How To Choose The Best Veterinarian For My Cat?

You might have found yourself asking the question, "How do I choose the best veterinarian for my cat?" Selecting a vet for your cat is a pivotal decision. Start by defining your needs—proximity, clinic size, and specific expertise.

Consider your cat's unique health needs and whether advanced technology, like laser surgery or CAT scans, is important.

Remember, while high-tech tools can aid in diagnosis, they may also increase costs.

Ultimately, the right vet balances your preferences, your cat's health, and your budget. To guide you through this important decision, keep reading for more details.

Understanding the Differences: Animal Hospital vs. Veterinary Clinic

First, let's discuss the differences between a veterinary clinic and a veterinary hospital.

cat sitting in the cage while treated

By definition, a veterinary "clinic" has a set number of hours in which it is staffed or open and does not provide 24-hour care.

A "hospital" is available 24 hours and staffed by either a veterinarian or para-professional staff at all times.

What is an AAHA Hospital?

Some veterinary hospitals are accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)

This means that they have fulfilled certain requirements designed to increase the level of care being provided to companion animals.

A hospital may achieve AAHA certification in one or more of seven categories.

animal hospital

While our primary interest is in the 'Feline' category, the others encompass Traditional Medicine, Avian Medicine, Emergency Care, Emergency and Critical Care, Dentistry, Surgical, and Ophthalmology.

Distinguishing Feline Specialists from Feline Practitioners

A "Feline Specialist" is an American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP)-certified vet focused solely on cats, demonstrating superior knowledge and expertise in feline care.​

A "Feline Practitioner," while also cat-focused, may not hold an ABVP certification.

They still have significant experience in feline care, including diagnosing and managing unique feline diseases​.

While both specialize in cat care, the key difference lies in the level of their certification.

What About Emergency Veterinary Services?

If there is no other emergency facility available near you, then a "hospital" might be your best bet.

Problems don't necessarily show up during office hours, and knowing where the closest 24-hour facility would be a really good idea.

Vet examining pet cat with stethoscope

Other owners opt to use a clinic for their scheduled veterinary appointments and visit a designated emergency facility near them if needed.

If you go this route, make sure you keep the emergency facilities phone number and address somewhere you can find it when you are upset and approaching hysteria.

How Do I Begin Looking For A Veterinarian?

Finding the right vet for your feline friend can feel like a quest, but it doesn't have to be daunting. Here's a quick, easy-to-follow guide to streamline your search and help you find the perfect match:

1. Ask Around

Start with friends or family who have pets. What do they like or dislike about their vet clinic?

2. Research

If you're new to the area, skim through your local directory for potential options. Consider looking for an AAHA-accredited hospital with feline specialists.

Hand of a man using laptop searching

3. Don't Sweat the Specialist

Can't find a feline specialist? Don't fret. Many general vets prioritize continuing education and staying updated on the latest practices.

4. Make a Shortlist

Based on your research, shortlist about five vets who seem like a good fit.

5. Phone Call Check

Call each vet on your list. Ask about their hours, emergency procedures, staff size, and appointment availability. This will also give you a sense of their customer service.

6. Site Visit

Swing by each clinic. Take note of the drive time, traffic conditions, parking availability, and the general upkeep of the premises.

Remember, this is a process of elimination, so feel free to cross off any options that don't meet your standards or expectations.

Your cat's care is paramount, so take your time and choose wisely!

Scheduling a Vet Hospital Visit: What to Look For

After narrowing down to 3-4 options, arrange a tour of each facility. They should be open to scheduled visits, but if not, consider crossing them off your list.

equipment set at the veterinary office

During the tour, pay attention to the following:

The Areas

Reception, exam rooms, labs, emergency areas, kennels, cages, and a glimpse of the surgery room.


The place should look organized and clean. A faint disinfectant smell is normal, but an overpowering stench of waste is a red flag.

Staff Professionalism

Look out for professional-looking techs and other staff members.

Post-visit, eliminate any places that didn't sit right with you. Once you're down to the final contenders, schedule an interview with each vet to understand their veterinary philosophy.


How Do I Interview a Prospective Veterinarian?

Investing in a "no animal present" interview can be a cost-effective way to chat with a potential vet without the usual distractions.

Remember, your vet is an integral part of your cat's care, so it's crucial to find someone you can communicate with effectively.

woman holding cat while talking to the  veterinarian doctor

Here's a quick guide to conducting a successful vet interview:


Even if you can only afford to interview one vet, that's okay. The aim is to avoid regret later.

Remember Your Role

You're not just a pet parent; you're also the vet's employer. It's vital to find a vet who respects your insights and is open to discussions.


Prepare for each visit by jotting down questions. This ensures you don't forget important points during the actual conversation.

Question Time

Have a list of questions ready. Include any concerns specific to your cat's needs. A written list will help keep the conversation focused and productive.

