Spaying And Neutering – What To Look For After Surgery

Are you about to have your female cat spayed or your male cat neutered? Congratulations on being a responsible cat owner! These are routine procedures and the chances of problems are slim.

However, as with any medical procedure. you should be prepared. Learn all about post-op care and what to look for after a spay or neuter surgery.

Spaying or neutering your cat - What to look for after the operation

Tabby cat in a medical blanket after surgery. Kitten neutering, protective suit.

Many organizations work hard to develop spay/neuter programs in communities that have never had a low-cost option.

Founder Ruth Steinberger says, “We stress how important it is to ask questions about care for cats following surgery in order to keep them healthy and to get a good start on a long life.”

First-time cat owners won’t know what potential problems to look for. Experienced cat owners may need to refresh their knowledge if it’s been a while since they’ve had a new cat.

What’s normal and what’s the cause for a call or visit to the veterinarian?

Dr. Cindy Houlihan, DVM and owner of The Cat Practice in Birmingham, Michigan, says it’s important to monitor your cat’s behavior for two weeks after the operation.

The first 48 hours are especially important. Her daily checklist includes:

  • Any signs of bleeding or discharge, particularly on the first day
  • Pale gums or paw pads
  • Swelling or redness
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive licking
  • Change in behavior
  • Stiff walking or sensitivity to touch

Older or overweight cats will have a longer recovery period than a young kitten. Willowy says her five-year-old cat, Sonja, didn’t want to move for the first three days, while the younger cat, Pixie, felt well enough to remove a couple of her own stitches.

With extra pain medication, Sonja began her recovery too. Each cat’s tolerance for pain may be different.

TheCatSite member Ananya says her cat Gucci was five years old and had never gone into heat.

The veterinarian decided on a more invasive surgery which meant a larger incision. He found Gucci’s uterus and ovaries were malformed.

The second day after surgery, Gucci was still uncomfortable and not eating as much as usual so she went back to the doctor for an injection of antibiotics which helped.

Another member, @lyrajean, recommends scheduling surgery the day before you have time off work - then you can be at home to supervise the pain medications, the post-surgery e-collar (the hated cone) or baby-sized shirts worn to protect the incision from your cat’s curiosity.

Her cat Aya, put up quite a protest over wearing the cone.


Pain management following spaying and neutering

The cat wears a collar to prevent licking the wound after sterilization. Neutering the male cat. Sick cat concept.

In the wild, a wounded animal is vulnerable so pets have learned to hide their pain, even from family. Veterinarians are able to administer pain medication prior to the surgery.

Relief can last a couple of days and gives your cat a head start on controlling her discomfort.

Discuss post-op pain management with your veterinarian. Pilling a cat can prove to be an almost impossible job in some cases, so bring this up if it's an issue with your cat.

Your vet should be able to help you plan an effective pain management strategy that won't necessarily rely on pilling.

Know who to call if something goes wrong

cat is sleeping after neutering operation

It pays to know who to call after hours in case your cat has a problem. @AbbysMom got no follow-up instructions from the vet so she was in a panic when Abby vomited and urinated in the crate.

Luckily, she was able to reach a vet tech at the doctor’s office who could tell her what to do. Withholding food for the evening helped and the vet called to check or make suggestions until Abby was herself again.

A reaction to anesthesia can be a problem. Ask what kind your vet plans to use. Often gas makes for an easier recovery than an injectable version.

Know what will work best for your pet. Age, weight, general health, and breed can all play a factor.

Male cats have it somewhat easier because neutering is a less invasive surgery but they don’t get a free pass.

Their recovery time will be shorter, but they’ll still need to keep quiet and suffer through daily exams for any signs of a problem.

Dr. Houlihan says, “For many years, pain management was under-recognized and under-used. Veterinarians now plan ahead to keep your cats as comfortable as possible after a spay or neuter procedure.”

