Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic - Looks nice to me. This photo has been used with permission for teaching/educational purposes at PoC. The text is entirely mine, please note.
As is the case for all professionally qualified people, there are the good veterinarians, the average ones and the poor ones. Superimpose that with varying degrees of experience and you have a wide range of quality in respect of veterinarians. In some countries you might also find vets whose first language is not the language spoken in the county where he or she is working.
Good communication between the vet and the cat's guardian (you) is very important. For instance in London, UK you will meet foreign vets from Europe who are allowed to work in the UK without difficulty. This is an added factor in choosing a veterinarian. Similar issues may present themselves in other international cities. Veterinary clinics who employ young foreign vets are probably cutting costs and that is not a good sign.
Visiting.. There is no substitute to visiting and using a vet. If you are choosing a vet for the first time in the area without knowledge of the vets in the area, I think at the outset you will have to go to the nearest vet to you as this minimises disruption to your cat. Cats generally get anxious when going to the vet. The human guardians get more anxious!
Note: Some vets are specialists at treating cats. In the USA there is the Association of Feline Practitioners. I don't know of a similar association elsewhere. A check on their website to see if there is feline veterinary practitioner in your area must make sense as a first step in choosing a vet if you look after a cat.
When visiting you should gently assess the vet and the facility. I think this is largely common sense. A really nice, pleasant (relatively quiet) and clean reception area together with a nice, pleasant and helpful receptionist counts for a lot. If you feel up to it and are unsure by what you see at first ask for a tour of the facility.
Meeting the vet.. You'll meet the vet in the consultation room. This is where the vet is under the spotlight. How she conducts herself will tell you if she is good. Remember that the cat is the client and you are the guardian. Everything you say and do is for the benefit of the cat i.e what is best for the cat in your opinion having heard the vet and having made some sort of assessment yourself.
This is where some knowledge of cat health is useful; not as a means to try and diagnose and treat but to give you the armoury of knowledge to be able to work with the vet rather than take everything she says as the gospel truth. In this way you can protect your cat from the average or poor vet making mistakes or focusing too much on making money. The vet's priority should be the cat's welfare. You don't have to worry about the good vets. You can accept what they say as gospel truth. You just have to find them first.
How to assess a vet.. These are my personal views. I prefer a vet who is at least in their 30s, maybe older. Ideally they should have 10-15 years experience behind them. Experience is very important. I should know because as a solicitor (attorney in the USA) I was much better after 10 years! Also the vet needs life experience as well as veterinary experience to do the job well. It is a job that requires people skills and making difficult and subtle decisions e.g. when to euthanise a beloved cat companion. This is not to criticise young vets - they all have to learn. It is just that given the option an experienced vet is better.
Your experience is also useful because you have to be able to read a person's character and ideas in relation to animals. A good vet must love or at least like animals. Not all vets do. We have no idea what the percentage is. But a good vet will come across, in what she says and does, as someone who loves and cares about animals. That is the most important factor in choosing a veterinarian. Vets who give the impression that they prioritise financial profit over animal welfare can't really be trusted to give best advice and provide best care. Vets who declaw and devocalise are probably in this category.
If your cat is not insured for veterinary fees, always discuss the cost of treatment and gently challenge the vet if necessary but cost should not be the number one deciding factor.
Does the vet listen to you? Does she give the impression that she has the knowledge? Cat vaccinations are a troublesome area as they should not be obligatory for all cats under all circumstances. Does your vet accept that? Ask him about current recommendations as it might check that his knowledge is up to date.
My vet does not recommend automatically vaccinating my cat. Mentally I gave him a massive plus mark when he said that. Also he said that the diagnosis for ringworm was problematic and that I should not necessarily have my cat tested or treated. I was immediately aware that this vet was not chasing money and that he was not modifying his decision making accordingly. Another plus mark.
A good vet will be able to make you feel at ease and able to discuss tricky health issues and the all important cost. Cost is the biggest worry for many cat guardian other than the obvious: cat health. All other things being equal, if a vet deals with that aspect of their work well and with sensitivity, you can feel confident that you have chosen a good vet.
Photo: Source: Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic - thank you.