Selecting a Vet for Your Cat
Take your time and choose your vet carefully, as you will need to rely on his or her expertise to properly care for your cat.
You and your vet are your cat's healthcare team; you observe and report, your vet diagnoses and treats. Your veterinarian will arrange a schedule of vaccinations and regular checkups; maintain a medical history of your cat; and provide preventive, critical, and emergency care. Your partnership with your vet will be a long-term relationship. Working together, you and your vet can help your cat have a healthy, happy life.
Start your search by asking people you know for recommendations. Turn to:
- friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors who have cats
- your local branch of a cat fanciers' association, your local or state veterinary association
- your local Yellow Pages
Questions to Ask Fellow Cat Owners
- Are you happy with your vet?
- What is the name of your vet? Where is his or her office located? Is it a group or solo practice?
- Why did you choose this vet?
- Can you tell me about a specific situation and why you feel your vet handled it well?
Compile a list of at least six vets to check out.
Do Your Research
Once you have a list of six or more vets to choose from, get on the phone and call the vets' offices. Gather information to compare and contrast to narrow down your list. Note how you are treated over the phone. Staff and doctors should be courteous, pleasant, and willing to listen and talk with you. Here are some basic questions to consider asking:
- What percentage of the practice is devoted to cat care? You are looking for a vet with plenty of experience with cats.
- If your cat is purebred, how many of this breed does the vet treat? Your vet should be well-versed in the idiosyncrasies and conditions that can affect your cat's breed.
- Does this doctor specialize? Some areas of specialization are surgery, dental care, eye care, orthopedics, and allergies.
- What range of services does the veterinary practice provide? Do they perform diagnostic tests on the premises, and what testing and evaluation equipment do they have? Are boarding and/or grooming services available?
- What are the office hours? Consider your schedule and whether you will require Saturday or evening office hours.
- How much do they charge for annual checkups and vaccinations? If applicable, inquire whether the office accepts (or will help you receive reimbursement from) veterinary insurance.
- What is the preferred method of payment? Do they accept credit cards? Debit cards? Checks? Cash?
- What are the procedures for after-hours emergencies? How are emergency calls handled during regular office hours?
- Is there 24-hour coverage at the office? If not, how often are overnight patients checked?
- When the doctor is on vacation or unavailable, who provides veterinary care?
- Does the doctor make house calls?
- If it's a multidoctor practice, can you request a specific doctor?
Visit the Office
After you've made your phone calls, narrow down your list to two or three choices by considering phone manner, location, proximity, payment methods, and emergency procedures. Make arrangements to visit each office. Keep this handy checklist in mind when you visit.
- Are the facilities clean, well-lit, and pleasant-smelling?
- Where are overnight patients housed and how are they cared for after office hours?
- What school did the doctor attend and what degrees does he or she have?
- Ask each doctor how they would treat a specific condition, such as hairball blockage or skin disorders, and compare their responses. If you have a purebred cat, ask about a condition that would affect your cat's breed (for example, clogged tear ducts are common in Persians).
The tone of the vet's response is as important as the content. Vets are generally qualified, so ease of communication is critical. You should be able to understand your vet's response and feel comfortable communicating with the doctor.
Observe how the staff treats you and how they interact with one another. Different offices have different styles and you should find the one that suits you. Every practice should be friendly, helpful, and caring.
Once you decide on a vet, take your cat to the vet's for a visit. Do not wait until you have an emergency to get acquainted. Observe how the doctor and the staff treat your pet. The more you know about your vet -- and the more your vet knows about your cat -- the better.