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Choosing a Veterinarian
From the Editors of The Daily Cat
How important is it to find the right veterinarian for your cat?
Just ask anyone who has had a bad pet-medical-related
experience. Searching online for your nearest local clinic or
thumbing through the yellow pages can be a recipe for
disaster. Cat owners often don’t even interview veterinarians
before making that first office visit, says Roberta Lillich, DVM,
spokeswoman for the American Association of Feline
Practitioners.
You want a veterinarian who understands you and your cat and who will help your feline to live a
fulfilling, happy and healthy life. Take the time at the outset to find such a professional by visiting
several clinics. Our experts offer this checklist to help you in your search:

Comfort level A growing number of practices are devoted solely to felines, but you may not be able
to locate a cats-only clinic in your community. You might also find that other factors lead you to
choose a veterinarian who cares for both cats and dogs. In any case, the clinic you choose should
understand how to keep your cat calm and relaxed.

Cats tend to be more nervous and to like a quieter environment. If it’s not a cats-only clinic, look for
separate entrances for dogs and cats. “Ideally, a clinic that is not feline-only will have a separate
waiting room area for cats so they aren’t subjected to strange dogs sniffing their carriers or barking
right next to them,” says Karen Becnel, DVM, who runs a cats-only practice in suburban New Orleans.
“Hopefully, they will also have a separate ward in the hospital for those cats that need to be
hospitalized.” If the veterinarian doesn’t have a separate waiting area, note how the staff segregates
cats. They should be able to efficiently move kitties out of the waiting area and into a quiet exam
room.

Staff experience Gentleness and a true love and understanding of cats should come through when
you are speaking with veterinarians or observing them in action with your pet. Ask how a clinic
handles fractious cats, says Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in Redwood City, Calif.
Staff members should understand how to remove a scared or annoyed cat from a carrier without a
tussle. Also, you can inquire about their own personal pets or clinic cat. “You certainly don’t have to
have children to be a good pediatrician, but it helps in his or her understanding of the species if your
veterinarian has cats as personal pets,” says Dr. Becnel. Make sure you meet each veterinarian who
might care for your feline.

Cleanliness You want your kitty treated in a clean, sanitary facility. Ask for a tour of the clinic if
possible and note the cleanliness of the cages where cats are kept.

Fees and payment methods You should know what a veterinarian charges for such basic services
as office visits, vaccinations and annual checkups. A veterinarian should also freely discuss the
potential costs of any treatment plan up front and be willing to provide itemized estimates. “A
veterinarian shouldn’t wait for the client to ask for an estimate,” says Dr. Lillich. “A veterinarian should
make you feel comfortable talking about the financial implications. A lot of times, it can put you at
ease knowing that there’s not going to be a big surprise at the end of the road.”

Breed-specific knowledge It’s important that your veterinarian understand traits and genetic
tendencies unique to your kitty’s breed.

Current veterinary practices Sometimes it helps to think like a pro. “For example, vaccination
protocols have recently changed,” Krieger says. “I like to ask veterinarians what their vaccination
protocols are. It’s important that they keep up with the new information and are reading journals and
staying current.”

Emergencies Understand practice hours and how emergencies are handled. Are weekend and night
calls referred to a certain emergency clinic? If so, it’s a good idea to make a practice run to that clinic
as well, say the experts.

Finally, you should feel comfortable with the way a veterinarian lets you know what’s going on with
your kitty. “You want to make sure there’s good communication,” says Krieger. “Is the vet available
for follow-up? Will they call you back? Will they talk with you? Ignore you?” You’re both working
together for your kitty’s well-being, and your relationship with your veterinarian should lead to a long-
standing, rewarding partnership.