During the years I worked in veterinary hospitals, I always had an up close and personal knowledge of the vets who worked on my cats, from their medical skills and proficiency to their dedication and “bedside manner.”  I was fortunate that most of the vets I worked with practiced cutting edge medicine, provided compassionate care for their furry patients and their humans, loved their work, and were always learning and growing in their fields.  And if that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have continued to work with them.

Unfortunately, not all veterinarians live up to those standards – and for what it’s worth, I consider those minimum standards of care. Next to you, your cat’s vet is probably the most important person in your cat’s life. She is your cat’s surgeon, radiologist, dentist, dermatologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, ears/nose/throat doctor, and pharmacist, all rolled into one. And if you ever have doubts about the vet you currently see, then it’s probably time to think about switching.

The following can be signs that it’s time to find a new vet:

The clinic is dirty or smells.

Caring for pets can generate some rather unpleasant smells, but they should never be allowed to linger in a veterinary clinic. There’s simply no excuse for not keeping a hospital spotless.

The staff won’t give you a tour of the practice or allow you to be with your cat “in the back.”

This is a huge red flag for me. While some areas of a clinic may be off limits to clients at certain times, in general, you should be allowed to be with your cat and/or visit her if she needs to stay at the hospital.

The clinic is not cat-friendly.

Going to a veterinary clinic is stressful for cats, and choosing one where the doctors and staff understand cats can go a long way towards making the experience less traumatic for you and your cat. If at all possible, look for a feline-only practice.  You will find more and more of these practices in large, metropolitan areas, and even in some smaller, rural areas. If an all-feline practice is not an option where you live, look for a cat-friendly practice.

The vet’s knowledge is out of date.

While no vet can keep up with all advances in veterinary medicine, it is reasonable to expect your vet to keep current and to attend continuing education meetings. It’s actually a good sign if your vet says “I don’t know, but I will find out” rather than brushing off questions or continuing to things “the way I’ve always done them.” Red flags in this area include vets who still give “annual shots” or treat every condition with antibiotics or steroids.

The vet does not take time to address client concerns and questions.

A vet who brushes off your questions and concerns, or who is constantly rushed, does not have the best interests of your cat in mind.

The vet has made a significant mistake with your cat.

Veterinarians are humans, and mistakes happen. If your vet does make a treatment mistake, this may not be a reason to change, depending on how the mistake is handled and communicated to the client. However, if the outcome of treatment is consistently negative, it is most definitely time for a change.

The vet won’t refer to a specialist.

Advances in veterinary medicine have made it impossible for a general vet to be an expert in everything. If your vet can’t diagnose a problem, or if your cat keeps getting worse, a good veterinarian will recommend input from or a referral to a specialist.

You simply don’t feel comfortable with your vet.

Sometimes, you just don’t click with a vet. You don’t have to be friends with your cat’s vet, but you do have to have a relationship of mutual respect and trust.

What to do if you decide to change vets

To ensure a smooth transition to a new vet, request a complete copy of your cat’s medical records from the clinic’s receptionist, including all doctor’s notes, laboratory test results, imaging studies (ultrasound, X-rays), and vaccination history. Even though this may be awkward, you have a legal right to these records. If you are asked why you’re changing vets, I would encourage you to be honest. Most veterinary clinics want to know about it if they have not met a client’s needs.

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17 Comments on How To Know When It’s Time to Find a New Vet

  1. I don’t like the fact that one of the vets my cats sees is against raw or healthy food. She says any kibble is ok even ones corn based. My male has struvite stones and is eating crappy Hills. I have to say it’s working but… He won’t eat any meat cooked or raw.

  2. I love my vet, but I don’t like the practice. Not allowed to go to the back room and my ragdoll was crying so loudly that I was terrified at what they were doing to him. They brought him out (in their arms) stinking of rubbing alcohol and he was shaking so hard I thought there was an earthquake. No comment, no addressing why it had taken so long and been a major issue for a blood draw. I was shocked, angry and disgusted, and my cat was totally traumatised.

    I am now refusing to allow treatment by anyone other than my vet himself. If this becomes an issue, I will take my kitties elsewhere.

    • To me, not being allowed to go into the back has always been a red flag, Amanda. It is never acceptable to allow a cat to become as traumatized as yours was.

  3. Very important article to read. When we first adopted Casper, both my BF and I had little experience in how to judge a good vet from any other. I personally never had a cat of my own and while he had many over the years, feline care has come a long way since the last time he owned one.

