Veterinarians and their staff are some of the hardest working people around. They are dedicated to making pets’ lives better, and they often work long hours for very little compensation. More and more veterinary clinics are understanding cat’s unique needs, and as a result, more practices are becoming cat-friendly. But vets and their staff aren’t the only ones who are responsible for making your cat’s trip to the veterinary clinic as stress-free as possible. There are things cat guardians can do during a veterinary visit that will not only endear them to their vet and staff, but will also make the experience easier on your cat.

The following suggestions will be sure to earn your cat a gold star in her record.

Always bring your cat in a carrier

Holding your cat in your arms when entering a veterinary clinic is a recipe for disaster. Always have your cat securely confined to a carrier. There are so many things that can spook a cat in a veterinary hospital, especially in mixed practices where dogs may be in the waiting room. Cats feel much safer in a confined space when they’re in a strange environment. And if you’re a dog guardian, please don’t ever take your dog to a veterinary hospital on a retractable leash. No matter how quickly you retract the leash, it may not be quick enough to avoid a tragedy.

Gather all relevant information prior to your visit

Be sure to have all pertinent information easily accessible. If this is your first visit to a clinic, make sure you bring a copy of your cat’s prior records. Write down all your questions ahead of time; you may not remember everything you wanted to ask during the actual visit.

Silence your cell phone

Few things are more annoying to veterinarians than a client who answers her phone during an exam. Not only can the sound of the phone upset an already stressed cat, but the time you spend with your veterinarian should be all about your cat’s needs.

Don’t bring young children

Unless your children are old enough to be well behaved and quiet even during a veterinary visit, leave them at home. You need to be able to focus on your cat, and on what the vet is sharing with you, not on keeping your children in line.

Be willing to communicate openly and honestly with your vet

While your vet is the expert, you’re the person who knows your cat best. Don’t be afraid to question your vet’s recommendations, but be respectful. A cooperative dialogue benefits your cat, your vet, and you. If you feel that you can’t follow a recommendation, say so. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you won’t be able to pill your cat or trim her nails. Your vet can almost always help you find alternative treatments.

Ask for cost estimates

Most veterinary clinics will automatically give you cost estimates for any procedures they recommend for your cat, but if they don’t, ask for them. This eliminates any misunderstandings when it comes time to pay the bill. Almost all veterinary clinics will require payment at the time that services are rendered. If costs are a concern, be honest about it. You may want to ask for an estimate when you make your appointment, and/or discuss payment options ahead of the visit.

Being open, honest and cooperative will nurture your relationship with your cat’s veterinarian, which, after all, is arguably one of the most important relationships in your life.

12 Comments on How to Be the Purrfect Veterinary Client

  1. Both my cats are exceptionally well behaved at the vet’s. My deceased Maxximus was a terror on 4 paws. They sometimes had to sedate him just to get him out of the carrier and even though I warned them, they sometimes suffered a bite or two. They were very understanding when I told them he came from a litter of ferals who frequented my backyard. He was just a couple of weeks old when we found him and the vet thought he was taken from his mom too soon because he didn’t learn manners from her. He assured us that mom would not stand still for behavior problems and will knock them around to beat some sense into them. Obviously, we didn’t knock him around, so that unruly behavior was the consequence. I will never forget him. He changed my life.

  2. Excellent article Ingrid. I have a great cat-only vet. But how do I respond when she tells me that my cats should be eating dry food because their wet food is causing teeth issues? I just can’t bring myself to give them a type of food that I know is inferior.

    • Ingrid doesn’t like dry food either but you might want to check out the ingredients on the new Beyond by Purina.

      • Purina Beyond is pet food marketing at its best, Monica. The grain-free chicken flavor contains dried egg product, carrots, and potato starch. This, unfortunately, is what happens with a lot of the grain free foods, now that more companies are jumping on this band wagon. They’re taking the grain out of the formulas, but instead of adding more protein, they’re replacing it with other carbohydrates like vegetables and starches. Carbs are cheaper than protein.

    • Sadly, the myth that dry food is supposed to be good for teeth is one that just won’t die, Will. If this were true, wouldn’t pediatricians tell parents to feed their kids hard pretzels? Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

  3. Wonderful post Ingrid. Over the years I have learned to keep track of my kitties on paper and that way I am prepared to let them know if I see any changes. Very helpful to me and I am sure the vet staff.

  4. very good advice. My staff and I do our best to make the cat visit less stressful. When clients help, everybody benefits. can we talk about making the carrier less of a barrier at home?

  5. These are really great suggestions.

    We love our regular vet. We have been seeing her for many years. She knows my kitties well as well as my life/financial circumstances, which makes finding affordable and doable treatments easier.

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