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Whether your cat is recovering from a routine surgery like a spay or neuter or something unexpected like an abdominal obstruction, half the feat is keeping all four paws on the ground. That’s because jumping around and zoomies can negatively impact the healing process.
While the timeline depends on the surgery, your vet should let you know how long you should limit your cat’s movement for. For a non-invasive spay or neuter surgery, Elizabeth Bales, DVM, says “Your cat can start jumping and playing again after 14 days.” However, a more invasive procedure, like bone removal, may take up to 6 weeks.
So how do you keep your feisty feline happy yet calm during this time?
The best way to keep your cat from jumping after surgery is to closely monitor them and restrict movement. Restricting movement for the recommended time will allow your cat’s incision sites to heal properly and prevent internal injuries. Bales, who is a veterinarian for Tably, also tells us that the key to a successful recovery is creating a safe environment and providing your cat with limited-activity enrichment toys.
We break down nine different ways to keep your cat from jumping after surgery. Plus, how to limit other unwanted behaviors until they heal completely.
Closely Monitor Your Cat After Surgery
When your cat returns home from surgery, they’ll have a prescription for pain meds and a dose already in their system. Pain management is key to keeping your cat comfortable after surgery, but it can also pose a few dangers.
Side effects of some painkillers could include the slowing of your cat’s reflexes, making everyday activities like jumping to their favorite perch dangerous. You might even find that your cat is more active than they should be after surgery. That’s because, thanks to good pain management, they don’t realize anything is amiss.
Seeing your kitty act normal may be a sign that they’re taking their surgery in stride, but as pet parents, you’ll want to be proactive about preventing active behavior. Monitor your cat to anticipate their movements and curb any energetic behaviors before they start. You may even need to rearrange your house or put away certain toys (more on this below).
If you must leave for extended periods, consider hiring a pet sitter to engage in low-activity cuddles or invest in a large crate to restrict jumping and promote rest.
Remove All Cat Trees Or Climbing Apparatuses
To prevent your cat from jumping after surgery, remove any tempting perches like cat trees, scratching posts, and window perches. This also includes chairs and cover tables if your cat is fond of reaching those areas.
You may even consider making the kitchen a cat-free zone if your cat is a counter jumper. After considering all the climbing apparatuses, you may also find it easier to confine your cat to a room without elevated surfaces.
Furniture your cat will appreciate after surgery includes plush beds, cozy cat caves, and boxes just for them. Ask your vet if lounging in the hammock is OK. A cat hammock that can be stepped into (not climbed or jumped into on a window) may be an approved post-surgery activity, depending on the operation. The key is to avoid excess pressure at your cat’s incision site.
The length of time between your cat’s surgery and when they can use their favorite tree depends on the type of surgery and location of the incision. Don’t be afraid to call your vet for confirmation before re-introducing any physically stimulating furniture post-surgery.
Put Away Pouncing and Flopping Toys
As much as all cats love interactive wands that send them pouncing into the air, they’re not a post-surgery-approved toy. In fact, you’ll want to put away any toy that sends your cats into a frenzy, including catnip kickers, bouncy cat springs, and flopping fish.
But don’t fret. There are plenty of post-surgery toys your cat can play with.
When purchasing toys for your cat to enjoy after surgery, think of mentally stimulating puzzles, ball-and-track games, and crinkly tunnels. Many, like the Pet Amazing Treat Maze and the Petstages Tower of Tracks, do not require large movements for fun. They help tire out your cat by engaging in their instincts to sniff and scratch.
Playtime after surgery should be supervised and paused if it gets too rowdy.
Keep Your Cat Indoors
Outdoor cats can face many hardships that indoor cats don’t—including predators, fights with other cats, extreme heat or extreme cold, parasites, and infections—just to name a few. When your cat is recovering from surgery, these hardships can easily become life-threatening.
While the amount of time your adventurous feline needs to stay indoors after surgery varies by procedure, rest and recovery should always take place inside the home.
If you’ve got a door dasher on your hands, prevent your cat from jumping out the door by blocking the exit route with a baby gate. The Animal Humane Society also suggests working on spot training with a clicker and treats. Training is a low physical effort exercise for cats but high in mental stimulation—a perfect combination for post-surgery recovery.
Reduce Exposure to Loud Noises
Cats have an amazing sense of hearing that allows them to hear things we humans can’t. Loud, unexpected noises can make skittish cats jump or run away, especially if they’re already feeling off.
To keep your cat calm after surgery, reduce loud, unfamiliar sounds by playing white noise or choosing your movie night picks wisely. Sounds that are said to promote relaxation in cats include Classical Music for Pets.
Pro-tip: If you play video games, you may want to avoid ones that visually or audibly excite your kitty. Games that feature other animals or flickering and flying components may be worth avoiding as your cat recovers.
