One of the things I hear most frequently from cat owners is how much their pets hate visiting the veterinary hospital. I try not to take this personally. After all, I don’t particularly like going to my doctor’s office either.

In this regard, at least, cats have it better than us. While human medical doctors who make house calls are a dying breed, finding a veterinarian who specializes in treating pets in the home is relatively easy. But is a house call vet right for you and your cat? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of in-home versus in-clinic veterinary care.

First of all, house call veterinarians are not all the same. Some travel in a virtual “clinic on wheels.” They can perform routine surgeries, take X-rays, and offer almost anything that can be done in a general practice while they are parked in front of your house. The upside of this option is that it does not severely limit your options for care. On the other hand, mobile clinics do still have that unmistakable ambience of a veterinary hospital, and your cat will have to get in the dreaded carrier to safely make the trip into the vehicle.

Other house call vets travel light. They show up with not much more than a little black bag in hand and perform all their services within the home. This is definitely the least stressful option for cats and is ideal for when a pet is terrified of veterinary visits. (I once treated a dog who literally fainted every time he walked in the door of my clinic.) It is important, however, that you do confine your cat to a small area before the vet arrives. Having to spend the majority of the appointment trying to find her and then extricate her from under the bed is just nerve-racking for everyone involved.

Most routine veterinary care can easily be performed by a house call vet, including:

  • Physical examinations
  • Health certificates
  • Weight management
  • Diagnosing and treating behavioral concerns
  • Vaccinations
  • Implanting microchips
  • Deworming
  • Nail trims (including sedation if necessary)
  • Fecal parasite testing
  • Standard blood work
  • Urinalysis
  • Needle biopsies
  • Monitoring chronic medical conditions (e.g., kidney failure, hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus)
  • Hospice care
  • Euthanasia

If you have a herd of animals in your home or have difficulty getting around yourself, having the vet come to you makes a lot of sense. House call veterinarians also tend to have more flexible schedules than do veterinary clinics, so if you are in need of a weekend or evening appointment, a mobile vet may be more available. And because most of these veterinarians are not part of large practices, you usually see the same person at each appointment, which is an added benefit if you like having a personal relationship with your doctors.

Some veterinary cases do require the services of a full service hospital, however. A house call is not the best choice if you are dealing with an acute medical crisis, where the likelihood of needing advanced diagnostics, surgery, and/or hospitalization is high. But, don’t let this scare you off from using a mobile veterinarian for your routine care. Simply make sure you pick a doctor who has the ability to refer your more complicated cases to a nearby clinic. Ideally, your mobile vet will be able to remain involved in your cat’s care, which really gives you the best of both worlds.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Pic of the day: Boy in Veterinarian’s Office by Norman Rockwell