How to Find the Right Vet for You and Your Cat.
Taking your cat to the vet can be a stressful experience, especially if you don’t have a regular, trusted vet you can call. But finding the right vet can seem a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. There are over 1,000 veterinarians in the greater Los Angeles area. Even in non-metropolitan areas like Piedmont, NC, there can be over 100 veterinarians to choose from! (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016).
Plus, you want to find a feline friendly veterinarian or vet practice, which requires a little more investigation on your part. But the extra effort is well worth it when you find a vet who adores your cat as much as you do!
Before we get started, a few words of advice:
Don’t wait! Start Looking for a good veterinarian NOW. Trust me, you don’t want to be scanning vet reviews and comparing prices when your furry friend is having a health emergency. This means starting your search BEFORE you need veterinary services. This is especially important for us cat guardians. The last thing we want is to be stuck at an unfamiliar vet clinic in a waiting rooms full of barking dogs with our poor cats either hiding at the back of their carriers, or worse, plotting our death.
Find Out the Nitty Gritty for Your Special Kitty. Is your cat geriatric, a special breed, or do they have a chronic illness or disease? Finding a vet that can address your cat’s specific needs should be your number one priority. For example, my cats are prone to upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and kidney issues. One of the first things I ask is if there is someone at the practice who specializes in Persians/Exotic Shorthair Cats or is experienced in treating them.
Get Started on Your Search by Following These Steps:
STEP ONE: Ask neighbors, friends, and the online cat community (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) which vets in your area are cat lovers or specialists.
STEP TWO: Look at reviews on Yelp, Google and veterinary review sites like http://bestveterinarianreview.com/ or https://www.vetratingz.com/. Check the reviews for the practice AND its vets. Ideally you want to choose a practice that has at least two veterinarians with high ratings.
STEP THREE: Once you have compiled a list of possible vets, check to see if the veterinary practice is accredited through the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
STEP FOUR: Call and check the cost for routine services to make sure they are reasonably priced. Ask about routine exams, immunizations, and teeth cleaning – or any other service you know you will need for your special kitty.
Fine Tune Your List of Potential Veterinary Practices:
After completing step four, you should have a decent number of potential vet practices in your area. Consider the following factors to narrow that list down even further:
- What are their business hours?
- Do they have emergency and/or after hour services?
- How close are they to you? Not just in miles, but in minutes. In some cities, a mile could mean 30 minutes in traffic at rush hour.
- How long does it take to get an appointment with the vet or vets you are interested in seeing?
- Do they have drop in hours, or can your animal only be seen by appointment?
- Do they take your insurance?
- Do they have separate kennel areas for dogs and cats?
- Will they allow you to drop in and take a look around, including a look at the back area that is generally closed off to the public?
Pro Tip: It’s a good sign if the veterinary practice has cat or kitten adoption areas or if they are affiliated with specific non-profits and rescues.
Time For Action!
You should now have a fairly short list of potential vet practices to check out. I recommend dropping by at least two of the facilities on your list to determine if they are clean, well-staffed and friendly, quiet, and that getting there and parking is not too difficult. Once you’ve picked your top contender, see if you can meet informally with the vet or vets who seem like the best fit for you and your fur friend.
Meet the Vet(s). At the informal meet and greet, you really have to trust your gut, as the vets won’t be examining your animal or providing any services. If your gut says yes, schedule a regular exam appointment. After your first appointment, ask yourself the following:
- Were they open to your questions?
- Did they explain things thoroughly?
- Did they seem responsive to any worries or concerns you expressed?
- Did they rush through the appointment or take their time?
- Do they have a calm, reassuring manner?
- Do you feel confident in the answers and recommendations they gave you?
- If they recommend an expensive procedure, did they explain your options and help you weigh the benefit of each option against any budget constraints you may have?
- Does their philosophy about pet care match yours? For example, some vets are vehemently against a raw diet or using products with THC or CBD in them (components of marijuana).
- Do you feel like they prescribed only the services or medications your cat really requires? (I prefer a vet who is conservative with antibiotics and who doesn’t suggest tests or other services, like x-rays, unless there is a clear need for them)
- Are they available to answer any follow up questions through email? (Please be considerate when using email. Only email critical questions directly relate to your recent visit. For all other questions, call the front desk)
- How do they feel about you getting a second opinion? If they caution against it or seem offended, that’s not a good sign.
- How are they with your cat? Are they gentle? Do they seem to enjoy seeing them? Do your cats like them? Do they like your cats?
- What does your gut say? Do you trust them?
Communication is key, so if you feel like you can’t discuss options with the vet or ask questions that may challenge their diagnosis, try someone else.
Note: some vets are great with animals, but not so great with people. For me, what’s important is that they really seem to care for my cats, are thoughtful in their recommendations, and straightforward about what they think is the best option. I don’t mind a vet that doesn’t make conversation or friendly overtures to me, as long as they are connecting with my cats. However, *you* may prefer a vet that is friendly and outgoing towards your pet AND you!
Pro Tip: Talk to the veterinary technicians too. They do a tremendous amount of the work at any veterinary clinic and are the first ones to see you and your cat when you come in. During the appointment, they are generally responsible for taking your cat’s temperature and recording their weight. They also document any health concerns you have and the reason for your visit that day. An experienced vet tech is a good ace in your pocket, so introduce yourself and ask them a few questions if you have the opportunity!
Don’t Forget to be a Good Customer
Vets (and vet techs for that matter) do not have an easy job. They are often seeing you when your pet is sick and have to help pet owners make very tough treatment decisions, including decisions about euthanizing a beloved animal compnion. You can be a good customer by getting regular exams for your cat and keeping up to date on immunizations and blood work. Also, feed your cat a healthy diet (see Blog about cat nutrition) and keep up with their dental care. Finally, if there is a dispute, misunderstanding, or miscommunication, give your vet the opportunity to talk it through with you. A great veterinarian will strive to answer all of your questions and meet your cat’s health needs in any way they can.
Meet My Vet:
This is my veterinarian, Dr. Zoryan. She has three rescue cats and is a huge animal advocate. She and her staff at Mohawk Alley Hospital take wonderful care of Fergie and Duffy. They have a kitty adoption room and their foundation does wonderful work all around the world. Their biggest endeavor so far will be The Tanzania Project, created after Drs. Tang and Zoryan visited Arusha, Tanzania in 2016. After visiting with numerous veterinary colleagues, they realized that the stray dog population was astronomic and that rabies was still a killer in the streets. The need for action was real, and so in February 2018, Drs. Tang, Zoryan and a number of their colleagues will travel to Arusha to spay, neuter and rabies vaccinate as many dogs as they can get their hands on.