So you’ve got a new cat, and she needs a checkup. On your first vet visit, your vet will take the lead and give you some basic information, and probably will go through a fairly standard routine.
Upwards of 90% of the information you need, however, will be based on the questions that you ask your vet. Somewhere, typically towards the end of the checkup, your vet will ask you if you have any questions.
Usually, by that time, your adrenaline has been pumping, and you’ve been overloaded. Your cat has been stressed and so have you… you are both ready to leave. Do not let this opportunity pass you by.
Take this time to take the lead, and ask your questions. What questions? Well, the ones that you’ll forget if you don’t already have them written down. Yes, write them down now.
Much of the information being distributed today on feline diet, health, and cat care in general is either fear based (e.g. raw meat diets, vaccination scares), or profit based (i.e. advertising). It’s important, therefore, to get your vet’s take on some of these issues.
Here is a list of issues that you can use to formulate your questions. This is by no means all inclusive, and you’ll probably have some specific ones of your own.
The important thing is that this will spark a dialogue between you and your vet that will help both of you to better care for your cat.
Here are some subjects to create your questions around…
Vaccination options: there are options for both type and schedule, and there are risks, so be sure to find out what your vet recommends for your cat.
Diet and nutrition: ask about commercial cat foods and brands as they are not all the same. What about alternatives like home made cat food, raw meat diets, and feeding table scraps?
Common cat owner mistakes: ask your vet which common mistakes to avoid.
Emergency procedures: find out what emergency procedures your vet has now, should you need it later.
Indoor or Outdoor: this is a big subject as it greatly affects your life, and the life span of your cat.
Cat litter and litter boxes: many choices can be narrowed to only a few by asking your vet for advice.
Common diseases and their signs: understanding what the common signs of disease are will help you detect problems in your cat early, and may save her life one day.
Use the above list to get started. As you write your questions, more will come to you. Write them down, even if the answers appear obvious. There is no question too small to ask your vet about the health of your cat.
One of the most crucial and important of decisions a pet-parent makes it that of choosing a vet. It is the vet who will understand your pet when he gets ill and care enough to practice what is now popular as preventive health care.
Never choose a vet because he has a nice smile or a beautiful office or is cheap. Choose a vet who thinks about your pet the same as you do and always keeps the best interest of the pet ahead of all other considerations. The vet must love the breed that your pet is and:
• Be kind and gentle when handling the dog. He must not leave diagnosis or check ups to assistants.
• He must always stay ahead of developments in medicine and update his skills and knowledge constantly.
• The vet must be able to stand by you through thick and thin and proffer timely advice.
• The clinic must be spik and spank and have space for overnight stay with clean kennels, space to run, and staff who love animals.
• It is ideal if the clinic is located close to your home and if it offers health care plans for your pet.
• Ask the clinic if they have emergency contact numbers so that you can call if an unforeseen problem occurs in the middle of the night or on a public holiday.
• Check if the clinic has specialists consulting with them like orthopedic doctors and eye specialists.
As a concerned pet parent you must make a list of questions you need answers to. And spend a little time on finding out whether you would be more comfortable with an allopathic vet represented by the American Veterinary Medical Association, AVMA or a holistic vet represented by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, AHVMA.
While allopathic vets practice conventional medicine, a holistic vet will use medicinal herbs, nutritional changes or supplements, vitamins, and enzymes, chiropractic manipulations, homeopathy, Bach flower remedies, as well as massages for treatment. And, if need be they will prescribe allopathic medicines. They try and treat the cause not just the symptoms of any ailment.
It is essential for you to choose a vet who will work along your side in caring for the pet. He must be patient, love the animal, and make time to explain things to you as well as take your opinion of things. After all, no one can know your pet better than you. A vet must care for the pet for at least 10-15 years. He must be organized and maintain health records in great detail from the day the pet is born to the day it dies.
A pet will lead a complete existence only if you, the vet, and trainer work in harmony and side by side. So, choosing a suitable vet is an important decision that must be done after weighing all the pros and cons.
