Why Is It Important To Feed A Cat After Surgery?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this article, I will explore why it is so crucial to feed a cat after surgery and provide some tips for enticing their interest in food during this recovery period.

As a cat owner, one of the most stressful situations is having your furry companion undergo surgery. You no doubt have many questions and concerns swirling through your mind – will everything go okay? What if there are complications during or after the procedure? And perhaps most importantly, how can I properly care for and support my cat to aid their recovery? Ensuring they get adequate nutrition is a key part of the healing process. While your instincts may tell you to withhold food for a period after surgery, it’s actually very important to start feeding your cat fairly soon afterwards. In this post, we’ll explain why getting food into your cat’s system is vital after a surgical procedure, and provide some guidelines for feeding schedules and dietary considerations to keep your cat on the road to recovery.

Why Is It Important To Feed A Cat After Surgery?

Feeding a cat after surgery is essential for several reasons:

Post-operative Nutrition: After surgery, your cat needs vital nutrients to aid in the healing process. A diet rich in protein helps repair tissues and accelerate healing.

Energy Requirement: The body’s metabolic rate increases after surgery. This means your cat will need more energy than usual, which can only be met with proper food intake.

Medication Management: Many medications should be taken with food to reduce stomach upset. 

Immune System Support: Nutritious food helps support your cat’s immune system, making it stronger and more able to fight off any infections.

Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is important after surgery to prevent additional strain on your cat’s body, particularly if the surgery relates to the bones or joints. 

In short, feeding your cat post-surgery aids in recovery and ensures your pet regains its strength and health more swiftly. Always consult with your vet to determine the best diet for your cat during the recovery process.

How Long Should I Wait Before Feeding My Cat After Surgery?

The timing of feeding your cat after surgery can vary depending on the procedure and your pet’s overall health. In general, most vets recommend that cats with anesthesia should wait at least two hours before offering a small amount of food. This waiting period allows the anesthesia to wear off, and it helps to avoid nausea and vomiting that can occur if a cat eats too soon. Always follow your vet’s specific instructions for post-operative care, including feeding guidelines, to ensure a smooth recovery for your pet.

What Types Of Food Should I Give To My Cat After Surgery?

Dining In | Sam a week and a half ago after his surgery to g… | Flickr

After surgery, your cat may need a special diet to support recovery. Here are some types of food you should consider:

  • High-Protein Food: A diet rich in protein aids in cell repair and boosts recovery. Look for cat food that lists a source of animal protein, like chicken or fish, as the first ingredient.
  • Easily Digestible Food: Post-surgery, your cat’s digestive system might be sensitive. Foods that are easily digestible, like specially formulated recovery diets, can help in such cases. These foods often contain cooked, finely ground meats for ease of digestion.
  • Prescription Diet: In certain cases, your vet might recommend a specific prescription diet. These diets are formulated to support recovery from specific types of surgeries or illnesses.
  • Fortified Food: Some cat foods are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals that support healing and overall health. 
  • Wet Food: Wet cat food is typically easier for cats to eat and digest, especially after a mouth or dental surgery. Additionally, it helps in hydration, which is crucial post-surgery.

How Often Should I Feed My Cat After Surgery?

After a surgical procedure, it’s crucial to adjust your cat’s feeding schedule to aid recovery. Typically, you should begin by offering your cat small amounts of food every few hours, rather than providing the usual two or three larger meals a day. This approach can help prevent nausea and vomiting, which can be common post-surgery. As your cat’s appetite returns to normal, you can gradually shift back to the regular feeding schedule. However, always adhere to your vet’s advice regarding feeding frequencies as they will consider your pet’s specific condition and needs. Remember, hydration is equally important, so ensure your cat drink water at all times.

Can I Give My Cat Treats After Surgery?

While it’s generally best to keep your cat’s diet consistent after surgery, giving your cat treats post-surgery might be permissible depending on the nature of the surgery and your pet’s overall health. Cat treats can sometimes help entice a cat to eat if they’re showing a lack of appetite post-surgery. However, it’s crucial that these treats are healthy and easy to digest. High-protein treats can be beneficial, but avoid treats high in fat or sugar, which can potentially upset your cat’s stomach. Always consult your vet before introducing treats or any new food into your cat’s post-operative diet. Additionally, make sure treats make up no more than 10% of your cat’s total daily caloric intake to maintain a balanced diet.

Are There Any Foods I Should Avoid Giving My Cat After Surgery?

Avoiding certain foods after your cat’s surgery is as crucial as feeding them the right diet. Here are some foods you should avoid giving your cat post-surgery:

  • Dry Food: If your cat had oral or dental surgery, dry food can be hard to eat and may cause discomfort. Stick to wet food until your vet says it’s okay to reintroduce dry food. You also can soften dry cat food and feed them little by little.
  • Dairy Products: Many cats are lactose intolerant, and dairy can cause digestive upset, especially when your cat’s system is already sensitive after surgery.
  • Fatty or Sugary Foods: Foods high in fat or sugar can upset your cat’s stomach and should be avoided, especially in the recovery period.
  • Raw Meat or Fish: Raw food can be a source of bacterial infection. Always serve fully cooked meat or fish to ensure safety, especially when their immune system might be compromised post-surgery.
  • Human Food: No matter how much your cat like human food, avoid giving them, as many of these foods can be harmful to cats. This includes foods containing onions, garlic, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and certain artificial sweeteners.
  • Non-Prescribed Supplements: Do not give your cat any supplements, including vitamins or minerals, without your vet’s approval. These might interfere with your cat’s recovery or prescribed medication.

