Cat Anesthesia

What to Know When Your Cat Needs Anesthesia

If your cat has an upcoming surgery and will be undergoing anesthesia, you’ve likely turned to the internet to learn more. As a responsible and caring pet parent, you’ve perhaps got questions and concerns about how the veterinary team will keep your valued furry family member safe during the procedure. We’re glad you found us! Here at GeniusVets, we believe that pet care information should come directly from veterinarians, as other articles you see online could come from well-meaning yet ill-informed pet bloggers and the like. That’s why we decided to send FAQs on cat anesthesia to veterinarians, and we’ve compiled their responses to provide you with helpful information you can trust.

We sourced the cat anesthesia information below from leading veterinarians, but we encourage you to speak with your veterinarian. If you don’t currently have a veterinarian, use the GeniusVets Directory to find a trusted vet near you.

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a medically-induced loss of consciousness or the ability to feel pain or respond to the stimulus.

What is the difference between anesthesia and sedation?

The main difference lies in the level of consciousness, so sedation is milder, and the cat might still be able to move around, but the sedation is taking the edge off. In contrast, general anesthesia is when the cat is fully unconscious and does not feel pain.

Why would my cat need anesthesia?

The different types of procedures that might require anesthesia would be things that cause pain, like surgery. Your veterinarian might need a wound stitched up or repaired, x-rays, or dental procedures where they need anesthesia to clean the cat’s teeth. These are cases in which the cat won't hold their mouth open as we need them to. Those are some reasons we would want to anesthetize your pet.

How do I know that anesthesia is safe for my cat?

When we anesthetize any pets, we complete a physical exam. That carries a lot of weight in figuring out if your cat is healthy, if they're able to be anesthetized, or if they have any heart problems. We might also do blood work or take x-rays to see what their risks are while under anesthesia.

What do I need to know before my cat goes in for an anesthetic procedure?

You need to know what time to bring your pet in for their procedure so that they’re prepared and the doctors and staff are ready to receive your cat. One of the things you might want to know is how to prepare your cat for surgery, so we will talk about fasting your cat overnight, meaning withholding food. Then usually, afterward, you will go home with instructions, and they'll speak thoroughly on that procedure.

We usually have a check-in time where the tech goes over the charges and the procedure that we're doing to make sure that you understand everything. Then, many times, the doctors come in and answer any questions before the surgery.

Most of the time for anesthesia, we've already met with you, and we've already performed that initial exam on your pet and addressed any concerns we might have. That way, we develop that relationship with you beforehand, and you can be more relaxed knowing what the procedure entails.

What are some possible complications of anesthesia that my cat could experience?

Anesthesia is not without risk, but we do take every measure to minimize those risks. When we're performing general anesthesia, we're taking away control of their breathing. So if they have any underlying respiratory or heart disease, that might be a risk. If they have any other types of sicknesses, that also puts them at higher risk for anesthesia.

What will you do to ensure that my cat is safe while undergoing this procedure?

Some of the things we do to keep your cat safe would occur before anesthesia, like the physical exam, blood screening, and x-rays. During anesthesia, most veterinary clinics will have a trained veterinary staff member that is with your cat. So not only are they connected to certain machines, as you would see at a human hospital, but you also have a person that knows what they're doing and is listening to your pet and monitoring your pet for any changes.

The veterinary staff member will monitor the following levels while your cat is under anesthesia are:

  • Heart rate
  • Respiratory rate
  • Oxygenation levels
  • Body temperature


As notes, the the three goals of monitoring your cat while under anesthesia are to:


1. Ensure adequate tissue perfusion with well-oxygenated blood

2. Prevent pain before, during, and after a surgical procedure

3. Provide a smooth and rapid recovery from anesthesia/surgery

And we might do things like changing the depth of the anesthesia, making them less anesthetized. Another thing we do is place an IV catheter so we have access to the cat’s vein if we need to give them any medications to help their heart rate or help them if they're having trouble.

What type of care should I provide my cat as they're recovering or coming out of anesthesia?

Immediately afterward, of course, your cat will be in the hospital, and we'll monitor them. So we handle that initial care at the hospital. We tend to send our pets home when they're a little more awake, although some are still drowsy. It depends on the type of anesthesia used, whether it was light or heavy. It also depends on the length of anesthesia and sometimes how that individual cat handles it. If your cat's overweight, then they tend to take a little longer to recover.

If your cat is still drowsy, we'll want you to keep them in a confined area with perhaps low light and low noise—the less stimulus, the better for them. Keep them in an area that's safe, meaning that they can't jump up on something tall and fall off if they're still a little drunk or drowsy. Then also consider other pets because the other pets might be excited; they've missed them all day, so they're ready to jump on them and play, and your pet that was anesthetized may not be prepared for that. We’ll typically tell you to keep the recovering cat quiet and confined and take care of them that way. Of course, follow your post-op instructions carefully to ensure a smooth recovery for your cat.

If you have further questions about cat anesthesia, please reach out to your vet. If you don’t already have one, we are here to help you find a trusted local veterinarian.