Please help me help my post-operation cat not absolutely reek. Please.
May 23, 2020 4:31 PM   Subscribe

My cat had PU surgery on Tuesday, and must wear the cone of shame for three weeks. Obviously, this is so he doesn't lick his butt and undo the surgery. Unfortunately, this means he can't lick his butt, which was apparently a major aspect of him being a pleasant creature to be around. Do you have any advice or experience in getting my post-surgery cat to smell less incredibly awful?

When he came home on Wednesday what was a slight whiff of 'oh gosh you're a bit ripe there bud' has...transformed. I want to be really clear that his surgery site is clean and looks great and is healing just fine, I suspect it's the fur on his hind legs and tail that is carrying the stank. Without putting too fine a point on it, his actual butthole is surprisingly clean, probably because it rests on every imaginable surface, including my lap. (I am now extremely aware of how many surfaces have been touched by my cat's butt. It's all of them.)

He can broadly tolerate me wiping down the base of his tail, but isn't super-enthused when I try to wash the (really gross) hair on his hind legs. Do you know any good tricks for spot-washing a cat, especially in a hard-to-reach place? Should I just clip the nastiest fur? We have a few more days in which he'll be heavily sedated and I can get away with a lot. He can't be bathed/immersed in water right now, unfortunately. I can keep a towel between him and my lap/other soft surfaces until two weeks out from the surgery, but then he gets free roam of the apartment, and I would very much like to not have every surface, and him, smelling rank for the week between freedom and removing the cone.

(Also any advice on generally keeping stank out of my living room would be amazing as well -- he's currently isolated in a very big dog cage with a small, open litterbox, and it's...okay, but not great.)

Cat tax of Owain in happier times, showing off his LONG fur. He's the one on the rug.
posted by kalimac to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Owain is so handsome! For my lorge fluffy boy, the best method as far as comfort and compliance was a folded washcloth and a pan of very warm water with a drop of castile soap in it. I would fill the pan to have on hand whenever I sat down so that I would be ready when he came by to be petted. I would basically get the area as wet as possible (in case he got annoyed), work it right up in there and then wipe him down. Gentle combing can help to work out any debris. Trimming did help but be sure to use your fingers as a guard so you don't cut him, it's unfortunately easy to do because the skin back there can be loose. Hope he feels better soon!
posted by notquitemaryann at 4:49 PM on May 23, 2020

Best answer: Unscented gentle baby wipes were very useful for my previous cat who didn't know how to groom herself. If you can warm them up that is even better - you can keep a chunk in a ziplock baggy and wrap with hot wet towels you've zapped or soaked with hot water to warm them. Being proactive about this, just giving problem zones a wipedown every day regardless of evident stank, is what worked for me. She got lots of mats all over and was a fluffball so I'd do a few broad strokes all along her back and then some quick bits of her face and then get the back legs and butt so I didn't spread any of that around. She had to get used to it but it only took a few times.

If you are extra careful about not getting close to the skin, clipping the particularly offending bits off won't hurt. You'll have to consider your individual cat though and how traumatic it might be on top of the surgery and cone. Some cats are like whatever about their fur and others find messing with it to be unforgivable.
posted by Mizu at 5:06 PM on May 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds like impacted or leaking anal glands, not poo that's sticking to his fur (unless its, you know, obviously poo). If he cant clean his butt himself this is fairly likely. You'll need to express them or have the vet do it. It is, um....not pleasant. But my too fluffy and too uncoordinated-to-clean-himself cat got this regularly so I learned how to do it. YouTube will have tutorials.
posted by ananci at 6:31 PM on May 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I agree, anal glands sound like a probability. Call your vet. You want someone who knows what they are doing to do it, and possibly to teach you, if your vet approves.

Some cats tolerate being groomed by a forefinger tucked into a coarse, slightly damp washcloth because it feels like a cat's tongue. You can move your finger around into a new clean spot in the washrag and dampen it in a shallow dish of water as you go. Use hot water.

It is no wonder Owain doesn't want you back there. He is probably very uncomfortable right now from the surgery without having anal glad problems added to his woes.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:24 PM on May 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! So far just really wetting him down with very warm water and keeping the litterbox super super clean seems to be doing a world of good; it's no longer the case that he flops his legs open and, like, my hair curls from the smell. He's on gabapentin and a painkiller for a few more days, so I'm trying to clean him up when he's most drugged/least uncomfortable.

One quick question -- he's pooping like a champ and has since he got home from the surgery. Would that absolutely preclude impacted or leaky anal glands?

