Paper Litter for Cats After Surgery

Paper litter is commonly recommended for cats following surgery, including spays and neuters, and for cats with burns and other open sores. Because paper litter is virtually dust-free, it greatly reduces the risk of infection from litter dust contacting the incision or wound. 

Why paper litter after surgery?

Following surgery, your vet will give a list of post op instructions.

For any procedure requiring an incision, a dust-free litter will be recommended. While this can actually be any dust-free variety, paper is the most common recommendation. 

When litter dust contacts an open area, like an incision, burn, or wound, your cat is at risk of infection.

Paper litter will help minimize this risk, promoting safe and sanitary recovery. 

Do you have to use paper litter after a spay or neuter?

Using a dust-free litter, like paper litter, following spays, neuters, and other surgeries is necessary to reduce the risk of infection. It’s not an optional step. 

Always defer to your veterinarian for specific post op instructions, including recommendations for litter. If they don’t provide enough detail for you to be comfortable, be sure to ask questions. What litter should I use? How long should I use it? 

Fluffy gray cat with bandage around mid-section

How long should you use paper litter after spays, neuters, and other surgeries?

Following a neuter, the ASPCA recommends using paper litter for at least one week.

For spays and other more invasive surgeries, the time frame will be even longer. 

To err on the side of caution, it’s best to use paper litter until all incisions have fully healed and all stitches and sutures are removed. Generally at least 10-14 days following the procedure. 

Again, defer to your veterinarian’s specific recommendations. 

Help! My cat won’t use paper litter following their surgery 

Cats can be very particular.

Following surgery, this can be magnified by pain, medication, annoyance with recovery cones, and other restrictions.

The added stress of a sudden change to their litter doesn’t need to be added to this list — at least for scheduled procedures. 

It’s a good idea to prepare your cat in advance whenever possible. 

Leading up to the procedure, familiarize your cat with the litter they’ll be using during recovery. For some cats, this process may take several weeks.

About a month before the surgery, start transitioning your cat to their new litter using the method outlined in Making the Switch to Paper Cat Litter

Cat after neuter wearing pink recovery suit

If the surgery was unexpected, or you’re reading this a bit too late, not all hope is lost. 

Try different types of paper litter. Some cats may be resistant to use paper pellets, but may take to a granular litter quickly due to its more familiar texture.

Others may be put off by the scent of a particular brand. Try different brands of commercial litter or try making your own DIY shredded newspaper litter.

If you really can’t convince your cat to use paper litter, dealing with a bit of extra cleanup while your cat heals is worth it. Going back to your old litter too soon isn’t worth the risk of infection.

If your cat hasn’t had a bowel movement, or is still straining to go 24-48 hours following their operation, contact your veterinarian or a pet emergency center for more guidance.

What is the best paper litter to use following surgery?

Look for a litter with no additives, as these may irritate the surgical site. Avoid clumping paper litter and added fragrances whenever possible.

Paper pellets are the best choice, as granular varieties will more easily stick to the surgical site — though granular paper litter is still preferable to clay and wood litters, by a large margin.

Frisco’s Unscented Non-Clumping Recycled Paper Cat Litter, ökocat’s Dust Free Non-Clumping Paper Pellet Cat Litter, and Fresh News’ Unscented Non-Clumping Paper Cat Litter are all great choices.

Yesterday’s News paper litter, previously the most frequently recommended, has been discontinued.

Homemade shredded newspaper litter will also work well, if you prefer the DIY route. 

Final thoughts

Using a dust-free litter, like paper litter, is an important part of the recovery process for cats who have recently been spayed, neutered, or had any other surgery. Litter dust that contacts an incision or surgical site may lead to infection.


About Matthew Alexander

Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.