For the first time in over fifteen years, I find myself in a position of having to find a new vet for Allegra and any future feline family members, and I’m finding that it’s not an easy thing to do. During the years I worked in veterinary hospitals, I always had an up close and personal knowledge of the vets who worked on Feebee, Amber and Buckley, from their medical skills and proficiency to their dedication and “bedside manner.” I thought I’d never find better vets than the husband and wife team who owned the practice I managed for eight years. Janet and Jack were the kinds of veterinarians you read about in James Herriot-style books. They were both completely dedicated to their profession. In addition to practicing exceptional, cutting edge medicine, they had elevated the art of compassionate care for their furry patients and their humans to levels that are rare even in a profession that is based on caring for animals. There were many nights when, instead of leaving a sick pet at the practice overnight, they’d take him home and watch over him in their bedroom or bathroom. Both of them loved their work, and they were always learning and growing in their fields. They were a tough act to follow.
When I left their practice to start my own business, I began looking for a new vet. The clinic I had worked at was a forty-five minute drive from home, and neither Amber nor Buckley ever did well on the long drive. I never thought I’d find someone as good as Janet and Jack. And then I met Fern (some of you already know Fern from my book, from some of the articles she’s written for The Conscious Cat, and from our first Ask the Vet teleseminar). Fern and I hit it off immediately. Not only were her practice philosophies in synch with what I was looking for, she is the consummate cat vet, and one of the most brilliant people I ever met. And even better, we became very good friends in a very short time. Unfortunately, she recently had to make the difficult decision to retire, at least for the foreseeable future, from her beloved profession due to a family health problem. While I am fortunate that she will always be available to me for advice or a second opinion, I still need to find a new vet, since she’s not currently affiliated with a hospital and can’t do much beyond basic physical exams without that affiliation. As you might expect, with my background, my standards of what I expect in a vet are very high.
I’ve previously written about how to tell whether your vet is cat-friendly, and how to choose the right vet for your pet. One of the things I always stress when I talk to people about this subject is that I think it’s a good idea to make an appointment without your pet when evaluating a veterinary clinic. By going to see potential vets without your cat, you will be more relaxed. Ask for a tour of the hospital. If you want to speak with a veterinarian, offer to pay for an office visit. Most vets won’t charge you for this introductory visit, but it sets the right tone for a future relationship of mutual respect. Come prepared with a list of questions. Some of the questions I’ll be asking on my search are:
- How many veterinarians are at the practice?
- Will I always see the same vet?
- Are there vets at the practice that specialize in working with cats, or that have a preference for working with cats?
- Are they open to holistic modalities, even if they don’t practice them?
- Are appointments required?
- How are emergencies handled?
- What is their policy for visiting hospitalized pets?
- Are diagnostic services such as x-rays, blood work, ultrasound, EKG, endoscopy done in-house, or will they be referred to a specialist?
- Do the veterinarians use VIN (the Veterinary Information Network)? This is generally an indicator that they’re interested in pursuing continuing education and that they are staying on top of the latest developments in their profession.
I’ve narrowed my own search down to two hospitals – one of them a feline-only practice, which is what I would prefer, but it is further from home than I would like (about a half hour’s drive), the other a small animal practice with a terrific reputation much closer to home. I’ll let you know which one I pick when it’s time for Allegra’s first check up.
Picture shows Allegra on the day I first met her, on an exam table at the veterinary clinic I adopted her from.