Here is a list of several questions you might think about asking them.

1. Do you own a cat? Other pets?

Of course, it is not necessary that a vet own a cat or even any pets at all, but it's a good icebreaker and gives you insight into their relationship with animals.

2. What vaccinations are required for an overnight stay at this facility?

There are no wrong answers, but if you are an owner who prefers a minimum of vaccinations and they require everything under the sun, it's a red flag.

3. How many vets work here, and can I always see the same one?

If a relationship with a veterinarian is important, then being able to always see the same one is important too.

Of course, vacations and days off are necessary for them to remain sane, so who will see your pet when they are not available?

4. How are emergencies handled?

Are they treated here, in this building? Is a veterinarian always here? Or do you refer out to another location?

5. What type of overnight staff do you have?

If your pet must be left overnight, will there always be someone there to watch them?

Is a veterinarian always available for a middle-of-the-night crisis?

6. Will I be able to receive copies of any lab reports on my animals?

Getting copies of any reports is always a good idea, but some vets seem to want to keep them a secret. You may want copies so you can go home and research things you don't understand.

7. What is your feeling about using alternative medicine therapies?

Some veterinarians are open-minded about alternative therapies like herbs, acupuncture, etc., and some are not. You want a veterinarian who thinks the way you do.

8. How do you view the importance of nutrition in a cat's health?

If you are a raw feeder or use only natural ingredient foods, this is something you need to know about your veterinarian.

Feeding is a hot topic for many pet owners, and you want a veterinarian whose thoughts agree with your own.

9. Will you write prescriptions for expensive medications so I can shop around to buy online and save?

Selling medications is one way a veterinary practice makes money, and you want to support your veterinarian as much as possible.

But in some instances, you can find higher-priced medications for significantly less if you shop around.

Is your vet willing to write a prescription so that you may do that?

10. Do you offer any multi-pet discounts?

Some do, some don't, but if you have several pets, it's worth asking about.

11. Are you willing to do a phone consultation or a home visit in the event of a difficult case?

You are just wanting to determine their reaction to this question- it will tell you if they are open to help or think they have all the answers.

Nobody has all the answers, and if they need help to solve a problem, they should be willing to accept it. The well-being of the cat is always the most important consideration.

12. How often do most cats you see require teeth cleaning, and what anesthesia is generally used?

Their answer to this should be along the lines of "It depends." There are no absolute answers, and every cat is different.

Each anesthesia choice should be determined by the specific needs of the individual cat.

13. Do you offer grooming services?

It might come in handy if they do.

14. If I have difficulty understanding a complex case, will you review the basics of the disease with me?

You want someone who will take the time to answer all of your questions so that you leave understanding what just happened.

We all know that they haven't had the time to discuss your animal with you for an extended time, but they need to make you feel comfortable asking questions.

15. Do you follow the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) guidelines regarding vaccination sites?

Because of the risk of vaccine-related sarcoma, special vaccination site guidelines have been issued for all recommended vaccines in cats.

A veterinarian should be familiar with this protocol and follow it.

16. Will I be allowed to determine when my pet requires euthanasia?

In making any euthanasia decision, whose call is it- yours or his?

Will he tell you when he thinks you are wasting money trying to save a dying animal, or will he insist on trying any option and perhaps prolonging the suffering?

Again- you want a veterinarian whose views are similar to your own.

17. May I be present when blood is drawn, shots are given, etc., or will the cat be removed to the "backroom"?

You want to be present for as much of your cat's care and handling as possible. How much you want to see is up to you, but what do they actually allow?

18. Do you offer any payment plans or alternatives for costly emergencies?

Nobody wants to talk about money, but the time to do it is before you need to.

Discuss the options you might have when your cat needs expensive care, and you are down to your last dime.

19. Do you offer a referral for behavior issues?

They should be able to refer you to a Veterinary Behaviorist for extreme behavioral issues.

20. Is there a vet tech who is especially good at teaching owners how to medicate their cats?

Giving pills to a cat is a skill, and it is one that can and should be taught.

The techs are better at it than the vets, and there should be someone available to show you exactly how to give medications.

21. What are your feelings about declawing?

What you really want to hear is that there are other options for declawing a cat. This is another one of those questions listed to give you a feel for the doctor.

If they snap back, "If you want it declawed, we'll declaw it," then maybe they are not the most informed veterinarian.

Your own personal feelings will guide you in what is an acceptable response and what is not.

Finalizing Your Vet Choice

After thorough research, it's decision time:

1. Evaluate Interaction

Reflect on your experience with each vet. Did you feel respected and unhurried? If not, thank them and move on.

2. Bedside Manner Matters

Ask yourself: Could you rely on this vet during intense, emotional moments with your cat?

