How Did You Find Your Veterinarian?
By Lee Harper, Mockingbird Persians & Exotics

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If you are a cat (or dog) owner, one of the questions you will be asked from time to time is “How did you find your veterinarian?"

If you are a cat breeder, finding the right vet is critical. Finding the right vet begins with deciding what you need in a vet. Oftentimes, it is not until you have the wrong vet that you discover the vet is not for you.

My Story

I was living on the 27th floor of a condominium building on downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was the center of a bustling urban lifestyle.

Coming into the lobby one day, I found a tiny Persian kitten huddling in the corner. Ours was a "no pet" building so I I was surprised to find a kitten in the lobby. It was obviously a purebred Persian. It couldn't be a stray from the street. I took her up to my condo and by the time I tracked down her owner, I was hooked.

Before long I had purchased a Persian show male. When I received my kitten, I naturally wanted to have him checked out by a vet.

I went to the nearest veterinary office. Technically, it called itself a clinic. The difference between a hospital and a clinic is that the clinic had no major medical equipment — not even an x-ray machine. That wasn't going to be very handy if one needed to x-ray a pregnant female or check the lungs on a cat with an upper respiratory infection.

My Requirement # 1: I needed to find a better equipped facility.

Next I went to a "Cats-Only" practice, figuring this vet would have more experience with feline ailments and would be experienced at handling recalcitrant kitty patients. And the female vet was indeed good at handling cats. But (and there is so often a but), there were 4 "clinic cats" wandering around the waiting room. These cats greeted every new person and their kitty with purrs and nose-touches. While it was all very sweet, I couldn't help but think that if any patient in that waiting room had an infectious problem — fleas, an upper respiratory, feline leukemia, etc, — there was a possibility that those friendly feline greeters could pick up the problem and pass it on to the next patient, including my cat.

My Requirement # 2: No Cross-Contamination With Other Cats

Then, when I went into the examination room, I found it did not have the typical examination table. It was like a mini-living room. The client sat in an upholstered chair while the vet sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor and the kitty walked around. My cat loved the friendly approach, but I also wondered about all the cats that had sat under that chair — and how it would be impossible to disinfect the underside of the upholstered chair or the carpeting.

My Requirement # 3: Cleanliness & Disinfection

I asked to go in the back room with my cat while her blood was taken for testing. The tech staff were friendly. The blood was expertly taken. I would be called with the results the next day.

When I was called with the results, I was told everything was negative. One of the tests I had requested was a corona virus titer. I asked about it and was told by the receptionist that is was negative. I told her that that the result of that particular test was a number, not a positive or a negative. Eventually I spoke to the vet who admitted the test was never done and I would have to return my cat for more blood to be taken (since I had already been charged for the test).

Hmm . . . I this was clearly not the right vet for me.

Requirement # 4: Conscientious, Reliable & Honest

Before I had the opportunity to check out the next vet on my list, my cat became very ill. I went to the nearest vet but they sent me to the emergency vet where twice a day they gave my kitty sub-Q fluids. I had experience working at a veterinary hospital and asked that I be allowed to give the fluids at home. They said no. They did not allow (or provide the supplies) for an owner to give sub-Q fluids at home. So twice a day, in the middle of a freezing cold winter, I would take my very sick kitty to the emergency vet for sub-Q fluids.

This wasn't the ideal situation for my sick kitty.

Requirement # 5: Willingness To Trust My Abilities

Next I sat down and made phone calls to various vets asking what equipment they had. I found one with top facilities including ultrasound and in-house bloodwork.

I took my sick kitty to this vet hospital. There I met a junior vet. I explained my situation and my requirements in a vet, and there was an immediate accord. I was allowed to accompany my cat while she was given fluids and then I was sent home with everything I needed to give her sub-Q fluids at home. This was the vet for me.

Requirement # 6: Personal Chemistry With The Veterinarian

Eventually I moved. I was now an hour away in a different city. My junior vet also moved about an hour away in the opposite direction to open her own practice. One again, I had to look for a vet.

I tried three different vets in my new area. They just weren't up to scratch — so now I travel over an hour to my old vet. I must pass 40 vets on the way, but it doesn't matter. When you find a good vet, when you find the RIGHT vet for you, they are worth the drive . . .

Option # 7: Local

Ideally, I would like my veterinarian to be close to my home. However, when the local vet doesn't fulfill Requirements 1-6, I quickly realized being close to home was an option, not a requirement.

So that was how I found the best vet for me and my cats.

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