• Fri. May 24th, 2024

How to Prepare a Cat for Surgery (Vet Answer)


Feb 22, 2023
cat on the operating table and veterinary surgery


cat on the operating table and veterinary surgery

There are a few important things you need to do to prepare your cat for surgery. The vet will also be doing a lot of different things to prepare for the surgery. But let’s start with the subject that worries many people when they drop their cat off for surgery, and then we will go back to what you need to do. We will cover all of this and more in this article.


What to Expect Before the Surgery

Most hospitals will have you bring your cat into the clinic first thing in the morning. Your cat will then spend a few hours waiting for their surgery. They will have their surgery and then will wait again after surgery before going home.

Arriving early at the hospital does the following important things:

  • It gives the vet a chance to make sure your cat is acting normal—or at least as close to normal as they expect. Making sure your cat is responding appropriately is an important presurgical test. Because cats can be so secretive, it can sometimes take time for them to display any underlying, unexpected problems.
  • It also allows your cat time to relax after the car ride. Most of the time, while they might not be as relaxed as they are at home, having a few hours to relax in a comfy cage makes the surgery go smoother.
  • Letting your cat calm down also means the anesthesia drugs will work better because they do not have to medicate such a high plane of stress.
vet doctor puts the bandage on the cat after surgery
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

What to Expect After the Surgery

After surgery, the vet will be watching your cat even closer. They will be watching for things like the following:

  • They wake up properly
  • They are acting normal
  • They can move everything normally again
  • They don’t hurt themselves when they find the surgery site, the head collar, or whatever else might have been placed on them
  • They can drink and pee normally again


4 Important Tips to Remember for the Surgery

1. Keep them indoors

siberian cat indoor
Image Credit: Joanna Gawlica-Giędłek, Pixabay

It is almost always easier to keep your cat indoors overnight so you can find them in the morning. A cat disappearing into the neighborhood and missing their surgery happens more often than you think. Seriously, it happens all the time. Plus, if they are indoors, they also cannot hunt or eat.

2. Prepare a safe and comfy crate

It’s an easy thing to forget about until you put your cat in the crate, only to realize it’s broken and dirty or has become home to some mice.

I have seen all sorts of crates, from a McDonald’s bag to a rusty old birdcage with a dead mouse stuck to it. Gross, right? Make sure your cat has a nice, safe, clean, and comfy crate to travel in.

Double-check your crate is:

  • Secure: Check there are no holes, latches can lock (and stay locked), and when you pick it up by the handle, it does not fall apart.
  • Clean: Your cat will appreciate having a nice clean crate (as will the people handling it).
  • Comfy, with blankets and padding: Your cat will be uncomfortable when they come home, and having a soft crate to lay in will help keep them from hurting themselves.

3. Be available for phone calls

woman making a phone call
Image Credit: guvo59, Pixabay

Make sure you pick up the phone when the vet calls the day of the surgery and make sure you hear it when it rings. They may call you during the surgery and need an answer right away.

Reasons the vet might call:

  • To double check medication schedule
  • Double check surgical plan
  • To inform you of changes to the surgical plan
  • To inform you if something goes wrong
  • So, you can make informed decisions that might be time sensitive
  • To inform you the surgery is finished
  • To arrange a time to pick-up
  • To discuss plan post-surgery

4. Check for fleas

Really the only time I have seen a ‘dirty’ cat cause a problem is when they have fleas. The fleas leave little, tiny holes in the skin—bite marks—that break down its integrity, increasing the risk of infection and slowing healing.

Plus, fleas can walk across the surgical field—across the surgical cut even—spreading germs and dirt in an area that is supposed to be sterile. Make sure your cat has been treated for fleas at least a week before surgery to give the medication time to completely get rid of the fleas.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can cats eat before surgery?

No. Most of the time, you will need to take their food away the night before. Check with your vet regarding the exact timing, though.

This is mostly because when a cat is under general anesthesia, they lose control of their throat and food comes up—a process called regurgitation. Then they can choke, especially since they can’t cough when they are unconscious.

In addition, many of the anesthesia drugs can make cats nauseated and vomit so they can choke while they are falling asleep too.

Can they drink before surgery?

Most of the time—yes. Water travels through the stomach faster than food, so by the time they go to surgery, they don’t have water there anymore. Plus, most of the time, it is important they drink beforehand so they stay hydrated.

But some vets will tell you to take their water away in the morning, about two hours before they arrive. This is mostly so they do not drink a bunch of water, go in the car, and get car sick.

If you know your cat gets carsick, it is probably best to take their water away in the morning unless they are struggling to stay hydrated.

Should I still give them their normal medication?

It is very important to carefully follow your vet’s instructions when giving medication. Most of the time, if your pet is on long-term meds, it is best to give them at the normal times.

But there are four times to check with your vet to make sure everyone is on the same schedule.

  • The day before, check with your vet about the timing for the evening and morning before.
  • When you drop off your cat, remind the person checking them in that you gave them medications.
  • After the surgery, double-check when to give their regular medications and any new ones. This can be down to the hour.
  • After you give the medication, if you do not think it is working, tell your vet. Particularly for pain relief.
maine coon cat getting medication into mouth with syringe
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

How do I give medication if I can’t feed my cat in the morning?

Getting a cat to swallow a pill can be very difficult. So, if you normally give it in a treat, do that—just make the treat as small as possible. Most pills fit into a treat the size of a pea. A pea or even a grape-sized amount of food will not be a problem, especially because it brings the benefits of the medication.

But also, do it as early as you can. Try to avoid giving your cat its medication and then putting it in the car where they might get carsick. Try to give the medication about two hours before.

Should I bathe my cat before surgery?

Most of the time, I would say no. Most cats are clean enough for surgery. And giving them a bath beforehand will only up their stress levels.

If your cat is really dirty, it might be a good idea. If, for example, they rolled in some mud—if they are covered in visible dirt. But that doesn’t happen often.

Or, if they are severely matted, this might be something to consider. But discuss the situation with your vet. If a groomer can remove the mats before, it might be helpful and make your cat more comfortable. But also, if your cat is that severely matted, chances are they hate to be brushed, and it might be a good time to clip them while they are unconscious.


Final Thoughts

Just remember to talk to your vet, listen to their instructions, and follow them closely. If you make a mistake, that is okay. Tell them, and they will help solve the problem.

And remember to breathe. Maybe, take yourself out for a relaxing coffee after you drop them off. Remember, you are doing the best thing for them by bringing them in for surgery. They will still love you despite it all.

Featured Image Credit: ARVD73, Shutterstock

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