3. Look for Empathy and Knowledge

Female veterinary use stethoscope to check health of the cat

You need a vet who’s patient, well-informed, and willing to explain things clearly.

4. Open-mindedness is Key

Seek someone adaptable, especially on evolving topics like vaccination and nutrition.

5. Collaborative Approach

The ideal vet admits what they don't know and is open to external assistance.

Now, it's decision time. Choose the vet who meets these criteria and makes you and your cat feel most comfortable.

Collaborative Cat Care: Your Role and Responsibilities

Finding your vet is only step one. Remember, top-notch cat care requires your active participation too. Here's how you can contribute:

1. Yearly Check-ups

Annual exams are crucial. They give your vet a comprehensive understanding of your cat's health and help spot subtle changes over time. As your cat ages, consider bi-annual visits.

close up of kitten with  veterinarian doctor at the back checking the cat

2. Communicate Effectively

Feel free to ask your vet questions. To maximize your time, jot down any concerns or issues before the visit. Be organized and concise to ensure all your concerns are addressed.

Remember, your vet's time is valuable. Be respectful and try to cover as much as you can during each visit.

Veterinarians Are Your Partners in Caring for Your Cat

Remember, a vet works for you. Their degree doesn't make them infallible; it only attests to their education.

As your cat's primary caregiver, you know what's normal for them and when something's off. Trust your instincts.

Never hesitate to seek a second opinion. It's a common practice in healthcare, and your cat's well-being may benefit from multiple perspectives.

Be curious, respect your vet's time, and honor your commitments.

Planning ahead and fostering a strong relationship with a vet who understands your cat's history can be the difference between a minor ailment and a major loss.

Your proactive care will earn your cat's gratitude.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!


Check out below for more related topics.

No Money For Vet Care? How To Find Help And Save Your Cat’s Life

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15 comments on “How To Choose The Best Veterinarian For My Cat?