Keep Your Cat Away From Other Cats Or Pets
If you live in a multi-pet household, your vet will likely recommend keeping your pets separated during recovery. From playtime to bickering, and thoughtfully grooming one another, household pets can unintentionally cause havoc to your recovering cat’s incision.
If your pets are highly bonded, consider swapping beds, blankets, and other belongings for comforting smells while they remain apart.
Use A Cat Calmer
Plug-in and spray calming pheromones can be used to destress and calm your cat. Makers of synthetic calming pheromones have replicated the chemicals that moms and kittens give off—and the chemicals your cat gives off when she rubs against your leg. These cat calming pheromones can help your cat recognize they are safe to relax.
Other products, like Purina’s Calming Care, sprinkle on your cat’s favorite food. Once eaten by your kitty, it works with your cat’s gut microbiome to promote calm behavior.
Note: Pheromones, including synthetic ones, are species-specific. Cats will react to the pheromones particular to them, but humans and dogs won’t notice them.
Confine Them To A Crate
For active cats who can’t be corralled, crates may be your best answer.
My heart broke a little when the orthopedic surgeon said that my active cat would need to recover in a crate for about six weeks following her luxating patella surgery. Luckily, not all crates are created equally—large dog crates offer ample room and two can attach together for an even larger recovery space. Crating your cat after major surgery is the best way to prevent infection, injury, or improper healing.
Use an Elizabethan Collar Or Soft Cone
An Elizabethan collar, also known as “the cone of shame”, may be annoying for both the cat and yourself, but Dr. Bale says it’s also one of the most important tools for safe recovery. Not only does this lampshade-like cone prevent your cat from messing with their itch stitches, but it can also discourage your cat from attempting to jump immediately after surgery. This is because the large cone requires cats to re-learn how to navigate the house.
Hard cones are the fool-proof way to prevent injuries and trips to an emergency vet due to re-opened stitches, especially ones on your cat’s face. Soft cones should be used with extra supervision and approval from your vet. Cats can easily move a soft cone, so if cat parents of aggressive scratchers or lickers may want to avoid this option.
Lucky for us and our cats, the best e-collars for cats are now more comfortable, providing:
- padding to prevent neck irritation
- holes for easier breathing
- a wider cone shape to avoid irritating your cat’s whiskers
Your cat will be glad to discover that they can use an uncovered litter box normally while wearing a collar (remove the cover from covered litter boxes), but they might need practice and oversight when it comes to eating and navigating the house with an extra-large cone.
How to put an E-collar on your cat
- Assemble the e-collar first.
- Then, sit or stand beside your cat, placing them on a table if needed. Avoid facing your cat as you won’t have as much control. Instead, remain beside your cat facing the same direction.
- Using one hand to hold your cat, use your other hand to gently slide the cone over their head, pulling the ears forward to avoid any snags.
- Tie the cone at the neck, allowing enough space for two to three fingers to fit between the tied string and your cat’s neck.
The most effective e-collar is one that stays on. When choosing an e-collar for your cat, ensure that it’s the right size or can be easily adjusted to fit their neck. You’ll know the cone is the right length if it extends just past your cat’s nose.
Alternatives to E-collars for cats
Preventing your cat from messing with their incision site is a must, says Bales. “In a matter of seconds, a cat can cause a serious infection or even cause the incision to open. This can be life-threatening to your cat.” So, if your cat absolutely won’t wear an e-collar or soft cone, ask your vet if an alternative solution like a recovery body suit is right for them.
Give Your Cat Extra Attention
As pain meds wear off (or even before they do), your cat may notice something is off or uncomfortable. Giving your cat extra attention or cuddling time may help them feel better as they adjust to wearing a cone or body suit. Cuddling sessions are also a win-win scenario for monitoring your cat and making sure they’re not being active.
What Happens If My Cat Jumps After Surgery?
If your cat sneaks in a jump post-surgery, Bales says to stay calm and watch for any signs of distress. The jump may not have caused any damage to the incision site, but if you spot any signs of swelling, redness, or bleeding, call your vet right away. Other signs that your cat injured themselves jumping post-surgery include lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea. These signs also require immediate attention from your vet.
It’s not always easy to predict your cat’s activity or restrict their athletic nature, but with the help of your vet and a solid post-surgery plan, most feline surgeries will be straightforward and free of complications. Before leaving your vet’s office, be sure to ask what type of behavior to expect from your cat, including when your vet expects normal bowel movements and diet to return. For non-invasive surgeries like a spay or neuter, there may be little to no delay.
As long as you give your cat plenty of time to rest, restrict activity, and follow up with all scheduled post-operation appointments, they should be back to normal in no time.