Superior Post-surgical Feline & Canine Appliance. (Or: Dump the Cone!)

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Introduction: Superior Post-surgical Feline & Canine Appliance. (Or: Dump the Cone!)

I took our 2 young cats to the veterinarian for necessary surgery (an incision in the abdomen requiring stitches). After the operation the vet supplied the usual plastic head cones which stop the animals from licking or biting their incisions. But the cones make the animals miserable since they can't see or hear properly, move around, eat, drink or use their litter box without a lot of frustration. So I had to invent some non-cone solution: THE CAT JACKET. No doubt it will work on dogs, too.

Two kittens adopted us several weeks ago. They are female and one is black (I named her "Bella" after my Dracula bella orchid), and the other is grey (my cousin, Linda named her "Buttercup" before I could stop her). This is their story. (No, not Linda's!)

Step 1: Tools & Materials You'll Need.

1. Old T-Shirt or other piece of material about 20" (40cm) square.
2. Scissors.
3. Marker (felt pen, etc.) if you want to mark the cloth before cutting.
4. Four safety pins.

NOTE: This is for a medium-sized cat. You will need a bigger piece of cloth and more safety pins for larger animals.

CLOTH NOTE: I have found that tee shirt material works best (not sure, but I think it's called "Jersey"). I did try another type of cloth that was more "crisp", but it failed miserably in less than a day -- it frayed and ripped, and of course the poor cat was desperately trying to lick the frayed threads. Be careful what material you use.

FASTENER NOTE: You can of course use something fancier than safety pins, but before you sew on buttons, snaps or velcro, remember that the jacket only has to last a few days - until the stitches are removed. And while it's being worn the cloth will stretch and have to be repositioned, you should look under the jacket every day to check the wound and if the jacket rips, gets soiled or has to be re-tailored you may be sorry you didn't just use quick & easy safety pins.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The whole purpose of the jacket is to protect the wound and stitches from being licked or chewed. It's okay if your cat licks the cloth; no harm done. BUT IF YOUR ANIMAL BITES OR CHEWS THE WOUND AREA THROUGH THE CLOTH then you must put the head cone back on. Or possibly use a heavier cloth, or a patch of chew-proof material sewn over the wound area. So far, my cats haven't made any effort to chew through the cloth - only lick it - so hopefully you'll have the same luck.

PICTURE: Buttercup gnawing on the hated cone.

Step 2: Cut the Cloth.

Plan to do one or 2 practice tailorings. It's impossible for me to give you precise measurements because each animal is quite different. Even my 2 kitties who are sisters, who are the same age and who weigh exactly the same are different shapes. Buttercup is slim & muscular, while Bella is big & fat.
So, forget your measuring apparatus for now and just "eyeball it". For a medium-sized cat you need a piece of cloth about 20" square. You need 4 holes in it for arms & legs. So, roughly mark this out with your felt pen, as shown in the picture. Now you're ready to cut, but first note the following:
In the picture the cloth is situated so the rump is nearest you and the neck is nearest the recumbent black cat. Be sure to leave 2-3 inches of cloth in front of the arm holes (i.e.: Don't get the arm holes too close to the edge).
Next, the rump. Note that the leg holes need to be CLOSE to the back edge, as close as the fabric can take it without ripping. The reason is that you don't want any cloth sticking out back there in the way when the cat has to pee or poop.
Also note that there is a lot of cloth BETWEEN the leg holes (i.e.:Don't get the leg holes too close to each other). Because here is where the cloth needs to cover and protect the abdominal incision.

Step 3: Cloth Cut.

Here, as you can see the cloth is cut and ready to adorn Bella.
Yes, it's crudely done & a little asymmetrical, but it does the job perfectly and it is, after all, very temporary & disposable. And the kitties seem to love their jackets.

Now, get your safety pins ready and position cat over jacket. Lower feline so front paws are in arm holes (the smaller 2 holes). When this is done, forget rear end and just pull front half of jacket up arms, wrap around snugly and fasten (safety pin) at back of neck.
Now for the hind legs. When you have the feet & legs through the back 2 holes then you just snug everything up. Use 4 safety pins, all along the spine: one near head, one near tail and 2 in between.
Make sure jacket fits very SNUGLY, but not too tight! Make sure your cat can breathe okay.

Reasonable snugness is necessary or your cat will wriggle right out of her jacket, or get 2 legs through one hole, or one arm through the collar, etc.

Step 4: Stegosaurus Impersonation.

Bella displaying how her jacket is safety-pinned along her back.

Step 5: Surgery Well Covered.

Bella in an immodest pose displaying her new jacket and how well it covers her surgery.

Step 6: Finished Products.

Only 3 more days to go and then the stitches come out; no more cones or jackets.

Hope this helps someone else's pets avoid some suffering.

8 People Made This Project!

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87 Comments

Does anyone know if it is safe to let a cat outside with this body stocking on?

1 reply

If your cat has recently had surgury you shouldn't let it outside. It is vunerable and needs to heal. That is what a vet has told me.

My sweet Besa who is six months just got spayed and hated her cone so much. She would struggles and eventually Houdini out of it. Well she got an infection and her belly was swollen. Got her meds but she continued to hate the cone and knowing she was already hurting made it worse for me. Thank you for this. She's very comfortable now and much happier.

Our Inky (6 months old) had her procedure 3 days ago and came home with the cone of shame. She couldn't eat & the cone made her top-heavy. Next day, I thought there had to be something better out there. I am so glad that I found your post & instructions. After removing the cone, we found that the cone was rubbing her neck raw (all of the fur was gone). 8-(
Inky may not be pretty, but she is so much more comfortable! She is now running, jumping & enjoying life again! Thank you for the idea!

