Newton’s Perspective: How to Choose a Vet

Here’s an article by guest cat-tributor Issac Newton:

Issac Newton

How many of you cats out there enjoy going to the vet? Raise your paws. That’s what I thought. Just thinking of a car ride sends shivers up my spine! However, we all know that regular visits to the vet are essential for maintaining good health, so I’m going to give your people some hints on choosing a good doctor for their favorite felines. We deserve quality care with minimal stress!

Have you noticed that some clinics now specialize in cats only? This is worth considering, especially if there are no dogs in your family. It suggests the vet and staff are attuned to the particular needs of cats. However, there is no reason a cat can’t be treated properly in a mixed practice.

If you are looking for a new veterinarian don’t pick a clinic just because it is close to you. Few vets handle their own after hours emergencies these days, so saving a couple of miles driving shouldn’t be the most important factor. Find out where the Emergency Clinic is or how local vets rotate emergency responsibilities.

The following is a true story. When Mrs. S. moved to a new state she took her chronically ill cat to the closest vet. She explained Kitty’s medical history and was expecting blood to be drawn to assess her current condition. Dr. X. laughed and said he didn’t think blood work was necessary since he didn’t have a big car payment that month. Apparently he thought she would appreciate the humor and his “client friendly” views on charging for unnecessary services. However, she was horrified by his insensitivity and never went there again.

If possible try to get references from friends who have pets. Who is their vet and why do they continue to go there? Are they thinking of changing? If so, where else might they go and why?

The ASPCA has published a guide for choosing a veterinarian (general practice),, but YOU must decide what is most important to you.

My special person’s list includes respect, trust and patience:

1. Respect for me as my cat’s caretaker
2. Respect for my cat
3. Trust that includes vet, client and cat
4. Patience and willingness to explain what is recommended and why

The example of Dr X. illustrates the importance of good rapport between client and vet. If you don’t feel comfortable with the doctor how can you trust that your cat will be treated appropriately and with compassion?

Most cats will be shy or fearful in a clinic setting. Does the vet talk softly and treat your cat as gently as possible? Are you allowed to be present when blood is drawn or vaccinations are given? If the staff insists that these things must be done in “the back” a red flag should immediately appear. What don’t they want you to see?

Does the doctor explain procedures, diagnoses and recommendations in language that you can understand (without talking down to you)? Are you given options for treatments? Are the possible outcomes of different tests/procedures and medications explained? Does he answer questions to your satisfaction?

Overall, do you and your cat feel comfortable with the person you are literally trusting with your cats life? If not, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. However, if you are happy overall and concerns are minor try to work out solutions. A good relationship takes effort from both sides.

I hope these guidelines will help people to make informed decisions when choosing a vet for their special cat companions. (By the way, my person trusts my doctor completely and she has known a lot of veterinarians!) Next time I plan to talk about the cat vaccination controversy.

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