Thursday, January 14, 2016

Choosing a Good Veterinarian

A veterinarian with a cat.
Your veterinarian is a very important person in your cat's life.  Your vet will help you keep your cat healthy and happy throughout her life.  The best time to look for a vet is before you actually need one.  Taking the time to look for a great vet now will ensure you don't have to make a rushed decision when your cat needs to see the doctor.

There are many factors you should consider when choosing a vet.  How much a vet charges, whether he has people as well as animal skills, whether the practice is cat-friendly, and location are just a few of the factors to consider.

Get Recommendations: One of the best ways to find a good vet is to ask people who hold the same philosophy about animal care as you have for recommendations.  Ask trusted friends, shelters, neighbors, family members, pet sitters, boarding facilities, and/or groomers for recommendations.

Cat Friendly Practice: In 2012, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) created the Cat Friendly Practice Program.  Each practice certified as a Cat Friendly Practice has taken extra steps to understand the unique needs of felines and to make vet visits more comfortable and less stressful for cats.

In feline-friendly practices, the staff are trained to recognize the unique needs of cats and to implement the Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines.  They are also trained to recognize facial and behavior clues and respond to them accordingly.  Staff at Cat Friendly Practices also create individualized plans for each feline patient and ensure that you are a valuable member of your cat's healthcare team by helping you understand your kitty's needs and how to meet them at home.  All certified Cat Friendly Practices also contain appropriate cat tools, equipment, and procedures.

An orange and white cat with it's mouth open as if it's saying something.
Cat Friendly Practices may reduce stress during vet visits by having feline-specific waiting areas, taking cats into an examination room right away, and utilizing feline facial pheremones (such as those in Feliway/Comfort Zone) in exam rooms.

You can find a Cat Friendly Practice by zip code or by name on the AAFP's website HERE.

AAHA Accredited?: Veterinary hospitals accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association are evaluated on approximately 900 criteria every three years.  The accreditation is awarded to practices who meet the AAHA's standards of excellence.  Hospitals are evaluated on patient care, pain management, laboratory, emergency services, dental care, anesthesiology, medical records, diagnostic imaging, exam facilities, pharmacy, cleanliness, surgery, and continuing education.  As a cat mom, I feel good that Carmine and Milita's new veterinary hospital has an AAHA accreditation.  You can locate an AAHA accredited animal hospital in your area here.

Tour the Facility and Ask Questions: Ask if you can set up a time to tour the clinic you're interested in and meet the staff who work there.  Most veterinary clinics won't have a problem with this.  While you're there, make sure the facility is clean and sanitary.

Here are some other things to consider during your tour:

  • Do the staff seem caring and considerate?
  • Were the staff willing to answer all of your questions?  How well do they communicate with you?
  • Are the clinic's location and parking convenient for you?  If you use public transportation, how easy is it to get to the vet clinic from the bus line?
  • Are there separate waiting areas for cats and dogs?  Are there separate cage areas for cats and dogs recovering from surgery? 
  • How does the front office staff treat other clients?  When you walk in the door, do they greet you or ignore you?  How do they respond to people on the phone?  Is the front office staff friendly and helpful?
Some questions you may want to ask during your tour include:
  • How many veterinarians work at the clinic?  
  • Do you need an appointment to be seen or are walk-ins accepted?
  • What emergency services are provided (if any)?
  • Does the vet(s) have any specific interests, like geriatric pets or behavior issues?
  • What is their fee schedule like?  Does the clinic offer a sliding scale for individuals on fixed incomes or with multi-pet households?
White cat in a window.
Schedule a Wellness Exam: Scheduling a wellness exam is a good way for you, your veterinarian, and your pet to get to know one another.  During the exam, pay attention to how the vet tech and veterinarian treat and handle your cat.  Are they gentle with and respectful of your cat?  Do they speak to her in soothing voices?  How do they react if your cat hisses or growls at them?  

Our new vet was very gentle and kind to Carmine when I took him in for a wellness exam.  They were very respectful of him and understood how stressed he was.  In fact, the vet did most of her exam on Carmine while he laid under a towel I brought for him.  Covering Carmine up with a towel seems to help him feel safer at the vet, and I was impressed that Dr. M met Carmine at *his* comfort level.  She allowed him to stay near me, too, which is where he wants to be in unfamiliar places.  

A wellness exam also gives you a chance to ask the veterinarian any questions you may still have about the practice.  One major concern I had when locating a new veterinarian for Carmine and Milita was how the staff handles very fearful cats.  Our new vet discussed it with us, and we have a plan in place for Milita when she goes in next month.  Discussing my concerns with her ahead of time made me feel less anxious about bringing Milita in.  It also gave the vet some background about my kitty and allows her to think about the best way to help Lita through the stress of being at the clinic.

Above all, you must be comfortable with your veterinarian and how they treat your cat.  Finding a good vet is definitely worth the time and effort.  

What do you look for in a veterinarian?


American Association of Feline Practitioners: How Can I Benefit from Visiting a Cat Friendly Practice? 

The Humane Society of the United States: Choosing a Veterinarian.

American Animal Hospital Association: About our Accreditation. 


  1. Great post!!! We love our Cat only Vet and the staff loves, loves, loves cats!

  2. We are pretty satisfied with our present vet...a new practice for us after many years at another one. There are no kitty only ones in our area.
    Our vet places towels sprayed with feliway on the carriers or ovr the kitty in a does calm them a whole lot...Minko is stressed at vet and he was very mellow last he was there:)

  3. This is a great post with great information and advice! I have one dog and three cats, and I look for a vet that is of course knowledgeable as well as dog-, cat-, and people-friendly. I'm lucky in that I have found one that I am very happy with.

  4. We like our vet clinic, but wish they were a little more sensitive to kitty needs. There's no cat only waiting room, and I'm sure Binga and Boodie would prefer that.

  5. I really struggle with this. The vet I go to recommended I buy cat food with a picture of a Persian cat on the packaging because that is what I need for my Persians. !!!! Needless to say I'm still looking for a new vet.

  6. It's important to find a vet who can be your partner in health for your cats! Nice tips.

  7. Great post. We like our vet. The only thing we wish is that they were cat only, but they are doing some things more cat focused like cat only hours,

  8. My vet is accredited, but not "cat friendly". One important thing for me is to be able to get an appointment the day you call if needed.

  9. I adore my Vet and couldn't be more blessed to have him. He is one of approx 8 doctors at the practice. My Vet has given me his cell phone number (when my Angel Bobo first became ill), and still allows me to text him if I need to.
    They remodeled and now have cat only areas (which for us is of no concern since Cody loves dogs)..but it is good for kitties that don't like dogs.
    We adore our Vet and are truly blessed

  10. Thanks for sharing these tips to choose a good veterinarian. I like what you said about getting recommendations from trusted friends and neighbors in order to find a great professional. I want to make sure that my cat is in good hands with these services so I appreciate the guide points that you provided to point me in the right direction!

  11. It is a great suggestion to schedule a wellness exam for your pet to see if you like a particular veterinarian. I haven't taken my cat to the vet in so long, and I feel like he is due a checkup. I don't haven't been to any of the animal clinics in the area, so I'm not familiar with the staff. I'll use this checkup as a way to get to know them as you suggested.