How Do I Find A New Veterinarian?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have been unhappy with the vet clinic that B-kitty and Jilly have been going to for quite some time. When I started taking them there, it was a small, intimate clinic with good service. Now it is more about the money and we never see the same vet — no continuity of care. How do I find a good vet that will give personalized care that won’t break the bank? How do I go about changing the kitties over to a new vet? I live in Central/Southern Maine so the choices are somewhat limited.

~ Lisa

Veterinarian removing sutures from a cat's face.

Veterinarian removing sutures from cat’s face, (CC-BY-SA) by Andrew Dunn.

Siouxsie: We’re glad you asked this question, Lisa. Many cat caretakers find themselves in this position, but they just don’t know what to do, so your question will help a lot of our readers!

Thomas: Finding a new veterinarian in your home town is a lot like finding a new vet when you move far away. The first thing you should do is ask your friends and co-workers if they have a vet they like.

Kissy: Don’ forget to find one that doesn’t give your kitty all kinds of pokings and proddings. We hate that!

Siouxsie: Oh, Kissy, for heaven’s sake! Vets have to give us pokings and proddings to take good care of us!

Thomas: I could do without that thermometer up the butt, though.

Kissy: *grump*

Siouxsie: Ask people who have cats first. Although vets are trained to treat all kinds of animals, you want to make sure your vet is comfortable with cats … and that your cats are comfortable with the vet!

Thomas: It sounds like you know what kind of clinic you’re looking for, and that’s a big step, so make sure to ask what the clinic’s atmosphere is like. For example, Mama’s favorite vet clinic when she lived back in the midcoast area had separate entrances for dogs and cats, and the vet she found was super-awesome with cats. I loved Doctor Sarah!

Siouxsie: Me too. I used to climb up on top of the cabinets in the exam room because it was so much fun to watch Mama climb on chairs to get me down. Tee hee hee!

Thomas: You can look online for reviews, too. Services like Yelp and Google can give you a sense of how people who have gone to that clinic liked it.

Kissy: But beware that sometimes people post “grudge reviews,” too. When you find a ridiculously negative review in a sea of positive ones, that could be the case.

Siouxsie: We live in Maine, too, and we’ve lived in rural areas, so we know it can be difficult to find a nearby clinic that meets your needs. You may have to travel a bit to find one you like, so you should decide what’s a reasonable driving distance for you — and be prepared to go a little farther if the clinic is a good fit.

Thomas: You’re going to have to visit the clinics, or at the very least call them and ask about their vets. Mama wrote a column for Catster with six tips for choosing the right vet, so you should check that out for more details.

Kissy: Once you’ve found a clinic you think you’ll like, you’ll need to tell your current vet that you’re changing clinics. You don’t have to tell them why unless you want to. If you live in a small town with only one or two clinics, Mama says it’s best not to burn your bridges by being nasty to your current vet.

Siouxsie: People change vets all the time, so don’t feel guilty about it! That guilt or anxiety about telling your clinic you want a divorce, so to speak, keeps a lot of people going to vets they don’t like. You’re the customer and you’re your cats’ chief advocate, so it’s up to you to do what’s right for your cat.

Thomas: Get copies of your cats’ veterinary records from your current clinic. Your new vet will need that information so she knows the cats’ vaccination and health history.

Kissy: Remember that finding the right vet might take time, but don’t give up.

Siouxsie: Do you have any other advice on finding a new vet? Did you change vets, and how did it work out for you and your cat? Please sound off in the comments.

  • Random Felines

    we had a similar thing with our old vet. and then they told mom she had to bring only two of us in at a time….yeah – cause that wouldn’t up the per visit cost. she asked around to her shelter friends and ended up finding a wonderful vet…that comes to the house.

    • The Paws and Effect Gang

      House call vets are awesome! If you live in a rural area, they’re a lot harder to find, though. We’ve heard of a couple of vets who are willing to go out to small, rural rescues and do health checks and vaccs and the like — sort of like the farm calls that large-animal vets do.

