Anesthetic Recovery in Cats

    How cats recover from anesthesia depends upon three things:  1)What drugs where used for the anesthesia.  2) How long the cat was anesthetized. 3) How quickly the cat can clear the anesthetic agent from their body.  Anesthetics come in two forms, injectable and gas.  When I anesthetize a cat, I start with an sedative to calm them down and another medication to control their pain.  After it has taken effect, I give them another injection to induce anesthesia.  While they are unconscious, I place a trach tube down their throat and then hook them up to an anesthetic machine that keeps them asleep with a mixture of gas and oxygen.  When surgery is over, the gas is turned off but they are still kept on oxygen until they show signs of waking up such as blinking, swallowing, twitching and more muscular tone in their jaws.  Most cats will wake up after 5-10 minutes of straight oxygen therapy.   Since they can’t control their body temperature when anesthetized, they are cold when waking up.  We wrap them in warm towels and provide supplemental heat until they are back to normal.  After surgery, I want the cat to remain quiet.  The cat is transferred back to their hospital cage to sleep it off.

    When you pick up your cat after surgery, here is what you need to know.  Many of the medicines used to control pain will make them groggy for several hours.  Separate your cat from other animals and allow them to rest.  Give them a space of their own like a crate, bedroom or bathroom to sleep it off.  Offer small amounts of water and food but do not force them to eat or drink.  Give medications as directed by your veterinarian.  During anesthesia, your cat’s eyes were treated with lube to protect them.  The lube is messy and makes the cat looks like it was crying.  This is normal.  Simply wipe the excess of with a damp cloth.  Iodine solutions are often used to clean the surgical site.  The yellow stains on your cat’s skin are iodine, not urine.  Lastly, anesthesia often makes cats more clingy and emotional.  My rule of thumb is for every hour of anesthesia, the cat will be needy for a month.  

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Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.