After returning your cat home from a surgery, you are eager to return to normal with your cat, but she may not be up for it. On top of being weak and disoriented your cat may not want to eat anything.
In case your cat is not eating do not panic. Normally, cats who have just been spayed or in other surgery do not have the appetite to eat or drink. Usually vets do not recommend giving them food either. They should regain their appetite in about 24 hours and after that they should eat and drink willingly.
If your cat has had dental surgery you can also check our article on getting a cat to eat after tooth extraction.
Here are some tips to follow in case your cat is not eating after surgery.
What causes a cat to not eat after surgery
The general anesthesia administered to your cat will cause nausea that takes time to recover from. A period of reduced appetite can be associated both with the changes in routine and the effects of the anesthetic drugs on her stomach. It usually varies from cat to cat on how they would cope up from nausea, some cats may take up to 36 hours to completely recover and to start eating.
If your cat has just been spayed, vets will usually put an Elizabeth collar around its neck to prevent them from chewing their incision which will irritate her and cause her to lose appetite. Cats who are not used to cage confinement will also react the same way.
Pain after surgery
As pain may be a part of surgery, cats may not eat because of it. When she is given a light anesthesia or no follow-up, she may have some pain situation afterwards.
Her stomach might have been still adjusting because of fasting before undergoing surgery.
What if your cat seems sluggish and depressed after surgery
Some cats may take slow to recover, that may be the reason why she seems sluggish and depressed and that may lead to loss of appetite. It can take a few days for the effect of surgery to wear off completely.
If you notice your cat hiding, she may likely be experiencing pain. Examine her surgical site immediately and look for infections. Any excessive swelling, bruising, bleeding, and foul odor is not normal, take her back to the vet immediately!
What if your cat will not even want to drink
Similarly as with eating, if it has been over a day and she still does not drink, the situation can get dangerous and may lead to permanent organ damage. To do a dehydration test to your cat, hold the loose skin at the scruff of her neck and pull it upwards for a few seconds. If the skin goes back to its normal state, then she is well-hydrated. On the opposite, if it forms like a tent, she is possibly dehydrated.
Give her a small amount of water through his mouth using a dropper slowly. You can also put the drop of water to her paws so she can lick it.
If she throws up everything you have given her, take her back to the veterinarian immediately. The vet may give her an intravenous fluid infusion to combat the dehydration and calorie depletion.
I would recommend a water fountain such as the PetSafe Drinkwell (see on Amazon.com) to encourage them to drink. Cats prefer fresh and running water and having different spots to drink.
Additional tips regarding eating and drinking
1. Dietary Needs
Good nutrition is especially important for a cat recovering from surgery. They still have difficulty obtaining enough energy during this time. Ask your vet for instructions for an appropriate selection of cat foods that are easy to digest, high in energy, extra-rich in proteins, essential fats, vitamins and minerals.
You can also try giving her a vitamin paste such as Vetoquinol (see on Amazon.com) that has a high nutritional content and is easy to ingest.
2. Feed little and often
You may notice your cat has lost her appetite during her recovery period. Give her small, frequent meals, dividing the daily food allowance into two to four meals of fresh food. We need to bear this in mind and actively encourage them. Avoid presenting elderly and unwell cats with large portions of food.
3. Hand feeding
Try hand feeding him or put a small amount of food on your finger and touch it to his lips. Hand feeding or spoon feeding works great if your cat is still recovering from dental surgery. Take matters into your own hands and get messy. Sometimes your hand makes the perfect plate.
4. Company While Eating
Ensure your cat is comfortable and feeling secure. Sometimes they just want someone to sit with them. Unlike dogs, many cats enjoy being stroked or petted while they eat. It is always worthwhile doing this in moderation so that they don’t develop an aversion to eating alone.
4. Appetite Stimulants
If none of these tricks are successful and you still can’t get your cat to eat, your veterinarian may prescribe an appetite stimulant. Mirtazapine, Diazepam and Steroids are some of the common prescribed stimulants. Adding something different to the mix is sometimes necessary for your cat’s health.
5. Experiment with different food textures
If your cat is experiencing dental pain, he may reject the chunks that he used to eat. Mixing up the two textures in the same bowl works great or you can also add warm broth by mixing in some water. Once they recover, they may try to eat a variety of different textures again.
One of the biggest mistakes owners make is waiting too long to make a veterinary appointment for a cat that has stopped eating so do not postpone it too much. The food your cat eats plays an important role in her recovery and overall health and well-being.