Your cat is like your child, so it's understandable that you want to provide them with optimal care. The best place to start is by finding a great veterinarian, then developing a positive vet-client-patient relationship. With these insider tips, you can ensure that you and your doctor are on the same page when it comes to your cat's wellbeing.
How to Find the Right Vet for You
Just as when searching for any medical professional, it's important that you and your vet are a good fit. Even though all veterinarians go through the same rigorous program to earn their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, everyone has a unique personality, communication style, and expertise.
Lori Soard, freelance pet writer and long-time pet owner, warns owners against solely relying on the Yellow Pages when looking for a vet. Instead, she recommends seeking input from other pet owners that you trust. She says, "Ask your friends, family members, and co-workers for references."
What to Look for in a Veterinarian
To optimize the vet-client-patient relationship, it's important to find someone who shares your philosophies and can fulfill your pet's needs. Consider the following factors when looking for a new vet or to determine if your current vet is a good fit.
Location and Hours
Is proximity to your home important to you? If you're unwilling to travel far or if you know your cat won't do well through a long drive, it may be wise to look for a vet in your area. Likewise, if you work a 9-to-5 job and a hospital in question is only open Monday through Friday during work hours, this might not be a great fit. Ensure their hours of operation coordinate with your schedule and needs.
Consider whether any particular approaches or treatments are important to you. Soard mentions, "My vet tends to be on the cutting edge, but also practices with some Eastern philosophy. I like the East meets West idea." Veterinarians can pursue special courses or even certifications in holistic areas like animal acupuncture, gua sha, Chinese herbal medicine, among other Eastern practices. Most hospital websites will boast these specialty areas, or you can search online to find someone in your area who practices these.
Accreditations and Special Certifications
Find out if your veterinarian is a member of any local or national associations. Vets and hospitals can become certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners as a Cat Friendly Veterinarian or Cat Friendly Practice. This means they have fulfilled certain criteria designed to optimize feline handling and care. You could also find out if there is a board-certified feline specialist in your area, although these special cat vets can be difficult to come by, as there are only 84 active diplomats in North America.
Ultimately, it's important to go with a vet who you feel good about. Do they communicate clearly? Do they explain what they're doing with your cat and why? Do they respect your goals? Does your cat like them? If you don't connect with your vet or feel like they don't meet your criteria, it's OK to keep looking.
How to Help Cats Have a Good Experience
Given their sensitive nature, cats tend to have a hard time in the veterinary hospital setting. They're typically not used to traveling in the way dogs do, and rarely, if ever, leave their home. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to help them have a good vet experience.
- Take the stress out of handling with regular mock exams at home (touch your cat's paws, ears, mouth, etc.).
- Make their carrier a safe and familiar place.
- Use pheromones like Feliway to relax them before and during the visit.
- Choose a Cat Friendly Practice or Fear Free certified vet.
- Schedule annual checkups to ensure your cat stays healthy by catching any ailments early.
- If your cat is particularly stressed, talk to your vet about any anti-anxiety medications or solutions that could help.
Tips to Strengthen the Vet-Client-Patient Relationship
There are several things you can do to help make your connection with your vet a great one.
- Come prepared. Soard suggests, "I find it always helps me to have my list of questions written out on a piece of paper to bring with me to the vet." This can help you avoid forgetting important questions with everything going on during your vet visit. You could also use this same note to jot down the vet's answers and refer to them later.
- Be transparent. Just as you expect your vet to be honest and authentic with you, it's important to do so with them. Be transparent when answering questions about your cat's history. Your vet is not there to judge you; therefore, being truthful about whether you did or did not give medications as directed, etc., will ensure they're able to provide appropriate care for your cat. Likewise, don't hesitate to bring up concerns if you're unhappy with your veterinarian's plan.
- Ask questions. More often than not, you'll have a lot of information thrown at you in the vet clinic. Be sure to ask for clarification when you need it. Soard agrees, stating, "Remember to ask questions when you do not understand. Your vet should be happy to answer any and all questions."