(I have to call the vet anyways to schedule a check-up, so I can bring it up then too, obviously. But I am curious, since it sounds like a lot of the gland issues are around, uh, sub-par pooing. Which is extremely not a problem right now. Yay?)
posted by kalimac at 8:23 PM on May 23, 2020

No, at least with my cat, the anal gland issue did not line up with abnormal bowel stuff. It just kind of happened every now and then and I had to deal with it. Impacted anal glands are quite painful, so it is good to check them if he's smelly but pooping normally.
posted by ananci at 8:40 PM on May 23, 2020

Best answer: He has to be coned for three weeks - what about a sanitary cut? The fur from the back of the cat's back legs is shaved off, helping long-hair kitties avoid matts and Other Unpleasantness. Get that cut once, let it grow out, by the time the cone comes off he'll have the beginnings of fuzz - and if there's no stank as he gets to groom himself again, you're all set. (If at all possible, combine the two trips - check anal glands AND get the trim - and ask for mild sedation for both. Take a worn teeshirt to wrap him in, so that he smells you/home/safe.)
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 10:00 PM on May 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

We gently but firmly put our long haired kitty who had periodic diarrhea in our kitchen sink and used the sprayer, not too strong a spray and comfortable temp. Followed by fluffy towels and sink scrubbing.
posted by bearwife at 10:17 PM on May 23, 2020

Best answer: I don't see what would be so wrong with clipping his "pantaloons" (i.e., rear leg fluff). I used to do the same to my long haired cat, who needed brushing but who wouldn't permit it in certain zones. And if your car is sedated, now's the time. You don't have to go all the way to the skin, but cutting any obvious matts/crusts and trimming all bum fur short would probably go a long way to solving some of the stank.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:52 PM on May 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our vet had a product for cleaning kittens. (Furminator, my first waterless kitten shampoo) A very gentle lightly scented spray. We use it for purposes like yours. I usually spray it on a warm damp cloth and do a gentle scrub. But we have just spritzed heavily and rinsed with a sprayer for extreme stankiness. . Lots of gentle blotting to dry!
(Our giant Teddy had a bladder issue once, and part of getting him better was heavily medicating him so he would involuntarily pee. He was SODDEN with urine and gross stuff. The vet did a hygiene cut, and bless his big heart, he started purring when she was swabbing him down with a warm wash cloth! I have never seen a cat more grateful to be washed! We continued dipping him in a warm bath every morning and evening until he was well again. To this day, he has a fondness for napping on the bath mat. The room that saved his life!)
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:29 AM on May 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Our boy had had some periodic anal gland issues. He recently had them expressed for the first time at the vet’s and the vet tech did what she called a “potty patch” shave - basically butt and pantaloons. It was great both for butt access and preventing the mats further down.
posted by media_itoku at 8:00 AM on May 24, 2020

If poo is too soft then it won’t push out the anal glands. Harder poo makes the anal glands secrete.

I’m sad that I know this fact, but there you have it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:55 PM on May 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My cat leaked anal gland fluid when he was stressed. It smelled different than poop- kind of like yucky beef stew. I found sometimes I could dab with a baby wipe to clean it.

CAREFULLY clipping his fur helped with poop, which he also got on his back fur at times. I actually cut his skin with the scissors once and felt awful so be so so so careful, their skin is tissue thin and pulls away from their body really far when you tug the hair out straight. It didn’t bleed or really seem to hurt him - he just quietly meowed once - but he needed a vet visit to glue it shut and to this day my stomach flip flops with horrible guilt when I think of it. Go slow and make sure you can really see what you’re doing. It may take days to complete the job. Don’t rush!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:26 PM on May 24, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I wound up taking a bit from all the solutions, I think, here's what I've done so far:

- This morning when he was extremely loopy (and would normally be pretty sleepy anyways), I got a bowl of very warm water and a cloth and got his pantaloons wetted down where they were obviously the grossest. Funny enough he was fine having his fur wet (while hanging out on his back in my lap!), but Did Not Like the process of drying.
- At the same time, I clipped some mats from his belly fur as well as as much of his pantaloons as I could reach/felt comfortable with; I'd estimate most of his fur there is now about a cm long, and less likely to drag in stuff. Again, he was fine, but again, he was also extremely on gabapentin. (He's already pretty extensively shaved for the surgery, poor naked-butted boy!)
- All this plus changing his litter out has improved things greatly; there's still a little bit of an extra whiff about him, but it's not nearly as strong as it was.
- He has to get a check-up quite soon anyway, so I'll bring up the anal glands thing, and the vet can handle it there. Both my local vet and the vet hospital treating him are no-contact, so I think having someone actually teach me to express his glands isn't able to happen right now. (And, I sincerely hope, will be a problem that doesn't recur once he's up and back to normal again.)
- In general he was pretty chill, but he has also started making ouchy noises when he pees, so I'll probably leave his butt alone for a day or two, until he seems more comfortable. (He's still peeing okay, so I expect it's just post-surgery aches...)

A really sincere thank you to everyone, both in this question and who has answered questions about PU surgery elsewhere on AskMe. When I first brought him home and was basically about to collapse from pure stress and uncertainty, it was really good to read everyone elses' accounts of how their cats did fine. This has not been the most stress-free week of my life, let's say, and it's been incredibly comforting to have Metafilter here to calm me down.
posted by kalimac at 8:22 PM on May 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

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