How do you know your veterinarian is trustworthy? What are your criteria?

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Photo credit: Flickr User: Lori Horwedel

I think it’s extremely bizarre when we lose confidence in a particular service provider we have been using – such as an automobile mechanic- or even a dry cleaner. We generally have no problem severing that relationship and moving on to one that we do trust.

However, when it comes to our feelings about a veterinarian that we feel is not providing our cats the best of care, we often find ourselves in a major dilemma about how to handle the situation. We often start second-guessing ourselves, and trying to find the “right” words to deal with the problem and requesting a second-opinion can be extremely difficult at times.

To better prevent “sticky” situations, what should we look for when choosing a veterinarian who is “trustworthy”? Here are a few things to consider.

One who is open to learning and keeps current with his or her profession

There are some veterinarians who appear perfectly content to use the same treatment methods and standards they used when they graduated from veterinary school. Perhaps their practice is overwhelming and they don’t have the time or are unwilling to make the time to continue their education. Does your veterinarian eagerly keep up with the latest treatment methods? This is an excellent question to ask when interviewing a prospective veterinary practitioner.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

One who is honest and open

It’s unrealistic to expect that a veterinarian will know absolutely everything about all medical conditions or behavior problems. A trustworthy veterinarian is likely to respond to a question by saying, “I just don’t know; let me do some research on this issue and get back to you.” I expect that a trustworthy veterinarian will follow up and get back to me with the information I requested.

However, if a veterinarian is being arrogant or gives you the feeling that he/she thinks you are bothersome; using or choosing this practitioner is not the best option.

One who respectfully gives you treatment options

We all want to give our cats the best of care. This said, there are times when the cost of certain treatments may not be within our reach and making decisions are extremely difficult. A trustworthy veterinarian will take the time to carefully explain all treatment options, what they entail and any negative side-effects, and will offer them all without judging the client.

One who treats their clients with respect

Does your veterinarian seem to “pooh-pooh” ideas you offer? We may be more knowledgeable about feline nutrition than our veterinarian. Does the veterinarian give the client the brush off, or keep an open mind? Building a strong relationship with a veterinarian requires mutual trust and respect. Although it’s not easy to locate a feline –savvy veterinarian we consider trustworthy; one on whom we can rely to provide our cats with the best of care, there are veterinarians worthy of our trust.

I am lucky to have had my pick of some of the brightest, compassionate, trustworthy practitioners over the many years I have lived with cats. I can recall only one lousy experience years ago when we lived in New York. I felt some odd bumps under the skin of my Siamese cat and Yo-Yo when my trusted vet was out of town. Not wanting to wait another few weeks I had no choice but to have her checked out by another veterinarian.

After he examined her he said it was nothing of concern – that it was possibly insect bites. I replied, “Tell me it’s nothing to worry about after you biopsy those bumps.” He unenthusiastically agreed to perform the procedure, telling me I was wasting my money – but would call me with results. A few days later he called saying, “It’s bad news. Your cat has Fibrosarcoma.”

In my haste, I didn’t listen to my inner-voice. Bur something about him felt “off.” He was arrogant. I felt he was incompetent since he didn’t suggest the biopsy first. I had put myself between and rock and a hard place because I was worried.

As a result of this unfortunate event I now trust my gut when I am choosing a practitioner whom I feel innately is more than competent to competently care for our kitties. After an extended search thankfully I have found one who meets all the above criteria.

A final point: a good vet can be an excellent vet when he/she thoroughly understands cat behavior.

What do you look for in choosing a trustworthy veterinarian? What are your criteria? Share your opinions in a comment.

Associated: Elisa’s bad vet experience.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

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21 Responses

  1. DtHawke says:

    i don’t like bring up money in regards to vet care. Because they do have it tough. They need to promote their reputation as caring and compassionate, yet expected to deliver modern up to date. treatment. But there has been a change in vet client relation within the past decade. With everyone struggling in today’s economy, those vet visit become less and and less frequent. Vets want to be successful too and have to raise prices and supplement their income with add on services. Preventing us from really developing a strong relationship with our vets. I believe this lack of connection is the main source of having a bad experience at the vets. There is no opportunity to develop that inter connected bond between you, your pet and your vet.

