The Cat Doctor

1037 West College Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95401


What You Need to Know Before Your Cat's Upcoming Surgery

Cat wearing surgical maskMany people have questions about various aspects of their cat's surgery, and we hope this information will help.  It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your cat's upcoming surgery.

Is the anesthetic safe?

Today's modern anesthetic agents and procedures have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here at The Cat Doctor, Dr. Simpson does a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering any sedative or anesthetic, to ensure that there won't be a problem.  We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your cat.

Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia.  Blood testing before surgery detects liver or kidney problems which could delay anesthetic recovery or problems which could delay healing.  Even apparently healthy animals can have organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing.  If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications.  Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.

We offer two levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your cat in.  For healthy patients less than 12 years old, we offer a preanesthetic screen which contains basic information required for proper health evaluation before any anesthetic procedure.  For healthy patients over 12 years old, we strongly recommend adding a urinalysis to screen for kidney disease.  Kidney disease is very common in older cats and it is possible to detect it months or years before blood tests become abnormal by doing a urine analysis.  For patients that have abnormalities on physical exam, a more comprehensive screen is recommended  because it gives the most information to ensure the safety of your pet.  For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, x-rays, or ultrasound exams may be required before surgery as well.

It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia.  You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery.  Water should be left down for the cat until the morning of surgery.

Will my pet have stitches?

For some surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin.  These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later.  Many surgeries, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches.  With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge.  Most cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for.  If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.  You may also need to limit your cat's activity level for a time and no baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.

Will my cat be in pain?

Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals.  Cats may not show the same symptoms of pain as people or dogs do; they usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it.  Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.  Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.

Because cats do not tolerate many standard pain medications as well as dogs or people, we are limited in what we can give them.  Tylenol is very toxic to cats and should never be given.  A single dose can be fatal.  But recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  Pain medication is standard for any major surgery including spay operations, and are given on a case by case basis.  Any animal that appears painful will receive pain medication as needed.  Pain medications may be sent home with the patient if needed.  Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.

What other decisions do I need to make? 

While your cat is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip.  If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please call ahead of time.  This is especially important if the person dropping the cat off for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the cat's care.

When you bring your cat in for surgery, we will need to 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available.  When you pick up your cat after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your cat's home care needs.

We will call you the night before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm the time you will be dropping your cat off and to answer any questions you might have.  In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your cat's health or surgery.