The Kitten Recovery Monitors create a warm pre-operative environment as well as constantly assess the recovery progress of all kittens post-operatively. The goal is to provide specialized attention for our smallest patients to reduce risk and optimize outcomes.
Kitten Recovery Monitors must have worked in Recovery prior to being assigned to KCU or Kitten Isolation Recovery. Rabies vaccine is required for this station.
Purpose of the Kitten Care Unit (KCU)
Kittens tend to recover very quickly from anesthesia when conditions are favorable, so they can be very robust patients for spay-neuter surgery. However, smaller patients have more trouble maintaining body temperature, even when conscious, especially in cool environments. Keep in mind that a kitten’s body temperature should be about 100-101 degrees, yet air-conditioned rooms are often 68-72 degrees, a difference of 30 degrees from the kitten’s body temperature.
The risk of hypothermia increases drastically after anesthetic induction. Low body temperature delays the clearance of anesthesia and increases the risk of delayed recovery and death.
The Operation Catnip KCU provides individualized care and specialized monitoring in order to optimize the anesthetic experience and surgical outcome for our smallest patients. Keeping kittens warm will literally save their lives.
Infectious kittens, including upper respiratory infection, ringworm or other suspect condition, may attend the clinic for surgery. Infectious kittens are held in the Isolation room pre-op and post-op. Traps are placed on top of fleece in the stainless steel cages. Fleece prevents heat loss from the kitten to the metal cage floor. Traps remain covered except during the frequent checks on kittens. Infectious kittens recover from surgery in the same room under constant monitoring. Gloves must be changed each time after working with a kitten in isolation.
Kitten Recovery Monitor Instructions
- Kitten Monitors must have worked recovery prior to being assigned to KCU or Kitten Isolation Recovery.
- Kitten Monitors must be rabies vaccinated.
- Typically, two Kitten Ambassadors are scheduled per clinic. If there are more than 5 kittens at a particular clinic, one Kitten Monitor per each additional five kittens is scheduled. If there are 5 or fewer kittens, one Kitten Ambassador acts as Kitten Monitor.
If kittens are placed in KCU as well as Isolation, there should be one Kitten Monitor in each area keeping constant watch on the kittens.
- The Kitten Ambassadors ensure that any kittens estimated 4 lbs or less are advanced through the line ahead of larger cats and expedited at every station from Admissions through Recovery.
- These kittens are overseen by the Kitten Monitors in KCU and in Isolation before and after surgery to assure the kittens stay warm and stress free.
Caretakers are encouraged to bring kittens older than 12 weeks and weighing over 3 lbs. Bringing kittens that weigh less than 3 pounds is strongly discouraged. Occasionally, undersized kittens are admitted for the ultimate benefit of the kitten due to extenuating circumstances. Such circumstances include
- A kitten in a trap with a queen,
- A caregiver who is unable to re-trap and return with the kitten at a subsequent clinic,
- A kitten that is ill or injured and requires veterinary attention.
- Because of their small size, ALL kittens benefit from special handling. Kitten Monitors are responsible for providing constant, careful treatment and monitoring post-surgery that these small patients require.
Check the supply list and notify the Clinic Supervisor of any shortages prior to the start of the clinic.
Set up the Kitten Care Unit (KCU) for healthy kittens and Isolation for infectious kittens:
- To set up the KCU and the kitten area of Isolation, heat all of the warming disks in the microwave in the microwave room. Place warming disks in the cages on towels or fleece, not directly on the cage surface to avoid heat loss to the stainless steel. Newspaper is not a sufficient cage liner.
- Microwave rice-filled socks for 2 minutes. Afterward, place rice socks in plastics sleeves to prevent contamination and potential disease spread from kitten to kitten. Change sleeves between patients.
- Install necessary extension cords for the small fan-forced heaters and heat lamps, and begin heating the areas in the stainless steel cages where the kittens will await surgery and recover.
- Set up the stainless steel cages in Isolation with heavy towels or fleece and one fan-forced heater in preparation of the arrival of kittens with URI. If no URI kittens are admitted, move the heaters to KCU.
Standard admission and follow through procedures:
- The Kitten Ambassador or the Admissions Transporter delivers the kitten to the KCU if healthy, or to Isolation if the kitten appears infectious. The Kitten Ambassador then returns to Admissions to continue facilitating kitten admissions.
- Kitten Monitors begin specialized attention upon admission of kittens to KCU or Isolation initially focusing on keeping kittens warm.
- Kittens admitted to isolation should be offered a small meal, 1 teaspoon of soft, easily digestible, pate-style food (A/D®) immediately upon arrival. Because their surgery is later in the day, the small meal helps maintain their blood glucose.
- Kittens admitted to KCU should NOT be fed until after surgery, per instructions below. Kittens must be fully recovered before receiving food.
- Kitten Monitors stay with the kittens in KCU and Isolation while awaiting transport to the Anesthesia Station.
- At approximately 8:30am, the Kitten Ambassador checks with the Clinic Supervisor to determine the availability of appropriate surgeons. When indicated, the Kitten Ambassador moves kittens from KCU to the Anesthesia Station. Kittens in Isolation undergo surgery later in the day.