  2. Dee (Florida) says:

    Ofcourse vets show caring, because they’re paid.
    How many vets drag out the inevitable for the bucks and, secretly, give us a load of false hope?
    That’s why I so appreciated my old, retired vet. He told me when to stop wasting money.
    Whether it be diabetes, pancreatitis, kidney disease, or liver failure there is a time to stop expecting herbal miracles to perform their witchcraft properties.
    Are we so desperate to keep our old, ailing cats alive that we load them with junk?
    Perhaps they live 6 months beyond their expiration date. Is that a reason to dose them up with these substances and make them miserable? Isn’t that abuse?
    I so hated docs prescribing dose after dose of chemo drugs to terminally ill cancer patients, knowing that they would have no benefit.
    There is a time to give up and let go of our so loved babies and stop trying to keep them alive for our own selfish reasons.

  3. Jo Singer says:

    One more thing on the plus-side to decide whether the veterinarian is trustworthy is that they truly care about the pet under their care.

    The way that I know that our cats’ vets are truly trustworthy is that they are willing to go the extra mile to help our cats- even if it is after hours- with a short phone call- to give some advice that may be extremely helpful to our cats and, of course me- who may be very concerned about something is going on that may not be normal. Heck,it only takes a few minutes to be able to give some needed advice and reassuranace.

    As I have mentioned, in additional to traditional treatment, our cats are receiving Chinese herbs to deal with their conditions. The other night, all of a sudden Sir Hubble’s temperature was elevated, without any apparent reason. I was able to connect with the vet on call, who did some research about the particular herb he was getting and told me that this was normal and that the fever would subside shortly.

    She was right on the money- and now I have a greater understanding about the herb’s properties and how they work. Sir Hubble’s temp is normal and he has regained his appetite completely.

    I really appreciate these two veterinarians- who do a lot of research and training to be able provide excellent care for their fur and feathered patients.

  4. Dee (Florida) says:

    I wish that I would agree that most vets are trustworthy, but they are not. Like cops that have quotas to meet. Vets have the same.
    Like MD docs, they always have the newest and greatest natural miracle treatments. They suck you in and rip off your pocketbook.
    So, they claim that you will have 6 months more with your love if you pour $300 into their vault. So would any other vet with a traditional treatment but for a cost of $50.

  5. Carol says:

    I can’t even begin to say how much I trust and admire my vet. Maybe the fact that he has been my vet since 1971 is a clue! LOL Besides him being a super vet, he is quite the humanitarian. He singlehandedly built a schoo and libraryl in Madagascar and to watch the progress with that over the years has been gratifying. This was accomplished with no running water in the area. I dread the day this man decides to retire… however, his daughter is also a vet. LOL Whew!

  6. Jo Singer says:


    Right on the money about complacency.

    What I really admire about my vet is that she is extremely comfortable with my questioning something she suggests. I never just take any advice with blind trust- and I question why she may be suggesting something about which I know very little.

    I have had experiences with vets in the past who, when I do question something they give me the impression that THEY are the experts and who am I to question something they are suggesting. That would be the end of a relationship with a veterinarian of that ilk.

    We have recently started Chinese herbal medicine with our cats, and I had a LOT of questions about them. My vet takes the time to explain the purpose of everything she is doing and doesn’t make me feel that I am doubting her expertise.

    She also requests feedback when something doesn’t seem right- does more research. Recently when one of the herbs seemed to cause Dr. Hush Puppy to sleep more than usual- and we wanted to keep using herbs for his issue, I asked her if she had any other “tricks up her sleeve”. She laughed and told me she did- and would get back to me with changes. We switched to another type of herb and it is working very nicely and Puppy isn’t sleeping excessively now.