    We initially went to a big box pet store that had vet care on the premises due to locality and lack of knowledge. We very quickly realized this was not an ideal situation; so much lack of attention to the needs of dogs and cats alike.

    From there, we changed to a local vet in our town. Another mistake but again, we didn’t know better as we had no friends nearby with pets. This particular practice was shoddy at best made worse by the primary vet being a pompous and condescending person to pet owners. Our last straw was when when adopted our 2nd cat (Cocoabean, the tortie) and he pressed us to have various tests done on her that in retrospect were not required since she had already been vetted upon rescue. I won’t go into the whole story, but when he told me to stop researching on my own online, I nearly told him what he could do with himself. That, was the last time we went there.

    We finally went to the vet where Cocoa was vetted when rescued. It was a bit further away, but got glowing reviews from the rescue organization and many others. The difference is night and day. Every person on staff from receptionists, to techs to vets, are incredibly caring, up to date on information, helpful and pleasant to deal with. They have people who specialize in feline care and make sure that they are not kept in the same room with dogs while waiting for medical procedures – too highly stressful for them. I’ve never felt “ripped off” by this practice which I always did in the other 2 places. I feel that they have our kitties best interests at heart and ours as well.

    This past week we had the pleasure of meeting with a new vet on staff who is one of those more versed in cat health. I had a remarkably in depth conversation with her about some minor issues Casper has had through the years which have never been fully addressed made more critical now as he is in his senior years. She brought new insight to us, and validated things which we ourselves had found out on our own.

    Having someone you trust and can have a normal adult conversation with is so important when it comes to the care of pets. They can’t tell us exactly what’s up so we need to be proactive in making sure they are always as healthy and comfortable as possible. A good vet, is the key piece in that equation.

  4. For the first time, I have experienced a vet who didn’t seen as interested in a cure but rather just to keep medicating the animal. Eventually, I switched to another younger vet in the pratice who I am currently seeing, although I think he is starting to change as well, perhaps under pressure from the Senior Vet. I am staying only until I move to another state (within a year) because I have built up such good credit that if any emergency rose and I couldn’t pay all up front, I could make payments. One thing I have done is to get educated and that has made a big difference. It made the Senior Vet (age about 59) mad, but the younger Vet (age about 40) is quite open to discuss different treatment options and medications. I learned a lot at from Dr. Karen Becker.

  5. Vets have only 5hrs. of training in Feline diabetes. When they tell you how much insulin to give to your cat, it is usually too much and the cat goes hypo. They argue with you, they don’t want you to home test. ( which keeps them safe) they would rather have you bring them in for curves which is very stressful on the cat and also expensive. Feline Diabetes is becoming very common in cats and is very time consuming for the vets. They want you to use prescription food, which is loaded with carbs only because they get a kick back from selling it. Fortunately I have found a vet that is willing to work with me. My cat is now in remission. My point is, I’m sorry that the veterinarian network (for the lack of a better word) is so expensive. Many animals are put to sleep or just plain neglected by their owners when they get sick because of vet costs. This to me is deplorable. Why should innocent animals have to suffer because of the cost? Pet Insurance covers very little and costs way too much. Yo are paying more than what is covered.

    • I’m glad you found a vet that you’re comfortable with, and that your cat is in remission, Paula. I do, however, have to disagree with much of what you said in your comment. Just like in any other progression, there are great vets, and there are others that not so good at what they do.

      For a better understanding of what really goes into the cost of veterinary care, you may want to read

      Pet insurance may not be right for everyone, but there are a lot of different plans available, and pet insurance can be a lifesaver for many.

  6. Some really helpful advice. I have only felt uncomfortable once and I asked for a different vet at my clinic. I am sure they were caring. We just didn’t click. They are no longer there. Sometimes it’s not the vets it’s the staff that come off as uncaring. I have had that happen. Mostly I have positive experiences.

  7. Great post! I am very fortunate to visit a practice where I have not one, but three, amazing vets, so no matter which “doctor is in” when I visit, I know I’m going to get top-notch care for my “kids.” This was not always the case … when I moved to my area eleven years ago, I went to the vet my sister was using for her dogs, but there was only one really good vet there, and he never seemed to be available, so I switched to my current hospital. There did use to be one vet there I didn’t care for, but she’s gone now, and I have three amazing “traditional” vets to care for my crew. Plus a great holistic vet as well. It definitely makes me feel more comfortable to know that no matter what may arise, I have a great team of very qualified, caring people in my corner to help me handle it in the best possible way.

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