- After the kitten completes all stations, the Recovery Transporter delivers the kitten and trap either to the Kitten Ambassador or directly to KCU or Isolation for post-op monitoring. The Kitten Monitors must be available to accept kittens at any time in KCU and in Isolation.
Specific Recovery Instructions
- Once the kittens return for recovery monitoring, the hot pink KITTEN tag can be removed from the trap.
- The Kitten Monitors remain in KCU or Isolation, providing intensive, focused monitoring of all kittens in the room. Monitoring includes ensuring kittens are kept warm and are recovering on schedule.
- After all kittens have moved through surgery and are recovering, the Kitten Ambassador will assist with monitoring in KCU and Isolation.
- Hypothermia, low body temperature, is a main reason for delayed recovery and can lead to death.
- When using fan-forced heaters, face the kitten away from the fans to avoid blowing heat directly on the face, nose and eyes.
- Wetness from surgical prep, alcohol from IV drug administration, vomiting, urination, defecation or other source will cause kittens to lose body heat. Drying any wetness with towels or paper towels is beneficial.
- Contact with cold surfaces (stainless steel, hard plastic, wet linens) will chill kittens and should always be avoided. Newspaper is not a sufficient barrier from cold surfaces. A dry fleece or thick linen layer will insulate the kitten from unheated surfaces. IMPORTANT: insulating layers also prevent heat from reaching a kitten that is already cold. If trying to apply heat, remove any covers from kitten.
- Shivering is a beneficial muscle activity that generates heat and increases body temperature. However, kittens may develop low blood sugar and be unable to shiver. Deeply sedated patients are also unable to shiver.
- Muscle movement produces heat, thus intentionally stimulating and arousing the kittens improves recovery. Gently moving the legs, turning the kitten over from side to side, gently patting its body and rubbing the body will increase arousal and recovery. Simply, what would annoy, but not be painful to a conscious cat will help stimulate arousal and recovery.
- As kittens become more awake, they move more and thus, generate more body heat. As they warm up, they metabolize anesthesia more efficiently and become more awake.
- When kittens return to Recovery, check the rectal temperature of all kittens. Record the ID#, time and temperature on Kitten Recovery Temperature Log. Repeat temperature readings every 5 minutes and record temp/time on the Log until the kitten is rousable and becoming mobile.
- Do not risk injury, if the kitten is fractious and may bite or scratch.
- If a kitten’s temperature does not increase or if its temperature falls further during the monitoring period, notify the Clinic Supervisor.
- When a kitten is conscious enough to stop taking temperatures, note that time as the last entry in the Temperature Log.
- Do not cover up a cold kitten. Fleece and blankets only help to conserve Once a kitten is cold, the fleece actually interferes with heat supplementation.
- Fan-forced heaters and heat lamps do not penetrate thick fleece, thus if kittens need warmth, do not place any fleece or covers between the kittens and the heaters or have kittens covered or wrapped in fleece.
- Extra care is essential to avoid burning or overheating the kittens. Testing the temperature on one’s wrist is a good way to determine the intensity of any heat source.
- When warming disks are used, thick fleece will block the heat from reaching the kitten. Instead, remove the fleece and place a towel on the disk, feeling it with one’s hand to be sure it is warm enough, but not too warm.
- Rice-filled socks can be used for supplemental heat. Re-warm these for 30 seconds in the microwave, then squish the rice around to eliminate hot spots. Heat for additional time in short increments, if needed. Check the temperature by setting the pack on one’s wrist to be sure it’s warm, BUT NOT HOT. When the pack is warm, cover it with a plastic bag and place it next to the kitten. Check the kitten every few minutes to assess its temperature and ensure it does not overheat.
- Use the Recovery Logs for multiple cats in KCU and Isolation.
- Begin entries on the Recovery Log at the time each kitten arrives to KCU or Isolation. The Log tracks stages of recovery to ensure close monitoring and progressive consciousness occurs.
- The Clinic Supervisor is notified of any kitten that experiences trouble recovering. If needed, the Clinic Supervisor alerts the Lead Veterinarian.
- Once the kitten can stand well, the Kitten Monitor can offer a teaspoon of canned, pate-style cat food (A/D®). Feeding a kitten too soon can cause pain, vomiting and risk aspiration.
- If kittens are fully recovered and awaiting discharge, consult the Clinic Director about moving them to the Discharge Station. Maintaining their body heat may be easier in the Discharge area at certain times of the year.
All Station Images
Station Closing and Cleanup
When the clinic is concluded all station volunteer are expected to assist in the following:
- Inventory the remaining supplies and repack the supply kits. Replacement supplies are found in our Storage Room.
- If there is a shortage of supplies, please include needed supplies on the Close-Our Check list for the debrief.
- Replace the repacked kit, including instructions, on the rolling cart in the proper position.
- Return Kitten tags to the bins on the Admissions cart.
- Wipe and dry all stainless steel cages with disinfectant to clean.
- Clear area of all trash and remove the trash in the large plastic bags to the anatomy lab hall for disposal.