spaying is a common procedure, but it requires anesthesia and a certain level of post-operative care and monitoring. This typically lasts about 14 days.

Spaying is beneficial because it prevents several diseases in cats, such as:

Cat spaying also reduces the risk of mammary cancer and eliminates future heat cycles, helping to decrease the likelihood of unwanted behaviors such as urine marking, roaming, yowling, and fighting.

Additionally, spaying helps with pet overpopulation by preventing unwanted pregnancies.

What To Expect After Cat Spaying Surgery

General anesthesia and pain control are used throughout surgery to keep your cat comfortable.

Your vet will likely send your cat home with additional pain medication, such as gabapentin, and anti-inflammatory medications, such as meloxicam or Onsior™.

Cats often rebound quickly after being spayed, but providing pain relief aids the healing process and hastens recovery.

Give your cat all prescribed medication as directed by your veterinarian.

If you think your cat is in pain or if they chew or try to lick the incision site, contact your veterinarian immediately. Don’t give your cat any human or over-the-counter pain medications without your vet’s advice.

Some hospitals will keep your cat for observation the night after surgery, and others will send your cat home the same day, typically in the afternoon.

Regardless, you should not leave your cat unattended for at least the first 24 hours after surgery.

Your cat will likely be groggy from anesthesia. Most cats tend to spend their first night home resting.

Offer your cat only a small amount of water (about half as usual, with ice cubes) when you return home, since she may be nauseous from the procedure. Limit your cat’s first meal to about a quarter or half of their usual amount.

You should not leave your cat unattended for at least the first 24 hours after surgery.

Some bruising around the surgical site is normal, but if you notice excessive bruising or discharge from the incision, contact your veterinarian.

Your cat may also have a small bandage on her front leg where the IV catheter was. This dressing can typically be removed a few hours after you return home.

In some cases, mild swelling at the incision site persists for weeks after surgery as the sutures dissolve. Unless the swelling is excessive or causes complications, swelling typically resolves in three to four weeks.

A small amount of blood may be present in your cat’s urine for the first day, which is normal. However, if this is excessive or persistent, or if the urine contains clots, seek veterinary attention right away.

How to Care For Your Cat After She’s Spayed

Appropriate post-operative care lessens the time your cat spends recovering, improves healing, and mitigates the chance of your cat needing additional surgeries or medications.

After limiting your cat’s food for her first meal, ensure her diet stays consistent, since sudden changes can lead to gastrointestinal upset.

Avoid adding supplements to your cat’s food or offering any food meant for humans.

Limit your cat’s activity for the first two weeks, ensuring she doesn’t run, jump, or play rough.

This helps avoid issues such as dehiscence (a reopening of the wound), bleeding, infection, or bruising, which could require additional surgeries, medications, or wound care.

Keep your feline friend indoors in a quiet location while she is healing, away from young children and loud noises. A bathroom or other room with limited furniture is ideal, so she isn’t tempted to jump on and off elevated areas.

Provide resources such as comfortable bedding, food and water bowls, and a clean litter box.

Consider switching litter types to Fresh News® or shredded newspaper to prevent excess dust and litter debris from contaminating the incision.

Keep the litter box especially clean during this time and check the box numerous times daily for urine and feces.

Your cat may smell funny to other pets in your home, and it’s best to keep her isolated for the first few days. Allow your pets to get reacquainted by letting them interact through doors, and by exchanging their bedding.

You can also use pheromones, such as Feliway®, to help keep everyone calm. Don’t bathe your cat or allow the incision to get wet during the recovery period.

Monitor your cat’s incision at least once a day and keep the area clean and dry.

Your cat may smell funny to other pets in your home, and it’s best to keep her isolated for the first few days. Allow your pets to get reacquainted by letting them interact through doors, and by exchanging their bedding.

Avoid using topical ointments, sprays, or salves unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian.

A normal incision looks like a line on the abdomen and may have a little crusting or dried blood.

Changes that may indicate infection include:

  • Discoloration, such as redness or changes in color

  • Discharge, which may be clear, red (bloody), white (pus), or a combination of these

  • Odor

  • Swelling

  • Heat coming from the wound

  • Tenderness upon touch

  • Excessive bruising

  • Loose or missing sutures or staples

  • Puckering or gaping of the incision

Spaying typically doesn’t require bandaging or external sutures. However, if sutures are present, they will be removed in about two weeks.

If your cat is sent home with a bandage, keep it clean and dry, and ensure your cat wears a comfortable recovery collar so she can’t get at the bandage.

Also, check the bandage frequently for slippage, soiling, or tissue swelling. Change or remove the bandage according to your veterinarian’s instructions.

While your cat may not like wearing a recovery collar, they help prevent licking and chewing, which can lead to self-trauma and infection.

A properly fitted recovery collar extends past your cat’s nose and is snug at her neck. You should be able to fit two fingers under the collar base.

You can opt for a soft recovery collar or an inflatable doughnut, as long as your cat can’t reach the incision with her mouth.

A surgical suit or similar clothing can protect the incision; it should be kept clean and changed often.

When To Call Your Vet

Cat spaying is an important part of proper care and pet parenting.

This procedure can prevent future health risks; however, spaying a cat is an invasive surgical and anesthetic procedure and life-threatening complications can occur.

If you notice any of following in your cat, contact your veterinarian immediately:

  • Difficult to rouse

  • Pale or white gums

  • Fever

  • Abdominal swelling or tenderness on palpation

  • Excessive vocalization, meowing, or yowling

  • Extensive bruising at or near the incision site that worsens with time

  • Bleeding, foul odor, or any type of discharge from the incision or vagina

  • Straining to urinate or inability to pass urine

  • Soreness or pain that doesn’t improve with prescribed medication

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Coughing that worsens with time, or sounds wet or has produced mucous

  • Opening of the wound; loss of sutures

  • Swelling at the incision site, known as a seroma; this often resolves with time but still warrants an exam, as the site may need to be drained or antibiotics prescribed

  • Refusal to drink or eat for more than 24 hours after surgery

  • Lack of stool for more than two days after surgery

  • Excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea

Spayed Cat Aftercare FAQs

Can I leave my cat alone after being spayed?

Don’t leave your cat unattended for at least the first 24 hours after a spay procedure.

Spaying is a major surgery, and complications can occur. In addition, your cat will likely be groggy and may injure herself without careful monitoring.

Michael Kearley, DVM


Michael Kearley, DVM


Dr. Michael Kearley graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. He graduated with a certificate in...

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