Things You Need to Know About Cat Surgery

An Overview of Feline Surgery


Feline surgical procedures fall under two categories: elective procedures and those that are non-elective (urgently necessary).

Common elective cat surgeries include:

  • Spaying or neutering
  • Dental extractions

Immediate threats to a cat’s life or body part (external or internal) call for emergency surgery. Examples include:

  • Major trauma, such as fracture repair
  • Large wounds
  • Skin cancers
  • Intestinal obstruction from foreign body
  • Significant bleeding
  • Respiratory distress

Some non-elective surgeries do not address an immediate threat but are necessary and, in some cases, more urgent than in others. Reasons for non-elective surgery include:

  • Amputation of a limb
  • Injury and repair of a wound
  • Dental urgent care, such as tooth extraction or teeth cleaning
  • Removal of a mass, lump, tumor, foreign object, foreign body part, anal gland, eye, kidney stones or an organ (spleen or bladder)

Other non-elective surgeries include corrective-, orthopedic-, exploratory- and eyelid/tear duct surgery as well as surgery to open and drain an aural hematoma.


Your veterinarian will discuss with you all the factors to be considered when deciding whether or not to opt for surgery. Factors regarding cat surgery include:

  • Possible consequences, if surgery is not performed
  • General health and age of your cat
  • Possible complications as a result of the surgery
  • Post-surgical care and time required for recovery

It’s important to consider all factors to assist you in making an informed and ethical decision that is best for both you and your cat.


All anesthesia is risky with higher risks for kittens and older cats. Veterinarians should take measures to assess risks before surgery.

Applied to the skin or injected into tissues, local anesthetic is used to block pain in a certain body surface area. The majority of surgeries will require general anesthetic.

Under general anesthetic a cat will be unconscious and closely monitored.


Elective and non-elective surgeries usually require appointments. To be safe, book your cat in a day early to avoid searching for him or her in the neighborhood on the morning of the procedure and missing your appointment. Also give yourself enough time to deal with necessary paperwork upon arrival.

No food or water should be accessible for a certain period before surgery. Confirm this time with your veterinarian and comply. Also check whether routine medicines should be stopped just before the surgery.


Pre-surgical procedures generally include the following:

  • Exams 
  • Premedication
  • Introduction of fluids 
  • Pain control  
  • Monitoring of vital signs 
  • Generally, your cat will first receive a sedative
  • If required for anesthetic or intravenous medication, a catheter will be inserted
  • The appropriate anesthetic for the type of surgery will be administered via injection or inhalation


The body part that will be addressed will be shaved, cleaned and treated with antiseptic. All the relevant areas and essential objects in the room will be treated to ensure hygiene and sterility. 

Vital signs will be monitored throughout and post procedure.


How long your cat will take to recover after surgery will depend on his or her health, age and the type of procedure underwent. It will take some time (a couple of hours usually) for general anesthesia to wear off completely and during this period your cat will be monitored where the procedure took place (veterinarian’s office or animal clinic/hospital).

Possible side effects include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Reaction to anesthetic
  • Pain: Ask about pain management options
  • Nausea: Ask your veterinarian to recommend diet options
  • Post-surgery infection: Ask your veterinarian what this looks like and what to do

It’s not something anyone wants to hear, but unfortunately there is a chance that a cat may not pull through from surgery. Be aware of this possibility, but be positive and hopeful.

The veterinarian will inform you when you’ll be able to take your cat home (for some procedures, this may be on the same day). Make sure you leave with care and medication instructions.


Review the care instructions with your veterinary health care team when you pick up your cat. Here are possible care topics you may need to address:

  • Changing bandages, caring for stitches
  • Giving your cat medication, food, and water
  • Preventing licking or biting out the stitches – an Elizabethan Collar may be recommended
  • Monitoring the incision for signs of infection – which may include swelling and/or redness
  • Scheduling a follow-up appointment 

At Home

Rest equals recovery. Keep your cat inside, preferably in a comfortable, calming, confined space. Keep your cat indoors for at least 24 hours and closely monitor your cat as it recovers. Call your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Pay attention to the stitches daily. Make sure the area is not swollen, red or oozing. The stitches should be firmly in place. If the wound seems infected, take your cat back to the veterinarian immediately.

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