  • Jane

    Hi Lisa- it sounds like you’ve had some frustrating experiences; just like the general population, not all veterinarians understand cats and how to work with them. You’ve gotten some good suggestions so far, and this article from the CATalyst Council-
    “Find a Cat Friendly Veterinarian for Your Cat” (
    has five great tips on just what you’re asking. It tells you how to search on line and there are some very good feline practitioners between York, ME and Portland! Most veterinarians should respond “yes” when you ask to visit and see how they work with cats and cat owners. Keep looking and you will surely find one who is a good fit for you and your kitties! As far as not breaking the bank- have you looked into pet health insurance and prepaid preventive care plans (where you pay a defined amount every month and it covers what they need for health maintenance)? By using one or both of those options, it may be a little easier on your pocketbook and you can feel better knowing you’ve made provisions for their health.

    • The Paws and Effect Gang

      Thanks, Jane. It’s great to know the CATalyst Council also has information about finding a cat-friendly vet.

      As Maine cats, we should point out that York is in extreme southern Maine, so that might be too much of a haul for Lisa. Portland’s pretty far south, too, but it may be a more doable trip for someone living in the southern part of central Maine. :-)

  • Aleks

    Kind of tangentially related, but I highly recommend that everyone consider signing up with Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. For a very low monthly premium, they cover absolutely any non-preventative claim you might have. My tabby Pedro had to go to the kitty ER twice, and each visit would have cost about $2,000, but they covered 90% of the tab.

    So if you’re worried about high vet bills, this is a great solution :)

    • The Paws and Effect Gang

      Pet insurance is a good thing to have. There are more and more pet insurance companies out there, so if you’re thinking about getting insurance, be sure to do your homework and know what’s covered and what isn’t. Many pet insurance companies won’t even cover cats above a certain age (Mama ran into that with Siouxsie when she started shopping around for insurance), or if they do, they’ll only cover accidents and not illnesses. Because older cats are more likely to develop expensive illnesses than they are to have accidents, you can see how that might not work out so well.

  • Kieran

    I understand your frustration! I’ve switched vets many times due to moving around, and none of them have been very good. I’ve had one vet call my 7.5 lb baby “fat” and say “His record says he’s already neutered” when I brought him in for the surgery (he wasn’t, of course). My other cat has very itchy ears of which I’ve been trying to figure out the cause with no help from vets – the last time I took her to the old one, he didn’t see any ear mites in her ears, but gave her ear mite medication anyway and sent us on our way. I’ve also been very frustrated with vets’ rough handling of my cats, who are the sweetest, gentlest things in the world.

    Fortunately, I think I’ve found a good one where I live now. The animal hospital came recommended by my landlord, who has two cats herself. I get 30+ minutes for an appointment and complete explanation of treatment options and possible causes for ear itching. This morning I called them and they knew who I was just from “I brought my cat in yesterday to check up on her ear itching.” The vet even writes up everything we discuss during the appointment and e-mails it to me. My only complaints are that $50 seems steep for an exam (is it?) and they are only open 8-5:30 M-F (like everything else in this strange town).

    In short, I second asking someone you know, but make sure it’s someone who clearly cares a lot about their cats.

  • Hairless Cat

    Hi Gang,

    I recently had the same problem with my local vet. Too bad since it was such a great clinic and it was so close to my house.

    It also started out as a place where the staff really cared and then turned into a profit center once new ownership took over.

    Under the new ownership they let go of all but one long time employee and hired a bunch of not-so-experienced and much younger staff.

    Now there were only half as many vets. They hiked up the prices for everything and pushed a lot of tests. I could go on and on about it but I won’t.

    Long story short – I switched vets and now have to drive a bit of a distance.

    Word of mouth is the best starting point. You can also do an internet search to check ratings and comments.

    Once you find a vet or two that seems like a good fit, try them out one at a time.

    We are real happy with our new vet. They really care. Only draw back is it’s a bit of a drive. But that’s okay because it’s worth it to get back to a vet that really cares.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=