Five Vital Questions To Ask Your Vet

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.

About the Author: Kurt Schmitt is an experienced cat owner and founder of For the answers to your cat care questions, be sure to read "7 Questions to Ask Your Vet... A Guide for Cat Lovers" on the site.