All owners worry. Make a list of questions to ask so you don’t get nervous and forget, be sure to get follow-up instructions, and watch your cat for signs of any problems.

It won’t take away all the worry but it will take away the panic.

Is the spay incision infected?

Vet surgery neutering a cat on the veterinary clinic, ovarian removal

That's a question we often get in the health forums from worried owners.

It can be difficult to assess whether an incision is just slightly red and swollen - as is to be expected after any surgery - and when you're actually seeing the first signs of infection setting in.

We're about to share some images here, collected from posts made by concerned cat owners in the forums. Before we do that, a word of caution.

No online advice can replace that of a qualified veterinarian. If in doubt, always contact your vet! Take a photo of the incision and send it to him or her.

They will be able to assess whether you need to bring Kitty in or not.

And don't forget to monitor other things as well. If your cat seems lethargic or if anything else worries you—call your vet as soon as possible.

Photos of healthy spay incisions

Warning: Graphic Content

One day after surgery:

Two days after surgery:

One week after surgery:

One week after keyhole spay surgery:

Photos of infected spay incisions

Infection usually takes time to set in. Bacteria in the wound require time to multiply and then the cat's immune system begins to react, creating an inflammatory reaction.

Warning: Graphic Content

Four days after surgery:

One week after surgery:

Three weeks after surgery:

In these cases, the members who posted the photos returned to let us know what their vet has said, so what you see are fully-diagnosed cats.

It can be hard for the untrained eye to see the difference. So once again, if you suspect any complication following a spay or neuter—or any other type of surgery for that matter—call your vet!


Related articles:

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11 comments on “Spaying And Neutering – What To Look For After Surgery

