As a pet parent, sending your cat in for surgery can be a nerve-wracking experience. Even when it’s a routine procedure like a spay or neuter, it’s natural to be nervous when your furry family member needs an operation. Here at Animal Farm Pet Hospital in San Francisco, CA, we recognize the need for factual information for cat owners. We decided to create this resource to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about cat surgery. 

Please keep in mind that while the information below is factually correct, your cat’s specific healthcare needs are best addressed during an appointment. If your cat needs a veterinarian, we can help! Schedule their first appointment by reaching out to us at (415) 333-0813. 

When is cat surgery considered elective, non-elective, or an emergency?

As the name indicates, elective procedures are those that you are electing to do. They are not associated with life-or-death situations. In cats, the most common elective procedures are spaying and neutering. In some cases, dental procedures are elective, too. 

Veterinarians perform non-elective surgeries to ensure a pet’s health, but they are not emergent. Growth removal is an excellent example of a non-elective surgery. Most dental surgeries are non-elective, too. In general, if your cat needs surgery, but you can schedule an appointment a few days or weeks in advance, the procedure is a non-elective procedure. 

Emergency surgeries are critical to a cat’s survival. Traumatic injury treatment is the most common type of emergency surgery. If your cat needs surgery for a urinary or intestinal blockage or any other life-threatening condition, we consider the operation an emergency surgery.

What are the most common cat surgeries?

Spaying and neutering are the most common surgeries for cats. However, there are several other procedures we perform regularly. 

The most common cat surgeries include: 

  • Dental work
  • Tumor removal
  • Bladder surgery
  • Bladder stone removal
  • Intestinal foreign body surgeries
  • Wound and fracture repair
  • Cat eye surgery

Will cats need lab work done before having surgery?

As veterinarians, we strongly recommend pre-anesthetic lab work for all surgical patients. Running some tests before your cat’s procedure lets us assess their organ function and ensure they are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia safely. 

What will you as a veterinarian be looking for in the pre-surgery lab work?

We look for several things during pre-surgery lab work. Primarily, we screen to see if the internal organs are healthy enough to tolerate anesthesia. 

Things we check in pre-surgery lab work include: 

  • Red blood cell count (to check for anemia)
  • Clotting times
  • White blood cell count
  • Platelets
  • Protein levels
  • Electrolytes

Together, these things give us a clear picture that helps us anticipate how stable your cat will be during surgery. They also help us assess how well they will likely recover from their operation. 

What do I need to know before my cat has surgery?

You will need to withhold your cat’s food for a specified period before surgery. Withholding food after a specific time ensures your cat’s safety while under anesthesia, so it’s essential to follow our instructions. 

Before your cat has surgery, we will explain the procedure and what to expect in terms of aftercare. If you have any questions, we encourage you to ask. We are here to help you understand your cat’s healthcare needs so you can prepare. 

Who will be monitoring the cat while under anesthesia?

One of our highly trained veterinary technicians will monitor your cat while they are under anesthesia. They will keep a close eye on our monitoring equipment, including blood pressure monitors and EKGs, and make sure your pet’s heart rate and oxygen levels remain stable throughout the procedure. The veterinarian performing the surgery provides secondary monitoring, too, to make sure the patient is safe every step of the way. 

How long is recovery after a cat surgery?

Recovery times vary depending on the type of surgery and several other factors. Orthopedic surgeries often require several weeks — or even months — of recovery time, while male cats recover from neutering within a few days. On average, most soft-tissue surgeries have a 10 to 14-day recovery time. We will go over all of this in detail when discussing your cat’s procedure. 

What can I do to help my cat recover at home after cat surgery?

The best way to help your cat recover from any surgery is to make sure they get plenty of rest and maintain a low-stress environment. Whether it’s a few days or several weeks, every surgery requires healing time. Keeping your cat calm and not letting them be too active immediately after surgery facilitates healing and prevents injuries. 

Pay close attention to the discharge instructions we provide and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. If we send your cat home with a cone or collar, make sure it stays on. In some cases, we may recommend keeping your cat in a crate or kennel for a few days. We want to make sure that every patient recovers well, so you must follow our discharge instructions carefully. 

Do you still have questions about cat surgery? We can help! As veterinarians in San Francisco, CA, we’re here to discuss your cat’s surgical needs and address any questions or concerns you may have. Call us at (415) 333-0813 today.