Dear Cat Owners,
How do we find the best or right veterinarian? And what does “best” or “right” even mean? Sure, online reviews can narrow things down a bit, but ultimately we have to take reviews with a grain of salt because the people who write the reviews have either had the best or worst experiences.
In looking for a veterinarian, many of the factors depends on individual tastes and expectations. The questions you should really be asking are what are the key qualities you’re looking for in your cat’s doctor and in what order do you prioritize these values? In helping you on this quest, I’ve made a list of the things that most people SHOULD consider when they are looking for a good veterinary practice/veterinarian for their kitty because I feel like oftentimes we know what we DON’T want rather than what we DO WANT. So here’s the breakdown (in no particular order):
Location/Proximity: Maybe this is not a big deal to you. Maybe you are willing to travel farther for a good vet or maybe you just want the closest one to you. However, factor it in if your little feline friend gets stressed in the car. I used to have a beloved cat that would sadly vomit and get car sick every time she went to the vet to the point where she would be drooling by the time she got there, so distance definitely played a factor for her.
Availability: How quickly can they see you? More often than not, we can schedule wellness visits down the line, but what about if your pet is feeling sick today? Is there availability for your vet to see you today? Do they have same day appointments? Or do they always just refer you to an emergency hospital? Does this matter to you?
Bedside Manner/Trust: I put these two together because I think the two go hand in hand. My mom had an eye doctor who had poor bedside manner. While I did think he was capable, I also felt he was short with her and seemed ambivalent to her needs. When there’s that level of disconnect, no amount of talent can make up for the fact that you feel slighted or that your cares are not warranted. If you are putting your health or the health of a loved one in someone’s care, you better be able to trust that they care about your pet as they would their own and that they provide you with the attentiveness and care that you deserve. Isn’t that what you are paying for anyway? And if you find yourself mistrustful of your veterinarian’s recommendations, maybe that’s not the right one for you.
Affordability: For some people, this is hugely important. Look, if finances are an issue, be upfront with your vet about it. Don’t be ashamed. However, also understand that without certain tests and certain treatments, our hands are tied as well. We can’t always tell you what’s going on with your pet without doing some additional testing. I would say that within a geographic location, each veterinary hospital generally is competitively priced. There are some that are much cheaper, but in some cases, you may sacrifice on some things to make up for the reduced cost (i.e. fewer medication options, more wait time due to decreased staffing, etc.) You do get what you pay for in some cases. Also consider whether the practice accepts CareCredit or if a payment plan is an option. Just an FYI, if a hospital is selling itself based on cost, then it’s probably because that’s the best thing they have to offer, so don’t be surprised if the quality is not up to your standards. You don’t go to McDonald’s looking for filet mignon.
Information: Does your veterinarian explain things well to you? Do you understand what’s going on with the health of your pet? Are the appointment times long enough to answer all your questions? Or do you just feel like a number in a sea of animals on an assembly line? Does this even matter to you?
Hours of Operation: Maybe your job doesn’t allow you to come home until late at night. Do you need a place that is open later in the evening? Maybe the weekends are the only times you have to make an appointment, so a place open Saturday and Sunday would be more desirable for you.
Side Perks: Parking, cleanliness, timing (how quickly do you get in and out of the practice) and the front staff are all things to consider.
Hopefully, this is a starting point for some of you who are just beginning to look for a veterinarian or those who are not happy with the one you have. Also, don’t be so quick to jump ship if you’re not happy with your veterinary experience the first time. Maybe your veterinarian was having an “off” day or maybe you were having an “off” day. Maybe try another clinician there or give that veterinarian another try. However, get a sense of the place—look around. If your gut is telling you something you don’t like, then maybe you should trust your gut.
If you think there’s something on this list that should be there, feel free to leave it in the comments section!
Best of luck and thanks for reading,
Dr. Theresa Loo