As a pet parent, sending your cat in for surgery can be a stressful experience. Even when it is a routine procedure such as a spay or neuter, it is natural to be nervous when your furry family member needs an operation. Here at North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic in San Mateo, 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 emergency care veterinarian, we can help! Call us at 650-535-3557. 

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. Removing a mass or growth is an example of a non-elective surgery. Most dental surgeries are non-elective. In general, if your cat needs surgery, and you are able to schedule an appointment a few days or weeks in advance, the procedure is a non-elective procedure. 

Emergency surgeries or procedures are critical to a cat’s survival. Treatment for traumatic injuries is one of the most common types of emergency surgery.  Other problems that require emergency surgical or procedural intervention are urinary or intestinal blockage, or any other life-threatening condition diagnosed by a veterinarian. 

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
  • Urethral obstruction
  • Gastronomy 
  • Wound and fracture repair
  • Cat eye surgery

Will cats need laboratory work performed before having surgery?

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

What does a veterinarian look for in the pre-surgery laboratory work?

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

In pre-surgery laboratory work we check: 

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

Evaluating the blood result values provides us with information that helps us anticipate how your cat will be able to handle anesthesia and the procedure or surgery. The laboratory results informs us on how we might mitigate any concerns regarding sedatives or anesthetics used for the procedure or surgery and helps us assess how well they will recover from their procedure and the anesthesia. 

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

You will need to withhold food from your cat for a specified period before surgery. Withholding food after a specific time ensures your cat’s safety while under anesthesia, so it is essential to follow our instructions.  For emergency surgeries where they may not have been enough time to withhold food, special medications and anesthetic precautions will be implemented. 

Before your cat has surgery, the veterinarian 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. 

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, pulse oximeters (measuring oxygen saturation) and EKGs, and ensure your pet’s heart and respiratory rates and oxygen levels remain stable throughout the procedure. The veterinarian performing the surgery provides secondary monitoring to ensure 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, an individual animal's response to anesthetics, 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 review details with you 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 is 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. Keep them indoors. 

Pay close attention to the discharge instructions we provide and do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Keep an Elizabethan collar on if so instructed. 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 Mateo, CA, we are here to discuss your cat’s surgical needs and address any questions or concerns you may have. Call us at 650-535-3557 today.