Olivia Smart October 21, 2021
Thank you for explaining how to interview a prospective vet. My husband and I just got a cat and we've been thinking about finding a vet for her. We'll be sure to try some of these out so that we can find someone we'll work well with.
Eli Richardson March 19, 2021
I'm glad you talked about how it's important to interview a veterinarian before choosing them. A few days ago, my wife and I rescued a small kitten from the street, and we're in a rush to find a veterinarian for him. We want to learn about the kitten's health and how to care for him, so we'll be sure to follow your advice! Thanks for the tips about how to find the best vet for your cat!
Charlotte Fleet March 11, 2021
My husband and I just adopted a cat and we want to find an amazing veterinarian to take her to. I like how you suggest asking about how they handle emergencies and if there is always a vet there. We will be sure to use these questions as we are looking for a great vet for our new cat.
Adam Golightly December 1, 2020
My sister has been thinking about taking better care of her cars, and making sure that they aren't in any pain as they get older. Making sure that she can get the right treatment from a professional in order to be more effective. Thanks for your tips about how she should have the references for techs, behavioral issues, grooming, and they can be contacted by phone in case anything goes wrong.
Kristofer Van Wagner August 30, 2020
It is important to choose a vet who is skilled. I own a few cats that need special attention. I will bear this tip in mind when I move to a new town and looking for a vet.
Rosie Beckett July 20, 2020
I rescued a baby kitten from my local shelter yesterday, and my husband and I want to do everything that we can to make sure she is healthy and happy. We know that finding a good veterinarian will be vital for her growth, and this article was very helpful! I like that you talk about taking tours of potential veterinarian clinics so that I can make sure the facility is clean and professional.
Ellie Davis April 3, 2020
It's interesting to know that going to a 24-hour veterinary clinic will be the best idea in case of an emergency. My husband and I adopted a dog recently, and we are looking for advice about what to do in case in case of an emergency. I will let him know about your recommendations to choose the right vet clinic.
Vivian Black February 12, 2020
You made a great point about how you should begin by asking family and friends. My husband and I are looking for an animal hospital since we moved too far away from our old one. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us best.
ityel biletzky August 16, 2017
zoneout said:
This is very informative.   A word on feline-only practices would be welcome.   Is there any advantage or should they be considered like any other vet.   
Good ideal.
ityel biletzky August 16, 2017
ginny said:
I personally feel that the first question: do you own a cat? is not only necessary, it's pivotal. In my experience, especially where I live, there are so many cat haters.  A vet's true feelings about cats may also be reflected in his or her care of your pet, so personally I would NOT want to let another vet touch my cat who doesn't actually like cats themselves. If they like them and own them, I think they try harder.  
Thanks for the sdvice!
fifimanchu August 26, 2016
Over the past ten years, we've used about 6-8 different local vets for our rescue.  I finally found two outside our area that are good at diagnosing problems.  A few of the locals, I might let them do a simple snap test or give a rabies shot.  I have no altercations with locals so that if I have no time to get to the two good ones, I can use them if I have no choice.  Understand, I USE them.  I HIRE them.  I am not at their mercy.  Why do I say this?  If they give me a bad answer, I am going to leave and get a better vet.  For example, if, like a few vets have strongly advised me in the past that I should put down a cat testing positive for leukemia--without discussing what accommodations I may have for said cat--I am not going to respect that vet.  Especially when they continue to apply pressure to euthanize after I inform them I will either adopt the cat only those who have other Felv+ cats or they will go into my leukemia side of my shelter.  I've had a local vet urge me to put down FIV+ cats!  Yes, there are some still living in the dark ages.  Regardless, what business is it of theirs? It is MY cat, not theirs to decide. Another example of a bad vet:  About 5 years ago we adopted out a super cool cat that several years later required many dental extractions.  The adopter went to the greediest vet in town. Many assume that because her fees are high, she's the best.  She is not.  She is very good at self-promotion tho.  Anyway, the vet said the charge would be $12-1500, depending on the difficulty of extractions.  The adopter had $600 she could spend.  Vet said that wouldn't put her kid through college.  Vet strongly advised she put the cat down if she couldn't afford it.  The adopter, like so many who do not question a vet, submitted. The doctor's always right, right?  At the time, I knew a vet who charged $105 for a dental cleaning and 5 bucks for any extractions along the way.  You do the math.  It equals one not-dead cat.  I get a lot of old cats from people going into hospice.  They need dental extractions. The low cost vet retired. I call another local vet & ask for prices.  The quote:  From $450-850 DEPENDING.  On difficulty, etc.  I call around, I widen the net to 50 mile radius.  I find a vet that charges $289 for a dental cleaning and removes teeth as necessary along the way.  No surprises.  Plus I get pictures of the cats during surgery to prove what he's doing, no charge. Man, when I hear about the bezillionth person who "had" to put down their cat because of these kinds of vets, I wanna post all of the wholesale prices that vets pay for meds.  I wanna tell everybody that you can get tapeworm pills at pet stores & Tractor Supply.  You can get a big honkin' bottle of Pyrantel for roundworms (the yellow liquid vets give you a few cc's of) on line from Revival and other sites for 10, 15 bucks.  You can get your vet to write a script for Amoxicillan and get it for free or $4 at super market pharmacies.
ginny January 16, 2016
Time has passed since my last post and I have a little different perspective now.  First of all, all these are good questions with which to judge a "good" vet from a "bad" one.  But just passing an initial interview does not mean said vet is "good".  Experience with that vet might well change your opinion, especially if he/she misdiagnoses your cat, and causes you to spend all kinds of money only to tell you "the labs look fine", when obviously the cat is not fine.  So then it becomes necessary to go in search of another "good" vet with less money than you had before.  And now the one you once thought of as a good vet is now a bad one, and you have a smaller pool from which to choose this alleged "good" vet than before.    It's so frustrating.  On one thread, the OP'er told his story of how his mom's cat had seen several vets who said the labs looked fine, yet the cat was clearly not fine.  And then one poster (an advisor) encouraged (I'm being too generous here with that word) him to find a "good" vet.  But she did not tell him how to find that good vet.  She just judged him for not having found that person just yet and then made him go away with her judgmental attitude.  I subscribed to that post and have not heard anything since she leveled such judgement against him.  Good job!  Now you've chased away someone you could have helped with some actually helpful information rather than the vapid and useless "find a good vet" cliche that was used.  And now the cat continues to suffer.  
ginny August 31, 2015
I personally feel that the first question: do you own a cat? is not only necessary, it's pivotal. In my experience, especially where I live, there are so many cat haters.  A vet's true feelings about cats may also be reflected in his or her care of your pet, so personally I would NOT want to let another vet touch my cat who doesn't actually like cats themselves. If they like them and own them, I think they try harder.  
reba January 4, 2015
This is a great article.  I didn't have pets for about a decade and the last 18 months has been a lot of trial and error in finding out what I want from my vet.  In addition to the above, you also want to ask them about what their standard operating procedures are as far as informed consent.   I honestly wish they'd have a forum on here about having a productive conversation with your vet without it becoming adversarial.  For example, how do bring up all the stuff I've researched on the internet without feeling like I'm questioning the vet's competency.  Also look at where the vet's practicing went to school - if they went to a foreign vet school the likelihood is they're shoulder a couple of hundred thousand dollars in school loans and they need to recover that cost.  Are they utilizing technology?  A practice's investment in technology (computerized chart notes, online appt. booking, direct email contact with the vets) can reduce overhead  and, by extension, their fees. 
zoneout December 5, 2014
This is very informative.   A word on feline-only practices would be welcome.   Is there any advantage or should they be considered like any other vet.   

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