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A feral cat and her babies recently took up residence in our garden. We managed to trap the mum and took her to the vet to be sterilised. The kittens have now gone to a re-homing association. Unfortunately we can't re-trap the female so we can take her to have the stitches removed.How dangerous is this situation for the cat? We are very worried and would appreciate any help or advice.

  • Are you sure the stitches need to be removed? They may dissolve on their own. I'd call the vet to check. – mhwombat Aug 6 '17 at 19:43
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    I agree with @mhwombat, I would be very surprised if a vet used nonabsorbable sutures in a feral cat. Usually these days we do intradermal sutures that can't be seen from the outside, and don't need to be removed. The vet would surely have told you to keep her indoors until suture removal if they needed to be removed. – Harry V. Aug 6 '17 at 20:57
  • I second both statements above, though the older generation vets still use non-absorbable sutures. – Rebecca RVT Aug 6 '17 at 22:17
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If mamma cat is still coming to see you I would purchase a live-trap to catch her, this will be the easiest way.

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A REALLY good meal to entice the cat in is Kentucky Fried Chicken, the smell is really strong and attracts cats - if she's still around she'll definitely go for it. Be sure to remove the bones from the chicken.

As for the sutures:

  • Animal gets irritated with the sutures and begins chewing them, this can cause damage to the incision which then leads to infection.
  • The skin acquires an "allergic" reaction to the suture, irritating the skin and the incision breaks open. This can happen anytime, whether now or 1 year later.
  • Sutures can get snagged on branches, can tear skin if not fully healed.

Local Case Study

I spoke with the DVM and she had a case where the owner forgot to come back to remove the non-absorbable sutures. 5 months down the road the owners came back - the dogs skin was trying to heal over some the sutures causing irritation and infection. The other sutures had come out on their own from either the body rejecting them or getting torn out.

Course of Action

I strongly encourage you to try and re-capture mamma cat to remove the sutures - if you are not 100% sure about the absorbability of said sutures please call your DVM for clarification.

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This is a question for your vet, as he/she knows what sutures were used, and if and when they need to be removed. If they did not say come back in x days for suture removal, then there probably are no sutures to remove.

With flank and midline spays, most vets now do intradermal sutures using a slowly absorbable suture such as PDS, which does not need to be removed. Assuming your vet knew that this was a feral cat, this is very likely what they did.

Sometimes nonabsorbable sutures such as nylon are placed in the skin. I would only usually do this if I needed quick closure because the animal was not doing well anesthetically, it had already been a long surgery, or skin closure was in a difficult location (unlikely with a spay). Actually I'd probably reach for staples if I needed quicker closure. Some vets do always place nylons, but I'm sure they would have arranged for you to come back to have them removed.

I always recommend a recheck after a spay to check the incision site, regardless or whether I placed intradermal or external sutures. Obviously this is not always possible with released feral cats, and some clients just don't come back for a recheck if everything seems fine.

The main risk of not having nonabsorbable sutures removed is that they may become infected. If they heal over completely, they could get infected and abscess months, even years, in the future. If it's bad enough it might mean going back to surgery to revise the incision site and debride the necrotic tissue.

I would first talk to your vet to find out if you do need to re-catch the cat.

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