Choosing a vet is one of the most important decisions a cat owner makes. There are a number of things to keep in mind when choosing a veterinary care center and finding the best vet (or vets) for your pet.
Every cat needs a good general care vet and some require one or more specialty veterinarians. Examples of veterinary specialties include: care of exotic animals or a particular species, holistic care, osteopathic care, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, toxicology, oncology, behaviorism, nutrition, sports medicine, emergency medicine, dermatology, dentistry, and so on.
There may be a few dozen to a few hundred veterinary care practices and hospitals in your area. Talk to coworkers, friends and family pet owners, as well as trusted pet professionals (your favorite groomer, trainer, boarding kennel operator, pet sitter, doggy daycare provider, and pet boutique owner) and ask for recommendations. What veterinarians do they use and why?
When choosing a vet you are hiring a professional. Put them to the test! We suggest using the following questionnaire as a framework from which you can start evaluating potential vets or your satisfaction with your current veterinarian. This framework contains a guideline of sample questions to ask yourself and your vet about how well the vet in question meets your criteria; and will be an even more effective evaluation tool when supplemented with your own questions and concerns.
How do the prices compare with other vets in town?
Does the veterinary care clinic accept your pet health insurance provider?
Do they offer discounts for multiple pets from the same household?
Business ethics: Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure there are no complaints on file.
Professional Associations: Is your vet a member of any professional organizations? (Ex. American Veterinary Medical Association – AVMA, American Animal Hospital Association – AAHA)
Is your vet a member of any veterinary medical associations dedicated specifically toward your animal’s needs or wellness plan? (Ex: American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior – AVSAB, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association – AHVMA) If you are interested in alternative medicine, limited vaccination protocols, home prepared diets for dogs, etc., will your veterinarian work with you to incorporate these priorities into your pet’s wellness plan?
For many pets, going to the vet’s office is a stressful and scary experience. A staff and veterinarian unknowledgeable about animal behavior can exacerbate the problem. The leading society for veterinary behaviorists (AVSAB) recommends early socialization, positive reinforcement training techniques, and warns against the promotion of antiquated “dominance theory” for behavior modification in dogs. For more on AVSAB’s position statements and advice for choosing a trainer, check AVSAB Online.
If your cat has an existing fear of the vet, a veterinary behaviorist or experienced positive trainer should be able to help you learn how to make veterinary visits and husbandry procedures significantly more enjoyable and less stressful for your fearful pet. Bring along a variety of really tasty, special treats and a clicker; click and treat your pet liberally throughout the appointment to create some positive associations at the vet’s office. If your pet is too stressed to eat at the vet, a trainer or behaviorist should be able to help you implement a desensitization and counter-conditioning program.
If not, the search continues! Don’t be discouraged – finding the right vet truly is a pet owner’s treasure hunt, and the rewards at the end of the search are bountiful and full of wellness for your well-loved furry family members.