Choosing a “vital 5” out of my list of questions to ask your vet about your cat was no easy task. As the list gets longer, it becomes even more difficult.
My hope, of course, is that cat owners and vets everywhere will use this technique to form a better pet health care team. With some creativity, you can adapt the concept, if not the questions themselves, to fit just about any pet.
As you may already know, I began collecting my list of questions based on reader feedback. By the types of questions that I was being asked by website visitors, two major truths became painfully obvious…
1. Many people just do not seem to have a good working relationship with their vet.
By that I mean that for some reason, they don’t seem to get the information that they need. Honestly, I have been shocked by the questions coming my way on cat health and behavior. Hadn’t these people spoken to their vet? Surely their vet could have helped them with this topic.
Sadly, in some cases, the answer was no. Even worse, though, was the sad reality of the second truth…
2. They had asked one or more veterinarians about the issue, but never got a clear direction on what the problem was or what to do about it!
In some cases, these people had asked for help over long periods of time, with no results. For them, my standard answer of “here is what I know, now go ask your vet about the particulars” didn’t really work for them.
The quick answer of “get another vet” didn’t always apply either. It was either not feasible, or had already been tried. The obvious follow up to that would be to continue looking for a veterinarian who would help. But that probably isn’t necessary most of the time.
I didn’t have a specific answer for these people at the time, but I knew two things. First, these people needed to get to a place where they could work as a team with their vet to help their cat. Second, they needed to learn exactly what to ask in order to get their vet to talk to them.
One of our goals as cat owners should be to develop and encourage an information flow with our vet. Yet, this seems to be something that most of us put little thought into.
So, how do you do that? Two ways…
1. Ask good questions that lead to a two way information exchange.
My firm belief is that the quality of information that we receive is directly related to the questions that we ask. Based on that notion, I decided to try to help you, the cat owner, and put together a list of “questions to ask your vet.”
2. Arrive at your vet visit prepared, with questions in hand.
Show up at your vet visit with written questions, and write down the responses. While you’re there, jot down any new questions, along with their answers, that come to mind. If you don’t, you will either forget to ask, not ask in the right way, or worse, forget the answer! Your pet will thank you.
Of my entire list of questions to ask your vet, I’ve selected 5 that are vital. Here they are…
1. Should my cat be indoor or outdoor?
This decision impacts how you and your cat interact. More importantly, it determines to a significant degree how long your cat may live. As a rule, indoor cats live many times longer than outdoor cats.
2. What are the most common diseases and conditions that I should know about?
You and your vet should briefly discuss the most common conditions that develop in cats. This discussion can expand to include breed, and may vary based on geography.
3. What are the most common signs of disease that I should look for?
In addition to knowing which diseases are common, you should know what to look for. Getting a good idea of the common signs of disease will help you detect trouble early. Some common signs of a number of diseases are excessive thirst and urination, excessive vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy.
4. What do you recommend for cat litter?
This can be somewhat controversial, but you should get your vet’s opinion. There are many options, probably too many, on brand and type. Using the “wrong” cat litter can have a profound effect on the well being of your cat.
Some cats will refuse to use the litter box if you even change brands. Expand this into a discussion on litter box type, number and placement as well.
5. Is there a particular diet or brand of pet food that you recommend? Why?
This again is controversial, but all important. The AAFCO sets certain guidelines on pet food ingredients, but that does not mean that commercial pet foods are all the same. In addition, a number of well meaning cat lovers, including some breeders, are recommending home made cat food, or raw meat diets.
Watch out, as these can be dangerous, especially if not done correctly. Find out what your vet is feeding her own animals, and why.
Again, I’ll stress the value of the dialogue that begins based on these questions. If you’re a good conversationalist, you’ll be able to rewrite these questions in your own words. If you are like most, however, you should write them down as is, and let the conversation flow from there.
Are there more questions to ask your vet than just these? Of course there are. Are there others that are also vital to you and your cat? Absolutely, and some of them only you may know. The above list, however, should get you started on a great dialogue, and give you some solid information that a surprising number of pet owners simply do not have.