How Can I Make Sure My Cat Is Eating Enough After Surgery?

Ensuring your cat eats enough after surgery is crucial for a smooth recovery. Here are some strategies you can use:

Monitor feeding: Keep a close eye on your cat during feeding times to ensure they are eating the food you provide. If possible, try to measure the food before and after feeding to understand how much they’re consuming.

Encourage appetite: If your cat is showing a lack of interest in food, try warming it slightly to enhance its aroma and make it more enticing. Changing the feeding location to a quiet, stress-free area can also help.

Small, frequent meals: Offering smaller meals more frequently can encourage your cat to eat more overall without feeling overwhelmed or nauseous.

Variety: Introducing a variety of flavors and textures (within the vet-approved diet) can stimulate your cat’s appetite. But remember, all changes should be gradual to avoid upsetting your cat’s stomach.

Hydration: Hydration aids digestion and nutrient absorption. Ensure to rehydrate your cat and offer wet food which has high water content.

Vet consultations: Regular check-ups with your vet can help monitor your cat’s post-surgery weight and overall health. Your vet can provide advice if your cat isn’t eating enough.

Use of appetite stimulants: If your cat is persistently refusing to eat, consult your vet about the possibility of using appetite stimulants. This should only be done under professional supervision.

Can I Mix Medication With My Cat’s Food After Surgery?

Mixing medicine for cats with the food post-surgery might seem like a convenient way to ensure they consume their prescribed treatment. However, whether it’s safe and effective can depend on several factors. Here are some points to consider:

Consult Your Vet: Before you decide to mix medication with food, it’s crucial to seek advice from your vet. They can guide you regarding the type of medication and its compatibility with food.

Medication Absorption: Some medicines need to be taken on an empty stomach for optimal absorption. Mixing such drugs with food can reduce their effectiveness.

Taste and Smell: Certain medications have a strong flavor or odor that may discourage your cat from eating the food. In such a scenario, using a pill pocket or a similar product might be a better alternative.

Incomplete Dosage: There’s always a risk that your cat might not finish the entire meal, leading to an incomplete dosage of medication. 

Medication-Food Interaction: Some foods may interact with certain medications, altering their effectiveness. Always check with your vet regarding potential interactions. 

Special Dietary Requirements: If your cat is on a specific post-operative diet, mixing medication with their food could disrupt this diet.

How Can I Help My Cat Regain Its Appetite After Surgery?

Helping your cat regain its appetite post-surgery is pivotal for a swift recovery. Here are a few steps to consider:

Serving Warm Food: Heating up the food can enhance its aroma and make it more appealing to your cat. However, ensure the food is just warm and not hot to avoid burning your cat’s mouth. 

Quiet and Calm Environment: Cats prefer to eat in a quiet and calm environment, away from noise and high footfall areas. This is even more important post-surgery when they might be feeling unsettled or anxious.

Rotating Foods: Offering your cat a variety of vet-approved foods can stimulate its appetite. Changing the textures and flavors can make mealtime more enticing.

Hand-Feeding: Hand-feeding can sometimes encourage your cat to eat. Begin by offering a small amount of food on your finger.  

Encourage Hydration: Dehydration can decrease appetite. Make sure your cat is drinking enough water and try offering wet food which has higher water content.

Regular Vet Check-ups: Regular vet visits can help monitor your cat’s recovery process. Your vet may suggest adjustments to your cat’s diet or prescribe appetite-stimulating drugs if necessary.

Gradual Diet Changes: Any dietary changes should be made gradually. A sudden switch in diet can further decrease appetite and cause gastrointestinal issues.

Use of Cat-Friendly Flavors: Some flavors are particularly appealing to cats, such as fish or chicken. Including these flavors in their diet can stimulate their appetite.

Encouraging Physical Activity: As your cat begins to recover, encouraging gentle play can help stimulate appetite. However, always follow your vet’s recommendations regarding post-surgery activity.


In conclusion, after exploring the numerous reasons why it is crucial to feed a cat after surgery, it is clear that proper nutrition plays a vital role in the recovery and overall health of our feline companions. Whether it’s providing essential nutrients for wound healing, preventing complications such as liver disease or promoting a faster recovery time, feeding our cats after surgery should never be overlooked. As pet owners, we have a responsibility to ensure our cats receive the best care possible and this includes providing them with adequate nourishment during their post-surgery period. So please take note and remember the importance of feeding your cat after surgery. It may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but it can make all the difference in their recovery process.