Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Tips for Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Cat

We recently celebrated Take Your Cat to the Vet Day on August 22. We've share many times the importance of taking your cat veterinarian for wellness checkups. Some people will take their cat to the veterinarian who previously examined your cat from the location where your kitten/cat was purchased or adopted from. What if that veterinarian isn't available or too far away? What do you do to help find a veterinarian who both you and your cats are comfortable with?Silver shaded Persian being examined by vet

Whether you are bringing home a new kitten or cat, it's important to do your research ahead of time and have the appropriate veterinarian and veterinary hospital selected prior to bringing your cat into your home. When selecting a veterinarian for your cat, you need to identify what is important to you. Does your selection depend upon price, location, hours, experience with cats, or bedside manner? Do you need a veterinary hospital that provides boarding facilities? Do you need someone who can groom your cat? 

Once you've determined your preferences for what is needed for your cat and you, the task of finding a veterinary hospital that meets this need is next. 

Type of Clinic

Seeing a veterinary hospital from the outside isn't enough. You should obtain information about the clinic through word of mouth from family and friends and check listings in professional veterinary associations such as AVMA, AAFP, and AAHA. It's tempting to read reviews on the internet, but remember each of these are related to a personal situation. It's recommended that one visit the clinic prior to bringing your cat for an examination. Consider the following questions as you search for a veterinary hospital..

  • Is there a cats-only clinic near you or a practice that is certified as a Cat Friendly Practice from AAFP?
  • If the clinic provides services for all pets, is there a separate waiting area and/or examination room for cats only?

  • What are the hours the clinic is open? Are these hours convenient for your work schedule? 
  • Is the clinic accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)?

Site Visit/Phone Consultation

Prior to taking your cat to see the vet, it's recommended you schedule a site visit. When you walk into the clinic, is it clean and well-organized and are the staff friendly and helpful? Ask for a tour of the facility and ask questions about the treatment of cats. Talk to the staff member who is providing the tour about cats and try to "get a feel" about the atmosphere and attitudes towards cats. Ask the person to recommend a veterinarian on staff who genuinely likes cats and excels in working with them. If possible, ask if you can meet the veterinarian(s). Additional questions to consider during the site visit may include

  • How many veterinarians are in the practice?
  • Are walk-ins accepted or are appointments always required?
  • How are emergencies handled? Is there an emergency hospital near by?
  • Do you accept pet insurance? If so, which one(s)?
  • Does your practice offer wellness plans?
  • What is the cost of an office visit?
  • Does your practice do tests and procedures on site? If so, which ones?
  • Do you offer a payment plan?

Veterinary Visit With Your Cat 

two persian cats on an examination table

Brulee and Truffle relaxed on the examination table at the vet. Notice the pheromone diffuser and warmed towel.

Prior to taking your cat to the veterinarian, it's important to have a list of questions or concerns you may have about your cat written down so you'll remember everything. If this is your first trip to the veterinarian with your cat, make sure you have all of the important paperwork from the rescue or breeder to share the medical history of your cat. When you arrive to the clinic with your cat, are you greeted in a friendly manner? Does the staff show an interest in your cat? Is there an area in the waiting room for cats-only if there isn't a separate waiting room? Some veterinary practices, especially if they are a certified Cat Friendly Practice or veterinary staff are Fear Free Certified, will provide a pheromone spray to spray on towels to place over the carrier to help alleviate stress. What is your wait time before being taken back to the examination room with your cat?

Once inside the waiting room, look around for special preparations for cats. Ask if this room is set aside for cats only. Is there a pheromone diffuser plugged in? Is there a warming pad and towel on the examination table? Is the room located away from noises and activities of the clinic? Is there literature available for specific needs and illnesses of cats?

How does the staff handle your cat? Do they gently pick up your cat and place them on the examination table and talk to them in a calm manner. If some scruffs your cat by the neck for handling, you should reconsider using this practice. Is your cat comfortable with the examination? One does need to recognize that cats do not like change and may act differently in the examination room than at home. A veterinarian and staff who recognizes this and is trained on dealing with cats is imperative for a great doctor-patient relationship. 