    • my vet is that she is extremely comfortable with my questioning something she suggests

      This must be a good sign as it shows confidence and empathy. A good vet listens as well. They can learn from the good cat guardian.

    • DtHawke says:

      You bring up a good point about asking questions or doing research on your own. You see this a lot in various forum. The pet owner is ridiculed for researching pet care related topic, they are called Googlers. Now true, some don’t know how find legitimate sources, but if any profession ridicules its clientele, and discourages knowledge unless it only comes from them, they don’t respect the ones that are the source of their income.

  7. DtHawke says:

    Since the discovery of PoC, I am continually impressed with the content.
    Great article. From experience, I cannot stress the impact and devastation you go through when you cross paths with a bad vet. Fortunately they are the minority. One suggestion that I would make, is that even though you may have found the perfect vet; don’t become complacent with blind trust and always question. Maintain your own copies of the medical records. You are the voice for the pet. If something legitimately goes wrong, you may not be dealing with the friendly caregiver anymore, but a business owner fighting to maintain the reputation of his business.

  8. Iniki says:

    I have a wonderful vet and trust her with my cats. She is not afraid to listen to what I have to say and even teases me that my cats are to the vet before there are actual symptoms she can find. A blood test confirms my suspicions. She never blinked or hesitated to take my cats in this January when our house burned. She kept them at the office for 6 days until we could get into housing that allowed them. When I went to pick them up the bill was high but she told me to pay when I could. We have mutual trust. She listens to opinions too.
    Our vet travels with her horses to shows all over the eastern seaboard so sometimes she has fill in vets. When one of the fill in vets told me that I didn’t know anything about my cats and that my cat was ill and should be euthanized I was furious. Upon return I talked to our vet and told her what happened. That fill in has never been back. Not only is our vet great , her staff is excellent too. Ask questions and look for someone that cares about your fur children and you also.

  9. Stella says:

    I have been using the same vet since 1994. As a breeder I have trusted Muddy Creek Animal Hospital with the care of my cats and kittens. They work with me and know I do give my own vaccines and de-worming medication. My vet knows I will show up on his door step if I have a cat that need to be seen no matter what time a day. He has gone out of his way with research and taking the time to listen to me. Never ever shrugging me off as someone who thinks they know it all. I don’t and neither does he. Together we have learned about Maine Coons and trust each other. I know if I drop off a sick cat and have to go to work they are in the best hands possible and that they are being well cared for and loved.

  10. Vicki says:

    Since I have both dogs, and horses, I have a regular Vet and an Equine Vet. My regular vet is the daughter of our vet that we have used for twenty years. I have known her since she was twelve years old and have a lot of faith in her since I have known her for so long. She is very caring and has excellent bedside manor.Our Equine vet has taken a lot of time with our horses and gone to extra measures to make sure their diagnosis is correct and subsequent treatment as well. I would find it very difficult to change our vets as I have the most confidence in them.

  11. Michele S. says:

    When looking for a new vet I always ask local rescues and cat owning friends who they’d recommend and then I go with my gut feeling about the vet at our first appointment.

    I’ve been with my current vet for over twenty years now and I trust him implicitly to do the best for my cats. He has a great way with animals, never tries to inflate the bill by running unecessary tests or treatments and is always happy to answer any questions I have. I dread the day he will retire 🙁

    I have in the past encountered a couple of vets to whom I’ve taken an instant dislike and never returned to their clinic. Any vet who shows signs of frustration or irritation, if one of my cats starts getting agitated is definitely not going to get my custom.

  12. jmuhj says:

    Top priority is to choose a vet who truly cares about CATS and preferably a cats-only practice. Secondly, since I am not a billionaire and businesses here are focused on how much money they can make off of anyone coming through their doors, the veterinarian needs to place his patients’ wellbeing above mercenary concerns.

