I have cared for my cat Pippi for the past nine years, but until we moved to a new state and found a new veterinarian, I honestly didn’t know that a vet experience could be positive. We had been living in a small rural town with limited vets, so experimenting with other clinics was never an option. I dealt with it by taking Pip there only when absolutely necessary. With Pippi being an extraordinarily healthy cat, that turned out to be not often at all.
One spring morning I noticed that Pippi had weepy eyes. We lived on a secluded street, surrounded by trees and plants that were all dropping seeds and oozing pollen. We had recently opened the windows for the first time, letting the pollen drift in along with the fresh air. My roommate and I had been sneezing nonstop, so it seemed reasonable that Pippi’s weepy eyes were due to allergies, though I had never known her to have them.
I attempted to Google-diagnose (not recommended!) and found a few causes for weepy eyes, and of course many of them, such as a blocked tear duct or infection, sounded dangerous and scary. Everything added up to allergies, but the overprotective mama in me couldn’t be sure, so I packed her up and headed to the clinic.
I was thrilled to hear that her eyes were, in fact, weepy from allergies, and easily treated with an antihistamine. I wasn‘t thrilled, however, to find that in our avoidance of the vet, we had missed a few scheduled shots, which they were determined to give her that day. The vet told me that the distemper shot, given via a hind leg, causes allergic reactions in some cats, and that the reaction may not be noticeable for a few days.
By the time we got home I had forgotten about the shots. A few days later, though, Pippi became lethargic and whimpered when the leg was touched. Hating to see my baby in pain, I called the clinic, scooted Pip into her carrier, and headed back for what I assumed would be treated as a follow-up visit — after all, we were only there because of a reaction to a shot she had received from them.
My vet didn’t see it the same way, and insisted on charging me full price for the visit since I had waited four days to come back — even though the reaction had happened within the exact timeframe she told me it might, and even though I brought Pip in at the first sign of pain. I argued for an hour to no avail, and left with a $150 bill.
Not only did this experience (coupled with the first bill) set me back nearly $400, it also left me with a distinct feeling that money was valued more than the health of my cat. It was the last straw. When I left, I swore I’d never go back.
Now we live in a city with hundreds of clinics, but we found our veterinarian by chance. Over the summer, my friend was in the right place at the right time when a starving and flea-ridden kitten was found under a car near the cafe where he was studying. He offered to bring her to his clinic, which was only a few miles away, and I went to that same clinic later that day to take her home.
The way that they had taken care of her floored me. Not only had they treated her fleas and fed her, but everyone in the clinic had showered her with kisses all day. They had all fallen in love with her and gathered around me, swooning, as I met her for the first time and held her close as her shivering little body snuggled into mine. They inquired about her new life (whether I had other cats, etc.), and sent us home with additional flea treatments, toys, and treats, all free. They all waved and called to her as we left, as if they were throwing her a goodbye party.
Though my heart was warmed by the way the clinic treated the kitten (who would later be named Nora and become an integral character in our household), it was the later treatment of Pippi that really stands out. When she was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago, the whole flow of our household was forced to change. Suddenly there was quarantining, insulin injections, sugar monitoring, and diet changes. It was intimidating.
My veterinarian, though, was exceptional. He was consistently gentle with Pippi and patient with me. I asked him 346 questions about feline diabetes and her treatment, and he answered them all without ever making me feel rushed. As I was leaving to fill Pip’s insulin prescription, he even tipped me off to a pharmacy where it could be filled for nearly half the price of other local pharmacies. Over the course of several weeks, as we worked to coax the diabetes into remission through diet and a slowly decreasing dosage of insulin, my veterinarian called me often to check in on us, and to offer his knowledge and support. "Call me anytime if you have questions," he’d always say at the end of our conversation. And he meant it.
I believe that his consistently outstanding care for Pip was the cornerstone of what helped me stay calm and confident, ultimately allowing me to care for her properly at home without being overwhelmed. I’m so thankful for the string of events that led me to this new clinic and our new veterinarian. It’s such an amazing sense of relief to know that there is a crew of dedicated and lovely people, ready to care for and treat Pippi and Nora when I’m not able to.
Do you have a vet you think is amazing? How does that make you feel? Let us know in the comments!
Photo: Veterinarian holds tabby by Shutterstock