Cat Spay Recovery Guide (with Incision Healing Photo Timeline)

First time having your female cat spayed? Worrying about the recovery process ahead?

Fretting over our cat’s health is all part of being a committed cat parent. I was an anxious wreck with my first female cat, too.

To help you provide the best recovery care for your cat, this article covers:

  • Aftercare instructions for a cat spay.
  • What a healing spay incision looks like, day by day.
  • DIY and store-bought alternatives, if the plastic pet cone doesn’t work for your cat.

Let’s get started!

Aftercare Guide for Cat Spay Recovery

You’ve made a vet appointment and sent your cat for her spay. What are some housing changes to be made?

What to prepare:

1. An isolation area

If you have multiple cats, it’s best to separate the spayed cat from the group during her recovery.

Spaying is, after all, an invasive surgery. Your cat’s immune system will be weakened and she may be more susceptible to diseases. Isolating her in another room is most ideal.

2. Pellet cat litter

Pellet-type cat litter is safest for post-op cats. Other types like sand litter may stick to (and contaminate) the incision site, affecting the healing process.

Paper cat litter brand: Green Kat
Green Kat’s paper litter is my long-time fav. Safe for cats with respiratory issues as well.

After the surgery, your vet calls and it’s time to pick up your cat! What should you give your cat when she arrives home?

What to do:

1. Lots of cage rest

Settle your cat in her cage. There’s no need to let her walk around and explore because actions like running and jumping risk opening up the incision.

As long as there is ample room in the cage for your cat to do her feline stretches and use her litter box, it’s perfectly fine.

Your spayed cat should have cage rest for 7 days.

2. Provide food in small, frequent meals

An hour after your cat comes home, you can give ¼ of your cat’s normal food portion. I usually wait another 1 to 2 hours before giving them another ¼.

Provide small, frequent meals over the next 7 days. Avoid changing your cat’s food abruptly during this period.

  • Tip #1: If your cat has a sensitive stomach (like mine does), I’d recommend that you cut their daily food intake by 25% for the first 3 days before going back to the normal amount.
  • Tip #2: I find that homecooked chicken broth helps boosts my cats’ energy. I simply boil some deboned chicken in water, then tear them into bite-sized pieces for cats. A bland recipe for humans, but cats love freshly cooked food!

3. Pain medication

Your vet will likely give you either liquid or tablet painkillers, so remember to feed this accordingly.

4. Keep the cat cone on

Your vet will put on a cone (or e-collar) to prevent your cat from licking and chewing the sutures at the incision site. Instead of just clasping the cone around the neck, they may also use ribbons to secure it around your cat’s shoulder, backpack-style.

Same as cage rest, keep the cone on your cat for a week.

If your cat slips out of the pet cone, or is in distress from wearing it, the later section also covers store-bought alternatives and DIY recovery suits.

What to observe:

1. Appetite

Your cat may have decreased appetite right after her surgery. Instead of kibble, you can try offering canned food or freshly boiled chicken meat to encourage her to eat.

However, if your cat still refuses to eat the next day, you should call your vet for further instructions.

Personally, my cats wolfed down all their food portions happily. In such cases, the most important thing is to never give more than you should. Remember: small, frequent meals. Reduce the daily amount during the first few days, if needed.

2. Litter box use

The old saying, “What goes in, must come out”. Nothing indicates a well-functioning cat like normal urine and stools.

Your cat’s poop schedule may take some time to return to normal though. For example, all 3 cats of mine only pooped 3 days after their surgery.

3. Behavior

In the first 12 hours, your cat will likely be woozy, slow and quiet due to anesthetic effects. Her pupils may also be in a slightly dilated state. (The expression is a little like Sokka after drinking cactus juice in that one Avatar episode.)

Your cat should slowly go back to her normal, cheeky self over the next few days.

Cat Spay Incision Healing Process (7 Days, Photo Timeline)

Here is a day-by-day timeline, showing Gracy’s incision healing.

Day 1 to Day 3 – Freshly stitched, the incision looks like a wrinkly line. Some redness. The skin looks soft and fragile.

