As a cat owner, you're in charge of your cat's spay aftercare. That means keeping your cat subdued for a few days and closely monitoring her incision.

By Austin Cannon
August 24, 2020
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Some cat owners thrive with multiple cats while others are content with just one, thank you very much. To make sure you don’t end up with a house full of kittens, you’ve decided to have your female cat spayed

But then what? 

After the procedure, cat spaying aftercare entails monitoring your cat for several days to make sure she’s recovering correctly. That means keeping an eye on the incision site, too. 

You should ask your veterinarian for a post-operation plan for your cat, but there are some general rules to follow, according to Lori Bierbrier, DVM and the senior medical director of community medicine for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Cat Spay Recovery Basics 

First, Bierbrier recommends readying an indoor space for your cat—away from other animals and people—to recover over the next several days or weeks. She’ll be on pain-relieving medication after the surgery, and the vet may send some home with instructions on how to administer it. 

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa advises feeding your cat a small amount of food the night after the surgery before returning to the regular amount the morning after. Don’t change her diet because effects of the change in food could mask more serious concerns from the surgery. 

You’ll have to keep a close eye on your cat and keep her from running and jumping for about two weeks or however long your veterinarian recommends, Bierbrier says in an email. 

If you have a cat who goes outside, you should keep her inside for 24–48 hours after the surgery, the Iowa ARL says. The anesthesia can deaden reflexes, making the outdoors more dangerous. 

Bierbrier says cat owners should call their vets if their cat experiences decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea after the surgery. 

Monitoring the Cat Spay Incision

An important part of your cat’s recovery is keeping the cat’s incision healthy, so you’ll want to check it daily. 

Spaying a cat is considered an invasive procedure. Doctors have to cut into the cat’s abdomen to remove her ovaries and uterus before closing the incision with several layers of sutures. 

Because of that incision, you shouldn’t bathe your cat for 10 days after the surgery, Bierbrier says. And your cat licking the incision can cause infections, so you may need an Elizabethan collar—otherwise known as the dreaded “cone of shame”—to keep her away from it. 

“If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your veterinarian,” Bierbrier advises. 

A small lump might pop up near the incision area, but it shouldn’t be worrisome as long as it’s not painful, swollen, red, or discharging any liquid. 

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, here’s what a healing cat spay incision should look: The edges of the incision should be touching each other, and the skin should be its usual color or “slightly reddish-pink.” It may be redder the first few days after the procedure.

Pale-skinned cats may also exhibit some bruising around the incision, but that’s normal. Blood may also seep out of the incision if your cat is active, which is why it’s a good idea to keep her subdued in the days following the surgery.

If you have any concerns about your cat's recovery after she's spayed, contact your vet for advice. They'll be able to help you understand what's normal for your cat after surgery and what may need medical attention.