Taking the cats to a "cats only" vet?
July 16, 2007 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Cat Owner Filter: Is it worth it to take one's cats to a "cats-only" vet?

I have two elderly (ages 12 and 18) cats. I'm not happy with my current vet. I found a local cats-only vet practice and am considering switching. They are more expensive, have more limited hours and are a bit more of a drive; but if they give superior care, that's what really matters.

Any MeFites take their cats to a cats-only vet practice, and do you find it the best thing for the kitties?
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
I took my old man cat to a cats only vet.

I LOVED the vet. The office was great, the vet was caring and I had a great experience.

However, my cat HATED the all-cat vet. There were free range cats up for adoption and they had the run of the office. My old man, not used to exposure to other cats, was not prepared for the sheer numbers of cats running around. He was made so upset by all the cats that I took him to another vet the following year, one that didn't have any animals running around freely.

If you have a less cranky cat who is aware that he is not the only cat in the world, it might be a better experience.
posted by Sheppagus at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I take my cats to a general practice but my vet is a huge cat lover. He used to live near me and his garden backed onto mine, so his cats and mine were pals, and from time to time one of mine would come home with a little label tied to his collar with a note from the vet letting me know he'd removed a tick, or that the cat'd been scrapping with another one and to check for bites that might turn into abscesses.

When the cats I had a few years ago were reaching the ends of their lives, I asked him every time "what would you do if it was Stanley? "[his cat], and trusted his response, whether it'd be to try something new or that there was nothing more to be done.

If your local vets have websites, the biogs of the vets often say what pets they have. So if you find a general practice you like the look of, pick the vet who has pet cats.

The only thing I hate about taking my cats to a general practice is that when they go (and, fortunately, it's only been for annual checkups) it always seems to be Big Dog Day in the waiting area and that stresses the cats out somewhat, even though they're secure in their carriers.
posted by essexjan at 11:00 AM on July 16, 2007

I agree. The vets are great - and they really know their stuff. But, depending on the vet clinic, if your cat is put off by the scent of other cats, a cats only vet can be worse because there is a lot more scent going on.

The caveat is - depending on the clinic (not the vet). I've been to two specialist cat clinics. One (in Vancouver BC) had a lot of "resident" cats, and mine didn't like that a whole lot. But the other (Cat Hospital of Portland, if you're near there) was immaculate, and had only one resident cat, who was kept well away from patients. The care was superb, and my cat didn't seem to mind (well, any more than they mind going to*any* vet ;-)).

I would take a pre-visit to the clinic to check it out. Weird as it may seem, a clinical looking office is probably going to be less stressful than a "cat-friendly" place with lots of soft furnishings and resident cats.
posted by media_itoku at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2007

We've been with a cats-only vet for a long time and love him, but I think it's really dependent on the veterinarian him/herself.

Our vet obvious adores cats, and is also obviously up on the latest issues in feline medicine; he always has some new bit of information or a change in treatment protocol based on new data. If the vet is similarly motivated and devoted, your experience will be a good one. Obviously, this is going to be a serious YMMV situation.

Get references, as they are probably the only valid indications of whether or not it's worth the switch.
posted by briank at 11:10 AM on July 16, 2007

My cats go to a vet who specializes in cats. I appreciate the depth and breadth of her knowledge and she's come up with many creative recommendations as well as staying on top of the latest advances in domestic cat health during the 25 years I've been her client. She doesn't have a cat-only office; she shares her practice with another vet who specializes in dogs. I like being able to take both my cats and dogs to the same practice. It also helps that their office has separate entrances and waiting rooms for cats v. dogs.

The only downside I can think of is boarding: their mixed species practice boards cats as well as small dogs and I imagine boarded cats can hear the kenneled dogs yapping away. While I always hire pet sitters, if I had to board a cat, I would be more inclined to take it to an all-cat place, even though it meant he/she wouldn't be under the care of their regular vet, to avoid the stress from listening to round-the-clock barking.

Anyway, long anecdote to say: ask around, you might find a similar arrangement among your local vets which would give you more choices than just the cat-only practice. In any case, I would select a vet based on direct recommendations of other pet owners vs. whatever the practice advertises.
posted by jamaro at 11:21 AM on July 16, 2007

I suggest getting references if possible. I think the thing to look for is a particular vet who specializes in cats, even though the practice may not.

We have gone to 2 different cat-only vets in Philly. One was outrageously expensive. One was not. We're actually getting better care at the cheaper place.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2007

I've taken my cats to the same cats-only clinic and boarding facility for the last 14 years. The only down side: I'm allergic and have to remember to take something before I go over there.

Everything else has been great, particularly as my cats aged -- which I see is a consideration for you. Our vets are knowledgeable and keep current. They also have a real fondness for their patients. When one of my cats was diagnosed with lymphoma and died soon after, they were extremely helpful and compassionate. It's been the same way with our other cat, who has had various seasonal and food allergies throughout her life and isn't getting any younger.