When the veterinarian comes into the examination room, is his main priority focused on your cat? Does he explain what he is doing while examining your cat? Does your cat appear comfortable with the way she is being examined? Does your vet appear to enjoy the company of cats?

Personal Experience

I want to say upfront that I truly respect the training and expertise of veterinarians. They are there to help me give my cats the best quality of life possible. I do listen to the advise given to me, but I've also begun to research issues with cats and usually have a list of questions ready for our visits (wellness and illness visits). If you are uncomfortable with something the vet is recommending, you owe it to your cat to discuss the recommendations. We made decisions together (the vet and myself) about the treatment of my cats.

I admit that I didn't always take my previous pets to the vet on a regular basis. Most of our trips were to give rabies vaccinations (because of state law) or for illnesses. I realized several years ago the importance of wellness visits and began taking my girls to the vet annually to make sure they stayed healthy and to ward off any potential problems. 

During the visit, I discuss any behavior changes with their veterinarian. Our vet asks about the food the girls are eating, their litter box habits, and changes in behavior. I recommend you keep a journal of your cats and make a list of concerns and questions you have for the vet. Because of losing Truffle's littermate, Beignet, to a sarcoma from his vaccination and Brulee's recent violent reaction to vaccinations, we discuss the need for future vaccinations. South Carolina does require rabies vaccinations. However, with the girls' history of reactions and the fact they are totally indoor cats, we may reconsider this as they age. I also ask my veterinarians about current research for illnesses in cats so I may become more educated in their care. My vets are more than willing to share articles or links to appropriate research.

Take your notebook with you to the vet and write down key points. I also ask for the veterinarian notes from the visits so I can review them again once I get home. I never hesitate to contact the veterinarian if I have questions. Be observant how your vet treats and reacts to your cats. I remember taking Praline to a vet once and after he examined her, he didn't touch her again and stayed away from her. I found out later he was allergic to cats. I didn't take Praline back to him because I felt I needed a vet who would give her his undivided attention during a visit. I love how the vets at Cherokee Trail will rub the girls' ears, play with their ear tufts, pet them, and cuddle with them. I know this isn't connected to their expertise, but it lets me know they care about my cats, which helps me feel more relaxed and confident in their treatment.

veterinarian holding a cat in arms

Dr. Boyette gently carrying Truffle out of the room for an ultrasound

There are several veterinarians at the veterinary hospital where I take Truffle and Brulee. Their primary veterinarian is Dr. Heyward Boyette. I love to watch how how he handles my two cats when they are being examined. He will talk to them and gently pet them while examining them. If one of them appears to get upset (Brulee is getting a little feisty as she ages), he seems genuinely concerned. Dr. Boyette gently holds my cats in his arms if he needs to take them to the back for a procedure or test. He is never rough with my cats and the veterinary assistants and technicians who work with him are equally caring. You can tell by the photo above that Truffle is totally comfortable in Dr. Boyette's arms.

Dr. Boyette is the co-owner of the veterinary hospital and under his leadership, the clinic is AAHA accredited and a Cat Friendly Practice. Approximately 80% of his staff are Fear Free certified. They've made a lot of changes to help make the visit as cat-friendly as possible.

It's important to take your cat to the veterinarian for wellness checkups and if they are ill or injured. Finding the right veterinarian helps keep your cat healthy and happy. What do you look for in a veterinarian and what is special about where you take your cat?

References -

Colleran, Elizabeth, DVM, MS, DAVBP. Choosing a veterinarian. Cat Friendly Homes. https://catfriendly.com/veterinary-care/choosing-a-veterinarian/

Flowers, Amy, DVM. July 7, 2021. Finding the Right Vet for Your Cat or Dog. Fetch by WebMD. https://pets.webmd.com/finding-right-vet-pet#1

Johnson-Bennett, Pam, DVM. How to Choose a veterinarian. Cat Behavior Associates. https://catbehaviorassociates.com/how-to-choose-a-veterinarian/

Murphy, Kara. January 27, 2016. Choosing a Vet for Your Cat? Consider These Factors. Hill’s Pet. https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/routine-care/choosing-the-right-vet-for-your-cat

Would you like to comment?

