What to Look for in a Veterinarian for Your Cat
Because you expect to have a close relationship with your cat’s veterinarian over decades, it is imperative that you choose a professional who has an interest in cats. No veterinarian, the author included, has the same level of interest or expertise with all species. Some veterinarians in practices that serve several species have much greater skill with dogs, or exotic species, than with cats. Some veterinarians do not feel as comfortable handling cats as they do handling dogs or other ani- mals. There is a knack to handling cats in a way that is calming and reassuring to the cat, and veterinarians with this knack are better able to perform a good exam. Not all veterinarians have excellent cat-handling skills. In addition, cats and their medical needs and problems are very different from those of other animals, even dogs. Veterinarians who see large numbers of cats and who intensively study their problems will be more adept at diagnosing and treating those problems. This skill and up-to-date understanding of feline medicine will make all the difference to your cat’s health over its lifetime. It is completely rea- sonable for you to interview any veterinarian you consider for your cat’s doctor, be- fore you make a selection. Questions about the individual’s experience with cats and comfort level in handling cats are fair, but of course, you should ask such questions in a polite way, with no implied judgment. Good veterinarians will
appreciate your carefulness in choosing your cat’s health-care provider. If your questions meet with defensiveness or irritation, you may wish to keep looking. The first exam with your cat’s veterinarian, whether it occurs when your cat is a kitten or an adult, is a critical time in the relationship between you and your cat’s doctor. Be sure to make your expectations clear about the kind of care you wish for your cat. For example, if you want to be able to call your veterinarian with questions between exams, and hope to speak with the veterinarian personally, say so. This kind of expectation may or may not be something every veterinarian can meet. Re- gardless of the answers to your interview questions, good communication at the outset of your relationship is the key to your satisfaction with the care your pet re- ceives, as well as your veterinarian’s ability to meet your expectations. Good veteri- narians want you to be pleased with the care they deliver. You are more likely to be pleased if you express what you want, and allow the veterinarian to respond to your expectations. Just as importantly, your veterinarian will understand the commit- ment you have made to the well being of your cat and can make the same commit- ment. If at any time you believe that your veterinarian is not the right doctor for your cat, you must feel free to seek a referral to another veterinarian, or choose another one yourself. The concept of “second opinion” is a time-honored one in human medicine and it should also be perfectly acceptable in veterinary medicine. No one veterinarian has all the answers, as any good one will tell you. You should never feel intimidated about seeking another opinion about your cat’s case, or even about changing to another veterinarian’s care altogether. You must feel entirely comfortable about your choice of health-care providers for your cat. Having said that you have a right to expect expert care for your pet, I would also urge you to do your part to maintain strong ties with your cat’s veterinarian, once you have made a lasting selection. Relationships are two-way streets. When you find the doctor in whom you have confidence, maintain that relationship by fol- lowing all medical instructions completely, observing all recommended recheck exams, reporting complications and good results of treatment faithfully, and show- ing a regard for your doctor’s schedule by keeping appointments on time. A good veterinarian who cares deeply about your pet is invaluable to your cat’s health. When you find that person, be sure to hold up your end of the relationship.