How to Find a Great Veterinarian For Your Cat

Whether you have recently moved, adopted a new cat or kitten, or are having some concerns about your current veterinarian—finding the very best health care available for your cat is one of the most important decisions you can make for them. While there are many excellent veterinary practices out there, there are also significant differences between practices, so you want to carefully evaluate and choose a veterinarian that meets your expectations and one you can feel comfortable with. Overall, you want to look for a practice that offers the highest level of standards, medical expertise and quality of care possible in an office that offers both modern diagnostic and state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology.

Here are 10 important qualities to look for in a good veterinary clinic:
  1. Maintains excellent communication skills with an ability to clearly explain  your cat’s medical needs, diagnosis and appropriate treatment
  2. Has compassion and respect for the welfare and well-being of you and your cat, and provides competent veterinary medical clinical care, maintaining high standards of integrity, honesty, and professionalism at all times
  3. Maintains dedication to the veterinary profession; takes continuing education courses and attends conferences to keep up with the latest medical recommendations, procedures and techniques
  4. Exhibits excellent decision making skills—able to make accurate diagnosis’s and quick, effective decisions in critical and emergency situations
  5. Has thorough knowledge of cat’s anatomy, ailments, diseases, medical conditions and behaviors, being consistently responsible for choosing the best and most appropriate treatment regimen for success
  6. Has good manual dexterity to be able to perform the intricate movements required in surgery
  7. Shows passion for animals and a commitment to providing the highest level of veterinary care and ethical conduct at all times
  8. Maintains excellent time management skills to balance a demanding schedule
  9. Maintains good business acumen to manage a successful practice
  10. Maintains good customer service skills that satisfy your needs

Here are some more important considerations to help you evaluate a good veterinary practice:

AAHA Accreditation

One of the first things to look for in your evaluation is whether the practice is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). For a veterinary practice to be accredited they must meet the rigorous standards established by the AAHA, and then continue to meet them on an annual basis. Participation is voluntary, so accredited vets set themselves apart from practices that have not volunteered to be evaluated by the AAHA. This demonstrates the practice is striving to maintain the highest level of standards possible. To find a list of accredited veterinary clinics in your area go to the AAHA website or call the veterinarian’s office.

Check the Internet — BBB, Yelp, and Consumer Opinion Websites

Another way to evaluate and find a good veterinary practice is to look at what clients are saying about the veterinary clinic and whether they have any complaints. You can visit the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp, Consumer Affairs, and consumer report websites for client’s feedback, complaints and personal experience.

Get a Personal Recommendation

Talk with cat professionals (groomers, cat rescue group volunteers, etc.) and friends who you think take good care of their cats–for their personal recommendation.

Conduct a Phone Interview

To find and evaluate a new practice, call the clinic and ask some preliminary questions to see if the practice meets your needs. If the phone interview goes well, then schedule an in-person visit to see the clinic and interview the veterinarian. Here are a few questions to ask before you make an in-person appointment:

  1. How many veterinarians are in the practice? Are any board-certified specialists? If yes, in what areas?
  2. What are the clinic / hospital hours? Do they have evening and/or weekend hours?
  3. How many licensed or certified veterinary technicians are on staff? Do they have assistants for support? (The more licensed technicians, the better for your cat’s care.)
  4. In case of emergencies, is there a dedicated surgeon on schedule daily?
  5. Is major surgery performed at the clinic?
  6. Does the practice refer to veterinary specialists for more advanced care? If so, in what situations would they refer patients? What care facilities or specialist’s offices in the area do they refer patients to?
  7. Does the practice offer overnight hospitalization? How are patients monitored overnight? Is there a dedicated overnight employee? Or is the patient referred to an emergency hospital or another facility?
  8. What is the cost of a routine wellness exam? What is the cost of a blood test, urine test, X-ray, ultrasound, and dental cleaning?
  9. Does the practice do X-rays, ultrasounds, EKGs, blood panels?
  10. What is the veterinarian’s vaccine protocol?
Schedule an Office Visit