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Despite being extremely unhandy, I was able to make a pretty good jacket for my cat following your instructions. It's crude, but it works, and anything is better than the dreaded cone.

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Eureka! It may be a Heath Robinson structure, but it works wonderfully. Thank you so much to the clever person who invented it. Well done!

I was having the same trouble with my cat Sky Blue accept she wouldnt keep the cone on not even 5 secs she'd slide it off. I found the tshirt idea off a forum i found and came across this one. I just tied the top parts together enough not tight enough room where she wont get out. But im wondering how did you do it in the back to go to the bathroom. She already doesnt like it If i take it off she will be a big problem trying to put it back on.

I was looking for a pattern for these, thank you! lol. we're going to have to have SIX cats done here soon…SIX !! (adopted a stray, she was pregnant already when we brought her in…)
i was looking for alternative to cones, to protect their wound sites, and Hey-o! here it is ^_^
Thanks!

did it, my cat barely got out of her spay and totally refuse to do anything when wearing the cone of shame. Not even go pee!!!! Which scared me when we saw she did not use the litterbox at all in almost 24 hours post op... once the cone was removed, she went in the box in less than 10 minutes.

Now i wonder, how long did it take for the cat to stop being wobbly with the shirt on? my cat doesnt like it either.... but i want to give it a shot to make sure she will or not use the box with it.

I was a bit scared of using pins so i actually did a few stiches to sow the fabric together. that way, no possibility of poking my kitty! (cheap diaper pins ... yay)

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I hate to say this, because this is a brilliant idea, and my mum and I spent a couple of hours making two of these, but it did not work with my ornery old lady. It's really because of the location of the stitches - with a mastectomy, the bottom stitches are so close to the back leg, that all she needed to do was get into that weird "sitting" position they have when they lick their bellies, nose the cloth aside, and voila! Stitches, ready to be removed.

Nothing worked with her - not dog t-shirts which we cut down and tailored - either too short, or she just nuzzled through it, and she even chewed on the edge and swallowed a few threads, leading to a horrible hairball situation at 2 am.

Not even the (not cheap) medical pet shirt worked, and had the downside of getting wet everytime she went to pee. Or it ended up around her waist like a skant, functioning as a diaper.

I even tried a smaller cone than what the vet provided, and was woken up by loud smacking noises coming from a contortionist cat who clearly spent the year taking classes at Cirque du Soleil.

So now we're back to the old huge cone, and she's been sulking all day.

I really needed this wonderful shirt in May, when she had a cyst removed from her side - that would have been a bwa-ha-HA moment for me, but I didn't even know such things existed then.

My 4.5 month old kitten just got fixed today and I was told to get him an e-collar if he started licking himself (which of course he did). I thought this would be a great alternative, but he would have none of it. He's usually a nice kitty, but can bite like crazy when the mood strikes him. Unfortunately for me, he wanted none of this, especially since my guestimated measurements were waaay off. I didn't give up though, and cut off the end leg of some old PJs I was going to toss out. In lieu of holes that didn't work the first time around, I cut slits. It was easier putting him in the tube than wrapping the cloth around him. Either way, Momo bit the jeebees out of my hand (thankfully he didn't cut the skin).

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1 reply

I imagine that adjusting the pattern for a tom isn't as easy as it sounds. Do you have any more pictures?

Re. Biting: Lucky you, kitten teeth generally can't do much damage. My boy almost got through my nose, though...

Just made one of these for my little Bengal girl, Luna! She got spayed on Thursday afternoon and kept knocking the cone off and licking at her incision site. The vet put a tighter cone on after I brought her in this morning because I saw a little blood on the site. She got it off again within fifteen minutes. I was at my wits end!
I made one of these from an old t shirt and she seems to be a lot calmer. She has slept and ate with it on. My only concern is that I had to put lots of safety pins because the cloth was so loose. Do you think they will open up and poke her? But gosh what a life-saver this is!!! Thank you so much posting.
I'm surprised the vet doesn't have something along these lines. Thanks again!!

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1 reply

The cones are a lot cheaper and more widely available. And a lot of owners have a put-up-or-shut-up attitude towards it.
My boy has been neutered and had an eye removed (all within two months before he was even over 5 months - vet won't neuter before unless the cat is definitely "ready"), didn't need a cone either time.

Hey great idea, Im curious if its okay for Male cats after a neuter?, i have a cat i just brought Back home today, and he's good but im a little worried he'll lick alot when im not aroun because everytime i leave the room and come back he's licking. The reason i ask if its okay, is because male neuter incisions are usually on both sides of the scrotum. In order to cover his incision ,would i be prohibiting his ability to urinate? Im not sure if he's just cleaning ?because he does licks down there quite about normally.( not to a point to be considered about but a few times a day i catch him in the act,) i dont too much about male cat urination, i know they spray backwards and even horizontally. But would covering his testes prohibit his bathroom usage? I looked through the entire post and comments to make sure im not being a redundant comment. Anyway, great instructable,im gonna babysit my cat for now :P

1 reply

Neutering is a lot less invasive, and unless he's an adult with very prominent "bits" it probably won't even need stitches.
At the same time, it would make using the litterbox a lot more difficult if done exactly as the tutorial. You may be able to figure out a way to cover the scrotum without covering the penis, but it seems quite difficult..

Good to know! I have a 1-year-old boy so it's not a necessity, but will be made eventually nonetheless: Other Hoomin and I are getting married next year, and of course being a cat he's going to shed all over me on the day... :-/

Ingenious and well detailed for us diy-era! Love the cat gnawing his cone! Ironic! ty

Very good idea! My cats hated the cone