Liliana Elliot February 16, 2022
My 5 month old kitten was neutered 13 days ago, the first night I left him for 5 min with a cone, when I returned there was blood all over, I rushed him to the vet, she said he was alright,gave him sedatives. Day 12th, I took him out of the soft kennel, took his cone off ,he licked once and started bleeding,I'm worried!! I was told this is "scrotal hematoma" Has anyone had this experience? If so, what did you do? For how long? This is stressing ,he wants out.I don't know what to do?
Ann2224 November 12, 2021
I have had several females spayed and males neutered throughout my 30+ years of having cats and fostering them. The crazy thing is none of them wore a cone. I just put them in a quiet room for a day or two and that was all, and they all healed up and did well. Just recently I got a 6 month old male kitten neutered. He is the youngest of all cats I have gotten spayed/neutered. All my others were 9months to 1-2 years old. I was told to get a cone for him as in the regular procedure to do when I picked him up. I did not get one since I had never needed one for my other 20+ cats. I only used a cone once for a hip surgery. I had him in a quiet place, but he is an active kitten and I heard some thumping around. Went to check on him and his incision opened on each end with tissue protruding out. I called his vet. Of course they were mad I did not have cone on him. Shame on me! I do take responsibility. After all, he is younger and more crazy! So I had to pay same rate to get him Sedated and stitched up again (lesson learned!). They also charged me for one of their floppy thin fabric/paper-like annoying collars that he also stumbled over. At least the soft cones won’t scratch him if he tried to lick, but that cone slid off him twice so I had to make it an inch shorter to prevent him from stumbling over it and cut the tie off that it was tied with to add fabric sticking velcro to so I could make it as tight as I wanted without choking the poor guy! It worked for a day but he looked miserable in it. I did spend time sitting with him with it off while letting him eat and get some rest from it while keeping eye on him, giving him plenty of luvvies. Anyway, I gave in and got him another cone. A plastic one with punch-through hole fasteners. I got an extra small one which left an annoying overlap, so I cut that part off up to the part I needed to fasten to. At least with the fabric/paper-like one, he was able to eat with it on, but the hard plastic one was more narrower around the face and bulky, so it has to be removed for him to eat and drink and get a break from with my supervision which I do 5-6 times a day. Another good thing about using the cone is that it makes the cat much less active so he does not bust his jewels open again. The hard plastic one was also tinted smoky color so It took him a while to realize he could only see forward in it, knocking into everything. It did eventually after a day, pop off him from his moving around, so I now keep the outer end popped in and the inner neck one fastened with a small zip tie and cut the end of it so it does not get in his way when he lays his head down. I also do not have it so tight it chokes him. I leave him about half inch space so when he lays his head down forward it is not choking him. But now every time I take it off, I have to put a new zip tie on it. No biggie, just need to have a bunch of zip ties around. At least it gets the job done (no licking and no crazy play or jumping).
    atom123456 August 24, 2022
    If you do not mind me asking you a question. My female cat which is 3 years old was spayed sunday. tonight tuesday evening the first day without pain meds she vomited after eating twice. her appetite is good she just ate a little more. Do you think that this could be related to the pain meds or should i seek medical attention for her?
white shadow December 15, 2018
@Anne - you might consider an edit to this article.... I'm not aware of any pain control/relief "creams" that can be used in a trans-dermal application for cats.............. And, the leadup to that in the article says "try...transdermal creams that absorb through the skin" - there are "human" trans-dermal creams for muscle/arthritic pain relief.....I'd hate to think of a 'newbie' reading that and reaching for one of those which are highly toxic to cats! Perhaps that paragraph could be re-written. ("pain patches" are highly regulated opiod drug applications, are unreliable, and only available through, "try" doesn't fit those either)
Baheera October 18, 2018
Baheera said:
I have a 6 month old male cat who was neutered today. When we got home I realized he left a spot of blood every time he sat down. His gums are still pink, but I'm still worried he's bleeding too much. He has an e cone but he's still trying to lick his wound and I'm worried his cone is scratching it. Any advice?
I called right after I notice the bleeding. the vet said to check if he was actively bleeding and if his gums turned white. His guns look good so that helps me relax, but hard to tell if his bleeding is active or not
tarasgirl06 October 18, 2018
Baheera said:
I have a 6 month old male cat who was neutered today. When we got home I realized he left a spot of blood every time he sat down. His gums are still pink, but I'm still worried he's bleeding too much. He has an e cone but he's still trying to lick his wound and I'm worried his cone is scratching it. Any advice?
The standard procedure in a male neuter is not to place stitches, so it's very possible he is bleeding a little so soon after his surgery. If you are concerned, which you are, strongly suggest calling your/his vet and describing what is occurring.
Baheera October 18, 2018
I have a 6 month old male cat who was neutered today. When we got home I realized he left a spot of blood every time he sat down. His gums are still pink, but I'm still worried he's bleeding too much. He has an e cone but he's still trying to lick his wound and I'm worried his cone is scratching it. Any advice?
Anne May 28, 2017
Brian K said:
So how are you supposed to do post op follow ups on feral trap and release cats?
That is an excellent question. It's worth a thread in the Feral Care forum to see what vets are doing in various areas. But yes, the options @tarasgirl06 mentioned are what I know of as well. All the more reason to TNR only with a vet that has some experience in working with feral cats.
tarasgirl06 May 27, 2017
Brian K said:
So how are you supposed to do post op follow ups on feral trap and release cats?
Most vets use dissolvable sutures in ferals that do not require a follow-up for removal of stitches. Some use the left lateral flank spay incision for this reason. Others make the incision in the more usual area, only requires one or two sutures. They dissolve in time and the cat less likely to have post-op problems. In the male, the incision usually does not require any sutures at all. Be sure to ask the vet prior to the appointment about these things, and also about any fasting period.
Brian K May 27, 2017
So how are you supposed to do post op follow ups on feral trap and release cats?
tarasgirl06 May 26, 2017
Unbelievable and unforgivable that any vet would release a newly-spayed or -neutered cat without post-op instructions and contact information for all hours/days. Our vets ALWAYS do this and I would not go to one who doesn't.

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