One of the most important aspects of being a good pet parent is choosing the right vet for your cat. The best time to take care of that responsibility is BEFORE any sort of emergency makes a trip to the vet necessary.
Wherever you happen to live, whether it’s a big city or a small suburban town, there are certain to be many small and large veterinary practices from which you can choose the right vet for you and your kitty companion. One of the best starts toward making that choice is to get referrals from neighbors, friends, and family, ideally from people who are also cat owners, because cats – like every species – do have their own special medical and behavioral issues. You might even want to find a vet that specializes in cat care, a growing specialty field in veterinary medicine.
Armed with your recommendations, there is one important question that you’ll have to ask yourself before moving on to the next step toward finding the vet that is the best fit for you and your cat. How much time will it take you to get to the vet’s office from your home? You should consider what that commute might be like in a variety of situations. While a half hour drive might not seem inconvenient at first thought, consider how important those extra minutes might be in reaching your vet’s office in an emergency situation. Even if your visit isn’t an emergency, many kitties just don’t enjoy travelling. If that’s the case with your feline friend, then it might make sense for you to focus on finding a vet closer to home.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of prospective vets, your next step is to set up a “well cat” appointment. This visit is a way for you to check out the “chemistry” between you and the vet AND between the vet and your cat. Since most vets keep to a tight schedule, it might make sense to request 15 minutes or so additional time when you schedule your appointment, so that you can get to know the vet as well as allowing ample time for your kitty’s exam.
Arrive for your appointment armed with a list of questions, so that you make the most of the time you have in the examination room. However, your review of a prospective match should begin before you even get to meet the vet. Is the waiting room clean and well maintained? Will your pet feel safe while when you have to wait? After all, there are fewer more stressful situations for cats than being trapped in their cat carriers with unfamiliar, barking dogs nearby! There are even vets who have separate waiting areas for cats and dogs just to avoid such situations. Of course, if you do opt for one of the increasing number of vets who have a dedicated feline practice, that won’t be a consideration for you. Finally, are the people behind the reception desk friendly? They are likely to be your first point of access to your vet in the future, so you should feel comfortable with the level of attention and concern you receive from them.
Once you, your cat and the vet are in the examination room, it’s time to carefully note how the vet interacts with his prospective patient. Is his or her tone soothing? Do you sense that your cat has the vet’s undivided attention? Does the vet seem to respect you and your opinions about your cat’s care?
Many of the questions you can ask will help determine if a vet is the right fit. You might ask how many vets are on staff or on call, how emergencies are handled after regular office hours, what staffing is available if kitty has to stay overnight for observation, and what their attitude is toward alternative medications, therapies or supplements. Is the rest of the staff educated or licensed? Don’t be afraid to ask about payment plans for expensive tests or surgeries during your conversation, as well as to inquire about the types of pet insurance that the practice accepts.
It might take visits with two or more vets before you finally settle on the one that you know will be your best partner in the ongoing well-being of your cat.