Regarding limited hours: In my area, there is a 24 hour emergency veterinary clinic that we've used a couple of times. They fax all paperwork to our regular vets, and we schedule follow-up with them the following day. So far, it's worked out fine...but yeah, you might want to ask about emergency care as you look around.

All that said, I agree with those who say you should base your choice on what other cat owners in your area recommend. If you happen to live near me, drop me a line -- a long shot, but you never know.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:23 PM on July 16, 2007

Sparing you from needless anecdotes, the simple answer is no, no it does not matter. Just go with the quality vet that has a good rep.
posted by Malachi Constant at 12:29 PM on July 16, 2007

If you like your vet, then it shouldn't really matter whether it's all cats or not ... most companion animal vets have more than enough experience with cats to be ideal.

However, I do have an all-cats vet. I chose this mainly because I felt they had more to offer in terms of helping us understand and work with some behavioral issues and I liked the extra cat experience since one of my cats has had some major problems with urinary tract blockages.
posted by tastybrains at 12:44 PM on July 16, 2007

What Malachi Constant said. The important thing is whether the vet is good, not whether there are dogs around.
posted by languagehat at 1:23 PM on July 16, 2007

I think most vets in a neighborhood practice have a lot of experience with cats. The important thing is to find one you trust so i think you should definitely change although I don't think there is any particular reason why it needs to be cat only.
As other people noted, there are lots of variations in waiting room and such that make a big difference in the experience. Our vet has separate cat and dog waiting areas (birds usually end up in the dog area.)
posted by metahawk at 2:02 PM on July 16, 2007

We use a cats only vet and love them. They have recent postgrad education with feline medicine and diagnosed a complicated (eventually terminal) illness that had been missed by a more general vet. This was partially because the general vet worked long hours and had a lot of varied clients, he just didn't have the time or specialist knowledge to work out what was wrong with my cat so just treated the symptoms and hoped (and did the tests wrong, ug).

But our cat vet is close by, has normal hours and costs about the same as other vets in the area. They also have a strict 'carriers only' policy that means no animals wandering around the office (which I really like, having my cats sniffed over by snappy little dogs used to suck). If you can find a general vet that is interested in cats and runs their clinic in a way you like (no wandering dogs, decent length consultations, gives written notes for each visit, whatever) then they shouldn't be any better or worse than going to a cat only place.

I've also noticed some general practices have specialists they can send consultations too, for example my cat vets belong to a group that consults with other clinics for cat surgeries and fancy procedures. Having something like around would give you the benefits of the cat only clinic if you need it without paying their extra prices for routine visits.

So I second the idea of checking references, reading clinic webpages and possibly even taking a visit. Our clinic was recommended to us by the after hours clinic vet when we took our sick cat in. Also, if you go somewhere new for a single routine visit (e.g. vaccinations) you will see how they work and you can always change if you don't like them.
posted by shelleycat at 2:19 PM on July 16, 2007

Cats-only vets can have a lot more experience with cats, but we've found that a "small animals" vet near us is the best vet in our area. He only sees cats and dogs. The really important thing is that the staff and the vet actually care and are good to work with for you as an owner. Having dealt with one shitty, shitty vet whose office was clean and whose staff was nice, but who did not care about my cat in particular, I can't stress enough - the vet, whether cats-only or not, should care about your pets. Check refrences with co-workers or other people you trust. Sometimes the vet on the way to the office is better than the one near home.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:59 PM on July 16, 2007

I grew up in a house full of pets (cats, dogs, mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits and some animals that I'm probably forgetting) and we took our animals to a general practice vet. Small-town practice and a caring, great vet who knew his stuff and whom my parents still use and adore.

Now I go to a cats only vet for my cats. And I don't know that my vet is any better with my cats than my parents' is. But it feels better. He's more expensive than some of the other practices in the area, but it's worth it to know that our vet has elected to specialize in the care of cats. We had two vets for a while when the rabbit was still alive, and that was fine.

Like I said, I don't know if the care is any better. But we feel a little better about it. One of our cats nearly died from a urinary blockage a few months back, and it was a tremendous help to know when I left him that he was in the hands of someone who only thought about the care of cats.

So from a logical perspective, it's probably most important just to find a vet that you trust. However, if you don't plan on getting other types of pets or don't mind using two, I think it's nice just to have that extra confidence whether its deserved or not.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:00 PM on July 16, 2007

At my general-practice vet clinic there's a separate waiting area for dogs, so that worried cats and other small creatures don't have to listen to close-up barking and growling.

The vets in this mixed practice are superb. The cats-only vet I used in a previous town was only so-so.
posted by tangerine at 8:31 PM on July 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for your helpful replies. My current vet was referred to me when I moved to the area - but referred by a dog owner, which might explain why I'm not happy with the clinic. I will check websites and references, and see if this cats-only vet has a website.

My cats don't mind other cats, and I always keep them in their carriers at the clinic, but they do mind dogs a lot - my younger kitty girl HATES dogs with a purple passion, so she'd probably be happy with a dog-free waiting room.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:41 AM on July 17, 2007

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