A Cat Pinnectomy – Harvey’s Ear Surgery A Personal Report

If you have no idea what might lie ahead after your cat has an ear pinnectomy (cat ear surgery) I took these notes over a 10+ day period after my cat Harvey’s surgery and I hope they may help you prepare. Harvey’s ear surgery was a squamous carcinoma removal, a partial pinnectomy, but these notes will help you prepare for recovery after any feline ear surgery procedure.

What is a cat pinnectomy?

A pinnectomy includes trauma and abscesses that lead to the death of cells on a cat ear. A diagnosis including words like squamous carcinoma may make you worry so I am using my experience here to address questions like: How do I help my cat? How long will recovery take? Do I need to make special arrangements to ensure my cat’s wellbeing?

I hope you will find plenty of reassurance on this page. I have tried to document honestly and helpfully, as a cat parent, what happens post-surgery. Harvey was a senior cat when the surgery occurred and he survived but continued to thrive. As a senior Harvey had a senior blood panel before surgery, please ask your vet if this is necessary for your own cat.

Two types of pinnectomy

There are two types of pinnectomy.

Partial Pinnectomy removes part of the ear containing the infected tissue.This is what happened to Harvey. I read there is a risk of recurrence of the cancerous growth but a good veterinary surgeon and an alert cat parent will look out for this for this.

Full Pinnectomy is meant to be an effective way of completely removing cancerous cells. It is expensive but might be essential for your cat’s survival. Your treatment options should be discussed in depth with your vet and if you have any doubts, a second opinion should be sought.

  • WARNING A collection of photos have been added at the end of this page beyond the long line of **** showing Harvey immediately post-surgery. The photographs showing the Pinnectomy are not pretty pictures, but I hope they may help you when you face the same situation with your cat. DO NOT LOOK if you feel you may get upset.
A Cat Pinnectomy

Cat Pinnectomy Recovery Day 1

The cat ear surgery cost was not cheap but could have been much worse. I got Harvey home and I am happy about that.

Harvey arrived home looking like a train wreck. His ear tips have gone and there are stitches remaining on the rest of his ears. His fur is discoloured due to staining from the surgery. He looks woebegone, unhappy and in pain but, Harvey, like most cats, is resilient and is probably coping better than me.

I have been given Tolfedine for the pain and Clavaseptin (antibiotics) for his medication. Harvey is not happy with the cone (Buster collar) and had blue bandages on his paws when he came home – this was to stop him scratching before the collar went on.

Harvey was distressed at the ‘blue paws’ so I immediately telephoned the vet on our return home and asked permission to take the bandages off. This was given. Now Harvey can walk around freely although he is still learning to navigate with the cone on.

Litter Tray Tip – As Harvey is learning his cone, we have spread thick newspaper on a small area and put cat litter on the flat. This removes a stressful need to navigate the edge of a litter tray while wearing his cone. It worked, it can be easily used, cleaned away and quickly replaced.

The first 24 hours seem to have been the most difficult for us all – things are improving slowly day by day.

Recovery Day 2

Today was our first attempt at pilling Harvey with the Tolfedine (to be taken with food). Harvey is still learning to eat and walk with his cone on so this is a disaster. It is extremely difficult to pill Harvey using one of the ‘injection’ type syringes as he also had some surgery to remove tiny cancers from his nose.  The usual ‘hold around the jaw method’ did not work as it would put pressure on the nose wounds.

After some bad-tempered exchanges by ‘Mum and Dad’, this method was abandoned and Harvey was taken to the vet for a painkilling injection and a request (after advice from cat friends online) for liquid painkilling fluid Meloxicam.

Harvey is becoming a bit more ‘himself’, less sleepy-eyed and stressed. He is beginning to navigate with the collar on – good news! It’s hard to hold back and not help him at every step but he is coping admirably.

  • It is worth reminding readers that Harvey has a history of nervous trouble due to previous abandonment trauma.
Portrait of Harvey Button, White Cat Photograph

Feeding Tips on Day 3

Harvey is developing a technique that allows him to eat more easily!

  • Feeding Tip I raised Harvey’s food dish so that it is resting on a deeper bowl. This allows him to tip the cone forward and reach the food – this height is important. He is getting better each time he eats and today he also took a drink from the cat water fountain (plant pot type) which is very encouraging.

Harvey took a heavily supervised walk outside today. It was not a success. I know he wants to run away to the hidey holes he can’t reach, so after a few minutes, he was brought back in. He is not hiding in his bedroom anymore but lies more confidently in the house.

A big step was made today by Harvey. As I sat listening to the radio in the evening he came up onto the sofa (we have a small set of steps there for ease of access by the seniors) he then settled down for a cuddle up on my lap and then slept. * Quiet cheer *.