Day 4 to Day 5 – The skin regains a little firmness as it recovers. The incision is much less wrinkly and fragile-looking. Redness slowly darkens as scabs start to form.

Day 6 – Some scabs start to fall off, leaving smooth, new skin.

Day 7 – Any remaining redness is dry and scab-like. Also, a lump … has formed.

Note: We joke that Gracy has Wolverine genes. She heals much faster than my first spayed female, Little Sister. For instance, Gracy’s Day 3 incision appearance was Little Sister’s Day 5.

Therefore, use the photos above as a reference only. It’s okay if your cat heals a little slower – what’s most important is progress. As long as there is no redness or inflamed swelling, your cat’s body will do its thing.

Now … the lump.

Why A Lump Forms After Your Cat’s Spay?

lump at incision after cat spay
Little Sister’s lump started on Day 5.

In most cases, the lump forming after a cat spay is a harmless event. Before panicking (and jumping right into PetMd’s doomsday prediction), make a quick call to your vet for direct confirmation.

Here’s the answer from my vet. In layman’s terms, she explains: It’s simply the reaction of your cat’s body after those layers of skin (tissue and fat) were stitched together. As long as your cat shows:

  • No incision redness
  • No signs of pain
  • Healthy appetite
  • Normal urine and poop

The lump will flatten and disappear after 1 to 2 weeks. In the meantime, ensure that your cat continues to get lots of rest. The lump takes longer to go away if your cat jumps and zooms around the house.

Since the initial 7-day period has passed, what I did was restrict my cat to one room, where there were no cat trees, sofas or anything tall for her to leap from one point to the next. I also removed toys for the time being, so she can only lounge and walk around.

Including the lump recovery period, it takes at least 14 days for a cat to completely heal after being spayed.

Alternatives to Cat Cones

Ah yes, the infamous cone of shame.

After we got back home, Little Sister wriggled her way out of it within 10 minutes. It was the same with Gracy. Well, cats are flexible creatures.

We tried putting it back, but they were very stressed out about it. They also had difficulty drinking and eating food, even if it was on our palms.

Honestly, I have no idea how anyone keeps the plastic cone on their cat for 7 – whole – days.

Time for alternatives.

#1: Soft cone (Buy from pet stores)

cat soft cone after spay surgery
Soft cone. Your cat will probably feel disgusted by the designs but it’s for her safety.

The soft cone feels plush-like. It’s big enough to stop your cat from licking the incision, but small and flexible enough to be pressed against bowls so she can reach her food easier.

However, if your local pet shop doesn’t sell that and you need an immediate solution within the next hour*, here’s a DIY cat onesie tutorial.

*Me. I was in this situation.

#2: DIY Cat Post-Op Onesie (Tutorial)

diy cat onesie tutorial for cat spay recovery

What you need:

  • Old T-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Pen
  • Needle and thread

Slip your cat into the onesie. Use the T-shirt yarn to tie ribbon knots around her back. There you go!

diy cat recovery onesie
diy cat post op recovery onesie
Little Sister agrees with this onesie.

These are the overall measurements I use for Little Sister’s onesie:

how to diy cat recovery suit measurements

Caring for Your Cat After Spaying

To sum up, the 3 keys to smooth recovery are small meals, lots of rest and making sure your cat’s incision isn’t disturbed while it heals.

As we end this article, let’s address some common concerns after a cat spay.

1. Will my cat’s personality change after spaying?

Some say that cats become more affectionate or calmer after being spayed. Personally, my cats’ personality never changed at all. Their individual quirks are 100% the same.

The only difference is that they lose their “on heat” behaviors. They don’t meow loudly as though they’re using a megaphone. Or roll around the floor, low-crawling with their tails to the side *ahem*.

So don’t worry, your cat will be the same feline you know even after her spay.

2. How long does it take for my cat’s fur to grow back?

Gracy’s white tummy tuft regrows perfectly after her spay.

After spaying, a thin layer of fur will start to grow within 1 to 2 weeks. To achieve full fluff, it takes around 6 weeks.

If your cat has a special marking on her abdomen area, don’t worry – it’ll grow back at the exact same spot, too!

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