  1. Terrific information! We're very fortunate to have some very good Vet practices taking care of us!

  2. These are good tips! I actually had my annual wellness checkup yesterday!

  3. Excellent post. I wish I had the luxury to choose, but there is a vet shortage around me so I go where i can get an appointment the quickest.

  4. Finding a good vet for one's cat is even more difficult for me than finding a doctor for myself! For quite awhile, Bear was really healthy and had no chronic issues - but the lack of continuing education about cats really stuck out when that was no longer true. Of course, I don't expect my vets to know everything. And I decided to stay with the same vet because he was so willing to read and take into account my research.

  5. Great tips! We like vets who are open to research and discussion, too. We were really happy with our vet of many years. The fact that she fed and took in street cats - several were clinic cats - helped us decide to stay with her. She's retired now, and we go to a vet she recommended.

  6. I just switched vets. It’s a bit of a ride, closer to my daughter’s house than mine. That will be a pain with some of my cats but worth it. The vet was great with Treeno and really cared about him. I got follow up calls and emails to check up on him. He also listened to all my concerns and wasn’t annoyed that I asked questions. I was very impressed. So was Kimi - her cats are switching there too from a very well respected practice in her area (but her ferrets aren’t switching - that practice has an exotic specialist)

  7. I don't have cats, but funnily enough I take my small dogs to a certified Cat Friendly Practice (that also sees dogs). One of my dogs can be very fearful in certain situations, and I found our current 'cat friendly' vet to be the best at handling him. He's an Alaskan klee kai, a dog breed known for being very 'cat like', so I find it especially funny/fitting that the cat friendly vet is the best at dealing with him.

  8. Finding a great veterinarian is so important! My kitties go to a cats only clinic. They are very professional and love cats. COVID has really impacted things here and you still can't go in with your cat, but when you could, they practically rolled out the red carpet for you and your cats. We went to a veterinary clinic years ago where the veterinarian actually told us that he "doesn't really know cats" while examining our cat. At least he was honest, but it was unsettling.

  9. Great post and it is so important that you feel safe with your vet as they play such an important role in our pets lives

  10. These are great tips. When searching for veterinarians in the past I'd always look up reviews or go by friend referrals. However I love that you mentioned having a list of questions in advance. I never did that in the past. I'll be sure to heed this advice for the future. I love that you and the girls have a great vet you trust.

  11. These are great things to consider when choosing a vet. Our current vet only has one small waiting area and one door to enter and exit. I wish they would remodel and have two waiting areas and separate entrance and exit doors.

  12. I see Dr. Frick n' Frack (that's what I call him, anyway). I like it when he scritches my belly. Mom says, "I've been taking my pets to McKenzie Animal Hospital for many years. Our primary vet speaks softly and calmy with our pets and doesn't hesitate to play with them to help put them at ease. He and staff always give excellent care, as well as do followup calls after appointments and after hours. I appreciate that there is a separate section for cats, and many tests and lab work can be done in house.

  13. We have a new vet in the Valley and he is a cat man! It's so great to have a cat who has empathy with more than just 'dogs' (which has been the case since our much loved vet died several years ago.) Vets often have a natural empathy with animals but it is rare to get the kind of gentleness our vet has with cats. Even the grumpy ones love him.

    I like that you touch on insurance. Not everyone has it or can afford it but I know many vets do insurance instalment plans to ease the burde for the less affluent. Vets want their charges looked after and well, so make huge efforts to make things affordable even when the treatment is expensive.

    The life of a vet can be stressful, they are committed to their work and we owe them the utmost respect. The bill won't be cheap, but you are paying for years of skill so don't grumble!

  14. i have some cat breed i think its hard to make him eat cat food its egyptian cat this cat is always running out of the house and sometimes he stay out for days


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