If the clinic passes your phone interview, then the next step is to visit the clinic to meet the staff, see the facility and meet with the veterinarian. Have your checklist of questions prepared in advance and be ready to pay the cost of a routine wellness exam for your office visit. Some veterinarians may not charge you for a preliminary visit. Explain to the office staff that you’re in the process of evaluating some practices in your area. Here are some suggested questions to help you evaluate the clinic:

  1. Is the office clean, neat, and organized?
  2. Is the staff friendly, professional and competent?
  3. Are all the examining rooms clean and sanitary?
  4. Is record keeping thorough, detailed and complete? Can you get a copy after an appointment? Do they use computerized medical records?
  5. Do they have modern, state-of-the-art equipment—essential are blood pressure equipment, PCV centrifuge (for measuring cat’s red blood cell level), pulse oximeter (to measure oxygen levels), and radiology equipment for X-rays (look for the newest is digital radiography).
  6. Does the veterinary practice follow proper, recommended surgical techniques including wearing sterile clothing, gloves, mask, cap and scrubs to prevent infection?
  7. Are patients evaluated prior to surgery with a complete physical exam?
  8. Does the vet require a blood panel before anesthesia? (This reduces risk to the patient.)
  9. Is proper pain management and pain medications dispensed to control pain following surgery while in the hospital and to take home with you? Check the type of pain medications used.
  10. What are the practice’s anesthetic procedures? What types of modern gas anesthetics are used? The current standard prior to surgery is to use one of the modern types of gas anesthesia (either isofluran or sevoflurane, not halothane. Injectable sedation is only advised for quick procedures.)
  11. Does the vet use an intravenous (IV) catheter under anesthesia? (This is critical for anesthetic emergencies to have it in place to deliver life-saving drugs and fluids, if needed.)
  12. Does the vet intubate the patient under anesthesia, which increases the oxygen level and can help with breathing?
  13. What type of monitoring equipment is used under anesthesia? Is this equipment used routinely under anesthesia?

Hopefully from all of your research you have found an excellent veterinary clinic—one that you feel comfortable entrusting your cat’s care to and feel 100% satisfied with the high level of health care provided.

For more information about the principles of good veterinary ethics, see the American Veterinary Medical Association’s list of veterinary medical ethics Principles.

How to Find a Great Veterinarian for your Cat
How to Find a Great Veterinarian for Your Cat


Reference: Murray, Louise D.V.M., Vet Confidential, An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health, New York City, Ballantine Books,  2009. Print.

18 thoughts on “How to Find a Great Veterinarian For Your Cat”

  1. These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to get personal recommendations when looking for a vet for your cat. My husband and I just got a pair of kittens from the litter of my sister’s cat. We want to make sure she gets the best care possible, so I’ll definitely ask my sister if she has recommendations for a good vet. Thanks for the great post!

  2. This is some very good things to think about when you are looking for a veterinarian. It would be good to know if they can have the equipment if your pet needs surgery. It seems like it that would be smart to do just in case something bad happens to your pet.

  3. Thank you for the help. My wife and I just got our first cat and are looking for a good veterinarian now. I like the idea of having a type of interview with the potential office. How many offices would you talk to before making the decision?

    1. Thanks for your question – the answer is until you feel comfortable with that veterinarian and their practice. I have had 3 different veterinary clinics/hospitals over 15 years with my cats in the Bay Area — all of them were very different, yet good to great. But I believe in the adage, “You get what you pay for,” and when it comes to our pets it can be life and death. So it’s critical to get these: board certified specialists, the most recent medical tech equipment, is highly reputable and has an excellent reputation and satisfied customers, has great integrity in decision making and judgments, provides a very high level of care, has evident compassion for your pets, and has excellent diagnostic abilities and their decisions lead to the improved well being, health and longevity of your pet. I would add excellence in surgery and a state of the art surgery hospital, but not all geographic areas will have this. It’s up to each person to decide what level of care you are willing to pay for.

