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Caring After Illness or Surgery

While your cat is recovering from illness or surgery, she will need extra care and attention. She'll need lots more sleep, rest, and peace. During recovery, you'll notice that she seems weak and spends more time than usual resting or sleeping. This is a natural reaction to illness or surgery, and helps her to conserve energy and mend tissues while her body is getting back to normal.

While she is in recovery, you'll have to give your cat her medicines, check her surgical wound, or change her bandages. And you'll have to be very careful about her diet. Your cat might need a special diet -- and you might have to encourage her to eat it.

Remember that she needs your help now -- and all the extra care you give her will keep her comfortable and let her recover as quickly as possible.

Special dietary needs
Medical needs of a convalescent cat
Giving medicines to your cat
Caring for bandages and dressings
When to contact your veterinarian

Special dietary needs
Good nutrition is especially important for a cat recovering from illness, injury, an operation, or a period without food. Without it, her wounds won't heal properly and may become infected. Also, if she's eating well, her body won't use its own important tissues as energy sources.

All cats require a nutritionally balanced diet, but during convalescence, your cat's needs will change -- her normal diet may not provide the correct balance of nutrients she needs. And she may need encouragement to eat.

Proteins contain amino acids which are the major building blocks of muscle tissue. The convalescing cat may require higher amounts of protein than the healthy cat does.

Fats and proteins are excellent sources of energy, which may be needed in larger amounts during convalescence to support your cat's ability to repair tissues affected by illness, injury, or surgery, and to fight infection. Your recovering cat's diet may need to contain higher levels of these energy-providing nutrients.

You may notice your cat has lost her appetite during her recovery period. A high-fat diet may help. Food with a higher fat level is "concentrated" so your cat can eat smaller amounts of it and still receive the higher levels of energy and nutrients she needs.

Diets designed for convalescence must also have the correct balance of minerals and vitamins to avoid the depletion of these nutrients in the body. Because recovering animals may eat very little, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet for your cat that provides all her dietary needs in a concentrated form.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet for your cat. It will contain all the nutrients and energy a convalescent cat needs, and may be concentrated. A concentrated diet is important for a cat with a decreased appetite, for with it, she will receive all the nutrients she needs even if she eats less than normal. Veterinary hospitals often feed cats concentrated diets and your veterinarian may want you to continue this diet at home during the convalescence period.

Your veterinarian may recommend a liquid diet, especially for cats with swallowing problems.

Always have fresh drinking water available for your cat. If your cat finds it difficult to (or simply cannot) move, remember to bring the water to her.

Most concentrated diets are formulated to be particularly palatable so that your recovering cat is tempted to eat -- however, you may still have to encourage her. The following tips may help:

  • Give her small, frequent meals, dividing the daily food allowance into two to four meals of fresh food.
  • Warm the food gently to just below body temperature. Make sure it isn't too hot.
  • Leave the food in your cat's dish for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then, if she is no longer interested, remove it. She is more likely to eat fresh food offered later on.

Medical needs of a convalescent cat
Keep a close eye on your cat during her convalescence. Stroke and groom her gently, looking for any changes in her coat or skin. Look for redness or discharge around any healing injury or surgical scar, and watch for weight loss or gain, lumps or swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice these symptoms or anything else unusual.

You may have to give your cat medicine during her recovery, or change her bandages, according to your vet's advice.

Giving medicines to your cat
Always give the full course of treatment for any drug your veterinarian prescribes. Don't stop giving the medicine because your cat seems better. Your cat may become worse, and future treatments may be more difficult. If your cat reacts badly to any drug, talk to your veterinarian immediately.

Ask your veterinarian to show you how to give the medicine. Try to give tablets to your cat as gently as possible, and praise or reward her once she has swallowed the medication. If your cat is eating, you may be able to put some medications into her food. (Your veterinarian can tell you if this is possible.)

Caring for bandages and dressings
Your cat may need bandages, splints, casts and other dressings. They protect wounds from dirt and from your cat's natural tendency to lick wounds. Make sure that the dressing stays clean and dry. Keep your cat indoors while she's convalescing.

When to contact your veterinarian
Contact your veterinarian when you see any of the following signs and symptoms in your convalescing cat:

  • Collapse or convulsions
  • Increased frequency of urination or increased amounts of urine produced.
  • Greatly increased thirst and water intake
  • Straining or crying when using the litter box, or spending an abnormally long time in the litter box
  • Persistent coughing or abnormal breathing
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite for longer than 24 hours
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Swelling, bad odor, or change in color of the skin around a dressing
  • The dressing slips out of place, falls off, or is chewed off
  • Insistent chewing of the dressing or licking the wound
  • Lameness or a change in the way your cat walks or runs
  • Signs your pet is in obvious discomfort: persistent head shaking, excessive scratching, pawing at ears, or rubbing its rear along the ground -- these may be signs of distress.

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