Working With Your Veterinarian


Since our cats cannot speak for themselves, the relationship you have with your veterinarian may be more important than the one with your regular physician.

A little preparation can go a long way to ensure that your feline friend receives optimum care.
First, do not wait until Fluffy has made five trips to the litter box within an hour to find a veterinarian. Ideally, your care should have started when she was first adopted, but if you’re new to town or are looking to make a change, ask for recommendations from friends and family members whose pets’ health seems to be outstanding. Or scope out the clinics in your neighborhood and make an appointment for a brief visit. Is the facility is clean and free of strong odors? Is the staff is courteous? Since you’re the one who is speaking on behalf of the pet, they should be willing to take to time to listen to your concerns.

It is also important that your veterinarian share your philosophy on cat care. If you do not have access to a local holistic veterinarian, find a veterinarian that respects that the fact that you feed a raw diet or do not vaccinate your cat.

Learn what is normal and abnormal for your cat, both physically and behaviorally. Warning flags should go up if your gregarious kit is hiding or your eager eater shuns his supper. Cats are prone to hepatic lipidosis—fatty liver disease—if they’re off their feed for too long.

Protocols for vaccinations are changing out of concern for vaccination-site sarcoma and immune-related considerations. If your cat is older and has been vaccinated regularly, you can cut back on the frequency or even eliminate them. Lifestyle is also an important factor. A cat who will never be boarded or go outside may not need the feline leukemia vaccine. Rabies inoculations may a matter of state law, although cats who are ill or whose immune systems are compromised should not receive any vaccinations. Avoid giving kittens multiple vaccines in a single day—space them out and do wait a couple of weeks between vaccinating and spaying or neutering. It may mean an extra office visit, but it can go a long way toward avoiding health problems in the future.

Discuss vaccination options with your veterinarian, taking into account the age, health and lifestyle of your cat. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has a list of recommendations for core and non-core vaccinations.

Invest in a couple of good cat care books and read them. The Internet is chock full of resources (consider the source when doing research) and do take advantage of links provided by your favorite websites and e-mail lists. Learn the signs and symptoms of common diseases in order to provide your veterinarian with as much information as possible in determining a diagnosis.

Do not be afraid to ask questions during treatment or exams. Make a list, especially if you are dealing with a serious illness or injury that requires extensive care and medication, or even if you have routine concerns that are easily forgotten. Ask for copies of blood tests and other clinical reports and learn to read them. If medication is administered or prescribed, ask about possible side effects: Antibiotics can often cause an upset tummy that can be soothed with a little yogurt or acidophilus.

If your vet brushes off your concerns, does not answer your questions or insists on treatment that makes you uncomfortable, move on. You are not looking to usurp his or her position, but rather work as partners toward a mutual goal—achieving the best possible health for your cat.

Oh, one small detail … it’s helpful to everyone if you acclimate your kitty to her carrier before the visit to minimize last minute traumas or escape.

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About ExclusivelyCats
Sally Bahner is an expert in all aspects of cat care: Writer, consultant, speaker, instructor.

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