  4. My wife and I recently adopted a kitten and we are really excited. We are in the process of finding a good vet. Also, when do we vaccinate her? I like your idea to conduct a phone interview, that seems like a good way to get to know your vet and their clinic.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Congrats on adopting a kitten! If your kitten is from a rescue group or shelter, check the paperwork to see if/when it received an FVRCP vaccine (Panleukopenia and respiratory virus vaccine). Here’s the long answer to your question. There are two basic types of FVRCP vaccines: killed virus (KV) and modified live virus (MLV). To get immunity from killed virus vaccines, at least two doses are required. The first dose shows the body the enemy and a second dose is given to generate protective immunity. Paired doses are required 3-5 weeks apart. MLV vaccines begin stimulating immunity the first day they are given. The vaccine contains viruses that replicate in the cat’s body but do not cause disease. A booster 3-4 weeks later is not required nor recommended in cats over 14 weeks of age. Kittens under 14 weeks of age have varying levels of immunity from antibodies passed from their mother. Kittens under 14 weeks of age have varying levels of immunity from antibodies passed from their mother. Early in kittenhood, antibody levels are highest. As the weeks pass, antibodies gradually decline. For several weeks, antibody levels drop too low to protect from disease but remain too high to allow a vaccine to work. The antibodies “fight off” the vaccine. Known as the “critical period” or “vulnerable period” between 6-12 weeks, this stage of uncertainty is why tame kittens are vaccinated every 3-4 weeks until after 14 weeks of age.

  5. I think the most important thing to consider when going to a new veterinarian is to see how they handle the pet brought in. Really, how they handle your cat or dog. They will need to be firm, but they should treat them like your doctor would treat you, carefully.

  6. My cat is my best friend and I want to give him the same high-quality treatment I get at a hospital. I totally agree that the doctors employed at the pet hospital need to have a thorough knowledge of cat anatomy and behaviors. Sometimes my cat screeches loudly and I didn’t know why. The pet hospital knew why and helped me calm him down. Thanks!

  7. I just moved to a new town and so I know that it is important for me to find a veterinary clinic that I could take my three cats to when needed. I want to go and visit several different clinics, but I never thought of asking so many questions. Some of the questions seem understandable, but why should I care whether or not they use computerized medical records?

    1. The benefits of going paperless can be fewer lost records, legibility and fewer mistakes in reading handwriting, easier record-keeping on the computer, better productivity, and staff can find and share veterinary medical records easily between each other and the client. But the integrity of the records needs to be maintained, as records can easily be changed on the computer. Authenticity is easier with hand-written records than with computerized records. Your vet should always maintain proper, complete and accurate medical documentation of your cat’s medical information and the agreed upon treatment and communications. Excellent veterinary medical record keeping is crucial to you and your cat.

  8. It is a good idea to see what the office and doctor are like in person! Talking face to face with the staff and doctor is important. It helps you to determine if they are caring and will take care of your pet. If they don’t ask questions or answer your questions, you can assume they don’t really care about your pet. You’ll want to be able to trust the person your pet will be spending time with while at the office!

  9. I agree that it’s very important for a veterinarian shows a passion for all of the animals that they work with. I wouldn’t want to find out that a veterinarian didn’t like my cat or all cats. I want the vet to be happy and eager to look after the animals that come in needing help.

  10. Thank you for the help. I am looking for a good animal surgeon for our family cat. I like the idea of visiting the office after talking to the vet on the phone, as you discussed. Would you try to visit multiple surgeons in person?

  11. I really appreciated that quality about a vet that maintains excellent communication skills with an ability to clearly explain your cat’s medical needs, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. My brother’s wife recently brought home a car and it has been throwing up all over their house. Do most veterinarians have certain treatments for specific breeds of cats? Finding a reputable veterinarian to go see might be a good idea.

  12. I like your advice on finding a veterinarian that has compassion for you and your cat. I would imagine that it would be important to find someone who will take the time to get to know you and want to provide the best care for your pet. My husband and I just adopted a cat so when we find a vet to take her to we’ll have to be sure to find someone is genuinely interested in our best interests.

  13. You have some great tips for finding a good vet. I like your idea of calling any potential vets for an interview. Asking about their license and credentials and things is a great idea. I wouldn’t take my cat to the vet without doing that.

  14. My husband got me a cat for my birthday, and I want to make sure that I get it the best care possible. I really love the cat, and it was a gift, so I feel like it’s really important that I take good care of it. I like the tip you give of looking for a vet that has evening and/weekend hours. Emergencies don’t always happen at ideal times, so making sure he could get taken care of whenever is really important.

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