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How to Choose a Veterinarian

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So, you’ve adopted a cat. Congratulations! Whether you’re a first-time or a longtime cat parent, welcoming a new furry addition into the family is always an exciting experience.

As rewarding as adopting a kitty can be, that adorably whiskered, wet-nosed face can easily distract you from the “realistic” side of cat parenting. No matter how healthy your cat seems, he or she is going to need vaccines, check-ups, deworming, and possibly more serious operations down the road. Finding a veterinarian can be overwhelming if you’ve just moved to a new town or haven’t owned a pet before. If there’s a vet clinic on almost every block, where do you even start?

Not to worry—whether you have just adopted a new cat or you’re planning to switch vets, this guide will help you find a veterinarian who will meet your fur baby’s needs.

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How to find veterinarians in your area

1. Google vets in your area.

A simple web search (“vets in [your city]”) will produce several directories of vets in your neighbourhood.

2. Ask around.

If you have friends or family with pets who live in your area, ask them if they can recommend a vet. Remember that opinions are just opinions and should be taken lightly, but suggestions from people you trust might give you some direction.

3. Read reviews.

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Yelp is just as useful for finding a veterinarian as it is for finding the best brunch spots. Again, opinions (especially those of strangers) should be taken with a grain of salt, but if the reviews for a clinic are overwhelmingly negative or positive, this should give you a clear idea whether it’s worth looking into further.

Questions to consider when researching vets

Now that you have a list of vets in your area, here are some questions you can ask yourself to narrow down your search. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment without your pet to stake out the clinic and ask the vet questions.

1. “Do clinic hours conflict work with my schedule?”

For example, if you work a nine-to-five schedule, you will need to find a vet who is open on evenings or weekends. Most vet clinics are open at least six days a week to accommodate their clients’ widely varying schedules.

2. “What happens when I have an emergency after clinic hours?”

Generally, regular veterinary clinics charge less for emergency procedures than animal hospitals, so if you have the option to take your cat to the veterinary clinic for emergencies, you should. In case your kitty needs immediate medical attention outside of clinic hours, your veterinarian should at least be able to recommend some 24/7 animal hospitals.

3. “Do the clinic’s practices align with my pet care philosophy?”

There are three approaches to veterinary medicine: allopathic, holistic, and integrative. Allopathic medicine aims to combat disease with medication or surgery, whereas holistic medicine uses mainly herbal or natural treatments. Integrative medicine combines the two approaches. The best way to care for your kitty is up to you, but make sure to do your research and get as many informed opinions as possible before making your decision.

4. “Is the clinic a short drive away from home?”

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The closer the clinic is to your house, the better. Most cats get easily stressed by car rides as it is, but if your kitty is sick, you’ll want to get him or her to the vet as quickly as possible.

5. “Is the clinic clean and orderly?”

All licensed veterinary offices should follow standard sanitation regulations, but some might be visibly cleaner than others. Any medical facility that treats animals should be just as clean as human hospitals.

6. “How many doctors are available? Does the clinic staff seem professional and knowledgable?”

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You shouldn’t immediately write off a clinic because it’s privately-run. Taking your cat to a single-vet clinic means that he or she will always be treated by the same doctor, allowing both you and your cat to develop a relationship with them. On the other hand, more veterinarians on-staff might mean that the clinic offers a wider range of specialized services and the wait for appointments will be shorter.

The vets and receptionists should be professional, knowledgable, and clearly passionate about animals. If you don’t get the impression that the staff genuinely cares about their patients, move on to the next clinic on your list.

7. “Does it work with my budget?”

Cost should not be the determining factor of which vet you choose, because a clinic with cheaper prices might indicate lower quality service. When we adopt pets, we should be prepared for unexpected (and sometimes hefty) medical expenses. It’s smarter to select a vet based on their expertise, the range of services available, and the condition of the clinic. If cost is very important to you, try comparing rates of clinics in different neighbourhoods. Sometimes a vet who is located in a swanky area will charge significantly more than a vet in a middle-class neighbourhood, but this doesn’t necessarily mean their services are superior.

8. “Does the clinic offer any extraneous services my cat might need?”

Many vet clinics offer grooming and dental services at a very reasonable rate, so you can take your cat to one place for all things health-related. It’s convenient for you, and eliminates unneeded stress for your kitty.

8. “Is the clinic cat-friendly?”

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It seems like a no-brainer that a veterinary clinic would be cat-friendly, but you might be surprised to learn that some are more so than others. A cat-friendly practice realizes that cats are sensitive animals and can become highly stressed when they are forced into an unfamiliar environment. Look for a clinic that separates cats and dogs, or requires that animals in the waiting area are securely leashed or kept in kennels. If you can find a clinic that exclusively treats felines, that’s even better.

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What matters most is that your cat is getting the top-quality care he or she deserves. A major part of helping your kitty live a long and happy life depends on which vet you choose, so don’t be afraid to be picky!

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