  13. Nice article Jo. Interesting. For me one of the best tests is how a vet deals with the end of life euthanasia problems. When a vet is genuinely caring and concerned about nothing other than the cat or dog’s well being it comes across when the decision has to be made to euthanise or not.

    I know one such excellent vet in London who assists both the cat and the cat’s caretaker through this very difficult period. Her caring nature shines through.

    Another positive for me is when a vet explains why a vaccination is not necessary! Usually they will sell vaccinations but occasionally they are so honest that they see a reason why a vaccination is not necessary and tell you. This is really thinking about cat welfare and of course it saves money at the same time.

    • Michele S. says:

      Some vets are definitely better than others at handling people through the euthanasia process.

      My regular vet was away when Sophie was taken ill so I had to see a vet new to the practise. Whilst I can’t fault his medical skills, I was less than impressed with his people skills. To be fair, it was manic in the surgery that morning. Two dogs had been brought in as emergencies causing all other appointments to be delayed by several hours. The vets were rushed off their feet and maybe I was over-sensitive, but I didn’t appreciate it when he came out to the waiting room to announce he was very concerned about Sophie and then left me and my imagination working overtime for the next 30 minutes. When he returned he explained that they’d not had time to carry out any diagnostic tests yet and invited me into the treatment room to see “him”. (I had to remind him several times the cat was female.) My heart sank when I saw her because she was so lifeless, though she did crawl towards me when I said hello. The vet allowed me to remain in the room whilst he did the x-rays and ultrasound, which sadly revealed Sophie had end-stage liver cancer. I remember being offended when he told me he was glad to have reached a definitive diagnosis, because he’d been thinking two emergencies and now I’ve got to test this cat! When I was ready, the vet administered the injection and left me alone in the room with Sophie.

      I have mixed feelings about how he handled the situation. He was I felt, somewhat tactless at a highly sensitive time, but he was accurate in his initial assessment of her condition and chose the most appropriate tests to pinpoint the problem as quickly as possible. He was young, so perhaps he will develop a better manner with clients, but I can’t help thinking that empathy is something you either have or don’t.

  14. Serbella McGee says:

    I really enjoyed your article, Jo! I agree with the standards you set forth about vets. Samirah and I went to the vet yesterday. She was really nervous, but she didn’t act out. The vet and his staff were surprised, because they’ve seen her at her worst. She laid on the table and moaned, but they were gentle with her and comforted her. They took blood and examined her in a smooth, efficient manner.

    My vet and I discussed things I should look out for her, symptoms of diseases and conditions that could develop. He’s always been available to discuss Samirah, and he told me not to hesitate to call in if something came up. In the beginning he told me not to clip her claws because he was concerned she’d rip into me, but all that’s past now.

    This morning he called me with the results of her bloodwork, told me that everything was fine, completely normal, that the results “looked as good as she looked yesterday.” Calling me back when he promised to is important to me too. I can’t tell you how many times doctors and nurses have promised to call me back with my own test results and they never did.

  15. Jo Singer says:


    You are excellently describing our veterinarians and staff. We are blessed to have two top notch docs taking care of our senior kitties- both of whom have some major medical issues right now.

    In addition to their skill, their patience with me is extraordinary since I tend to get worried- but they are there for me all the time.

    They love our kitties- and our cats really trust them. It seems to me that they know that their docs are helping them to feel better- and they trust them. We feel blessed.

  16. Cat says:

    I have a very caring vet. He is willing to research problems to find the correct answer before offering solutions. He even allows his staff to bring their dogs to work everyday. The clinic even has a resident cat who loves to come greet the patients and their care givers. She is a joy to visit with. Her behavior reflects the clinic’s attitude towards pets. The technician got mildly grumpy when I asked about declawing and said that they do not encourage it at all. (Not that I would ever have it done!!!) The staff even “baby” talks my dogs and giggles with the doggy kisses. A definite sign of a good clinic!

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