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5 Tips to Finding a Great New Vet

I recently moved and had to find a new veterinarian for my six cats; here's how I handled it.

Catherine Holm  |  Jan 14th 2015


If you’re like me, finding the right veterinarian is pretty critical. Sometimes we need to do what we can. In an emergency situation, for example, I might have to take a cat where I might not normally choose to go. However, for my primary veterinarian, I want to feel really good about the place.

One of the hardest things about my big move in 2014 was leaving a veterinary office that I had a long, trusted relationship with. So I’ve been looking around a bit here in our new location. It’s taken some time to find the right fit. Quite by chance, I found out about a veterinary practice that sounded interesting to me, and happened also to be closer than any of the other options. My cats were all due for their annual exams, anyway, and I needed to establish a relationship with a veterinarian here, for ongoing cat care.

I’m a naturally curious and intuitive person, and having a good relationship with my vet is important to me, so here’s what I did to prepare for our visit and ultimately decide whether I might want to stick with this veterinary practice:

1. I talked to friends

I asked people I know (especially animal lovers who I know care well for their animals) what they knew about this vet. I also asked them their opinions of other area vet practices. Responses seemed to be pretty consistent and positive regarding the practice where I was going to take my cats. I’m not afraid to talk to strangers, either — in one case, early on, I wanted to find out about a practice in a nearby town. Knowing no one who knew anything about the practice, I asked an employee in the town’s coffee shop and got insightful input.

2. I looked at the veterinarian’s website

I’m no techie, but a website that works well impresses me more than one that’s hard to navigate and doesn’t seem to say much. (I know that all practices don’t have websites, however.) I liked the tone of the website that I checked out — it seemed friendly and informative (plenty of pet care articles were provided) and it included lots of pictures of a good looking practice, pets, customers, and staff. The website clearly conveyed that the veterinarian was actively pursuing continuing education. The veterinarian sounded as if she was well-educated, friendly, and passionate about her practice and her vocation.

3. I made note of the “vibe” during my first phone call

This is a big deal to me. I don’t want to take people’s time, but I don’t want to feel rushed, either. And a friendly, caring approach on the other end of the phone is really important to me. I want to feel as if I’m speaking to someone who knows what I’m talking about and who instills confidence in the services that I will be receiving. I got that when I called this practice. I felt listened to, and I didn’t feel rushed.

(Another practice that I did business with had terrific veterinarians, but staff that seemed kind of uncaring or uninterested, or unwilling to go the extra mile in some cases. Perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but it is something that I have a hard time ignoring.)

4. I observed subtle, non-obvious elements of my first visit

I realize now, as I write this, that I was noticing lots of things on my first visit to this practice. You might be the same way. When I arrived at the place for the first time (with six crated cats in tow), I was observing how well they handled my arrival (they handled it very smoothly). The office was clean and seemed well organized. For me, the office doesn’t have to be super fancy or state of the art, but if it seems clean and well run with attention to detail, that’s a good thing.

The staff person was an excellent liaison between me and the vet, and they worked smoothly together. The vet took time to answer my questions and didn’t make me feel rushed. I was very happy with the experience. And they gave me a a discount (first-time and one-time) on one of the exams, since they were seeing multiple cats. Their interactions with other customers who happened to drop by seemed calm and positive. Their office processes seemed smooth and automated. So far, all the signals I was picking up were really good.

5. I had questions ready

I wanted to be calm, and I wanted to be able to observe the place and the people, so I made sure I had all information in order when I visited. I had copies of previous vet records for each cat, and I had my questions ready. I didn’t want to waste their time, even though they never made me feel as if I was taking too much time. It felt like a real reciprocal interaction — in a good way.

So far, I’ve been happy with this practice and this vet. I’ll be keeping my eyes open, but nothing I’ve observed so far is giving me a bad signal.

What do you look for when you are starting a relationship with a new vet? Tell us your process in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.