Liquid Medication on Day 4

The benefit of having liquid medication is, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, have a second go’! I lost one dose this morning – but the second attempt was a success. Relief all around. Harvey is beginning to scratch at the collar – which means, I think, that the wounds must be healing and drying out.

Harvey is beginning to recognise the antibiotics in his food. He is reluctant to eat his usual favourites now. How does he know?

The boy is resting here in the living room a lot, not hiding in the bedroom where he spends the night. I contain him overnight as he will try to use the cat flap otherwise – which with his ingenuity he might figure out at the worst possible time (3 a.m.) It’s too risky for a boy used to the outdoors with a selection of hiding places all figured out!

Cat Ear Surgery
Harvey’s homemade raised feeding dish.

First Positive Step – Day 5

The last of the antibiotics was attempted today. I hope we got some down, mashed into his favourite food but I am not sure. Harvey will go to the vet next Tuesday for a checkup to see how his wounds are healing. There seems to be less of an aura of distress about Harvey now, he is calmer and eating more strongly.

Today Harvey took another positive step, I had just determined to start on the assembly of my statistics for the blog as part of my online study course,` when who should come up and want to help but Harvey! Things may take a little longer but when he came and fell asleep on my arm I did not have the heart to wake him from such a restful cat sleep.

Harvey is a very clean cat and appreciated my being able to get some pet wipes from the local pet supermarket Animates. He let me clean all around the inside of his cone and wipe much of the staining off his fur. I will try this a bit every day.

Meloxicam is Working – Day 6

Today is the first day I have had to be away from home for a longer period leaving Harvey unsupervised. He was asleep in the same spot I left him – the dining chair we had occupied while listening to our online study class together!

He looks longingly out of the back cat flap for a long time each day but, as our weather has been declining into Autumn he may (secretly) not be too unhappy to be safe inside.  He will not be allowed out until his collar is removed.

The liquid Meloxicam is working well – it is much easier to dispense and Harvey has none of the stress of the tablets (and the requirement for food before the tablets which was a major issue when he first came home).

Getting Better – Day 7

Harvey is becoming more confident and coming ‘back to himself’ He is keen to have cuddles now and is comfortable snuggling overnight with Mum and the cone does not get in Mum’s way at all. He is is sometimes restive overnight and wakes me up but I am patient as Harvey’s cone bandage seemed a bit tight so I fiddled with it to carefully to tie it more loosely.

Harvey continues to appreciate the periodic use of a Pet Wipe to try and keep his lower face/jaw clean. Like most cats he is a very clean boy and this inability to keep himself up to his usual cleanliness must be frustrating

We are starting with 1/4 of a teaspoon of a supplement from Jungle Kitty for both Harvey and Peanut, our other senior cat, which is working well. [Update Jungle Kitty is sadly no longer available].

Portrait of  white cat after a pinnectomy

Getting Better – Day 8

Harvey is spending a lot of time on the bed asleep or in the living room on my knee, making blogging a bit of a challenge! He is looking much better although still a bit battered.

Getting Better – Day 9

Harvey is spending a lot of time resting today, surgery does take it out of a little cat body,  and I feel he is very ‘over’ wearing the cone. I feel he is more and more himself, and less the sick cat he was when he came home.

Tomorrow is vet visit day and I hope the cone will be coming off – however, I harbour a sneaking suspicion one or two nice scabs are not quite dry enough and the stitches will need a close look by the vet.

Are We Ready to Take the Cone Off? Day 10

Harvey speaks first:- “Today is vet visit day to see if the cone would be coming off. I admit I was anxious as Mum didn’t know if there was enough healing. I still look a bit rough, although the kind blog comments are all saying I look like a tough guy (which is much more fun!).

  • Down to the vet in a taxi….. The CONE IS OFF. WooHooo this feels good.”

The vet gave Harvey a thorough examination, checking his ear surgery, and pronounced him sufficiently healed for the dreaded cone to be removed. The cone was given a thorough wash and we have brought it home – just in case there is any scratching. Harvey seems almost as traumatised with no cone as when the cone was put on but he is recovering.

Harvey At Home

It has taken 24 hours for him to begin to ‘come back to himself‘ and be more like the senior cat we know and love.

While unobserved he scratched at the scabs forming on his nose and took off the tops. *ouch*  The upside of this is, oddly enough, that it must have really hurt because he has not scratched them since. Harvey has taken to settling in Peanut’s heated bed and has taken supervised walks outside so I believe he is feeling better.

If you have any questions to ask on a general level, about Harvey and his ear surgery please feel free to use our contact form (this emails us direct). I am happy to share our experience and support as much as I can. I know these things can be stressful so you should not worry about cat ear surgery alone!

