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​Feeding your cat after surgery to support recovery

Adult cat standing in a vets office eating from a silver bowl.
Your cat's diet is one of the key ways you can give them a good start on the road to recovery. Find out here exactly how and what to feed your cat after surgery to support their health.

If your cat has recently had an operation, it's important to take care of them in the right way to give them the best chance of recovering quickly and effectively.

Surgery can be very difficult and traumatic for your cat, both mentally and physically. Its body will be working hard to repair and maintain its strength, so the diet you feed your cat—and how you feed it—is crucial.

How should I feed my cat after surgery?

Your cat's body and digestive tract is unlikely to be able to cope with the same amount of food as it was ingested pre-surgery. Digestion and proper absorption of nutrients from foods takes a lot of "work" from your cat's system, and this energy may be being directed elsewhere to speed the healing process.

Because of this, you should offer your cat half their normal portion of food and water to them around two hours after returning home from their surgery. Lots of cats don't eat anything after they've had surgery, so don't be alarmed; the next day, you can simply offer them the normal portion size to see if their appetite has improved.

If your cat vomits after eating their food on the same day as their surgery, ask your veterinarian to recommend the best way to progressively return your cat to their regular feeding plan.

Your cat may have to wear a protective collar to prevent them from licking or scratching their wound; make sure this doesn't interfere with eating and drinking, and if so remove it during meal times. Depending on the type of surgery your cat underwent, it may require assisted feeding through a gastronomy tube. If this is the case, talk to your vet about the best way to do this; you may need to use a wetter food and give your cat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid putting undue pressure on their digestion.

Adult cat standing indoors with a cone on eating from a white bowl.

What should I feed my cat after surgery?

Your vet might recommend you transition your cat to a "recovery" diet while they are getting better from their operation. Recovery diets are designed to give your cat all the nutrients it needs to return to full health while minimizing the digestive workload. These foods have increased amounts of protein, fat, and calories, making it an energy-dense food; this means your cat can eat smaller portions and still get everything it needs. The protein in the recovery diet aids in the growth and rebuilding of cells, and should be highly digestible so its easy to absorb. Many cats often lose their appetite after surgery, so any recovery food should be palatable and appetising to your cat, with an appropriately shaped kibble or pieces, to encourage them to eat.

When should I take my cat back to the vet after surgery?

With the right care and diet, your cat will hopefully be back to full health soon after its operation. However, if you notice any of these symptoms, it's essential you return to the vet:

  • Bleeding, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Consistent loss of appetite or water intake
  • Depression, weakness, or lethargy
  • Shivering and a change in body temperature
  • Unsteadiness on their feet
  • Labored or painful breathing

Taking extra care of your cat after a surgical procedure means they're more likely to recover faster and be back to their regular selves sooner. If you're unsure about how to take the best care of them, ask your vet for advice.

  • Digestive health

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