White cat surrounded by a frosty frame

Medical Definition of A Cat Pinnectomy & Resources

Indications for pinnectomy are malignant tumors (squamous cell carcinoma in cats), severe trauma and pinnal abscesses that have lead to necrosis of the auricle. A skin incision is made around the pinna, near to its attachment to the skull. In cats branches of the cranial and caudal auricular vein and caudal auricular artery can be coagulated with electrocautery. Pinnectomy is performed with scissors. The dorsal skin can be advanced over the cartilage edge and sutured to the medial skin with interrupted sutures using absorbable material.

World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings

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An Update from Harvey Himself

cat ear surgery

As you can see from the pictures here, I am looking more like a Scottish Fold which only adds to my charm as an older guy! The edges of my ears are clean and pink and the hair is growing back nicely. See * turns head around *.

If you look as my nose you can see how well the cryosurgery has removed the cancerous marks. Today there are clean plain pink scars and I don’t feel any different than before! My spirits are in excellent shape and I still chase Miranda, then patrol the garden (when its not raining!). I still cuddle up to Mum every night time; so, life is good, and it’s a cat’s life here in New Zealand!

10 thoughts on “A Cat Pinnectomy – Harvey’s Ear Surgery A Personal Report”

  1. SO glad I just found this page! My cat, Squeak, will be having surgery on 12/8 to remove a growth on his right ear. Unlike most of the cats that have this problem, Squeak is not a light colored kitty. He is all black! I noticed the growth two weeks ago while he was sitting on my lap and I was brushing him. Immediately, I called my vet and made an appointment. The doc was not certain what it was but gave Squeak an antibiotic injection and I was given an ointment to apply to the lesion twice a day for 2 weeks.

    Well, yesterday was the end of the 2 weeks and there appears to be no change. My vet was hoping that the lump would shrink. He recommended surgery to remove the growth because of the risk of it being malignant (he has not ruled out squamous cell carcinoma). I am a nervous wreck! Sadly, I have had to deal with oral SCC in a sweet tabby years ago and all the testing and chemo was a nightmare. She did not respond to treatment and I had to have her euthanized. So, it’s understandable that I’m quite upset about this situation with Squeak.

    Reading Harvey’s story and the detailed accounts of what you had to deal with after his surgery helped calm me down considerably. Thank you so much for posting this!

    Reply
    • Thank you Pam, I am so glad the post was helpful. I hope Squeak’s surgery is a success and he is home safe and sound very soon.

      Reply
  2. Reading this has helped a great deal,our white cat Baloo,Had his ear surgery today,and was very distressed when we got him home,he has eaten and seems to have calmed down abit,we will try your feeding bowl tip,thanks for that,reading about your white cat has made me feel better,but has a real shock to see what the ears are like now,but like us cat lovers ,we just want them well ,thankyou

    Reply
    • I am so glad it helped and I hope Baloo feels his proper self again soon. Our Harvey seemed to cope much better than I did and recovered well. I was a real’helicopter parent’for a while!

      Reply
  3. Thanks so much for this post. My white kitty Alaska was at the vets having his ear sugery today, while I frantically googled for suggestions on how to cope during the recovery period. This blog entry is the one I emailed to myself for ongoing reference! Collected Alaska that evening (after reading this) and was so thankful for the information your gave. E.g the raising of plates – I wouldnt have even thought of that and it has been a real winner (tho we tend to sit and hold a small bowl inside his cone at eating times. And I specifically requested liquid antibiotics ‘cos there’s just no way I’d have been able to “pill” him. Alaska had his surgery on Wednesday. It’s now Saturday night – almost half-way to “cone-off” day. It’s unfortunate that Alaska is also dealing wth arthritis in a front leg … and having a dentail procedure ..all at the same time! (Had taken him to the vet for a sore leg after a local cat fight … and suddenly the ear-surgery became a necessity. Along with a biopsy above his eye (requiring even more stitches!) Just wanted to again say thank-you so much for this post, and I hope you see this! 🙂 (Alaska and his Mum, New Zealand)

    Reply
  4. Just checking in on Harvey, how is he doing now, hope all has healed well with ease, purrs to you buddy.

    Reply
  5. We are happy to hear that Harvey is wanting to cuddle and get affection, sending our biggest purrs and prayers for his complete healing with ease.

    Reply
  6. This is such a danger in white cats. Mom mentioned it on Straw Hat Day, and she is planning a post for Friday which is Don’t Fry Day. Our angel (pink-nosed, white cat) Madison never advanced to Harvey’s damage and skin cancer, but we know how bad this can be. Our mom had basel cell carcinoma and two of her friends died from malignant melanoma. She doesn’t ever want to have one of us in Harvey’s situation. We are purring and praying for him that he gets through this healing phase without too much more hassle. Sending all of you love and prayers. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo and Mom Janet

    Reply

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