The first time I saw an ear tipped cat I thought the poor thing had been in a terrible accident or fight. Why else would a cat be missing the entire top part of his ear?
It wasn’t until we started working with our local TNR program (trap, neuter, return) that we realized this was an intentional removal of a cat’s ear tip. At first I thought is seemed mean. Now I get it – and it actually melts my heart.
Let’s break it down.
First, it’s important to understand that TNR is the only humane and effective way to manage feral cat populations. Volunteers trap colony cats, fix, vaccinate, and tend to any manageable health issues they may have. Then these cats are returned to their colony. They are protected for vicious disease – and unable to continue populating at an unsustainable rate.
So – how in the world can colony care-takers keep track of those cats that have already been sterilized? Feral cats are not easy to approach. How can you know that a trapped cat is already fixed without putting them through more hardship. Transport for a feral cat is very stressful. Unnecessary anesthesia is also not helpful.
Enter ear tipping.
This is a universally recognized, safe and humane procedure. It’s done while the cat is under anesthesia for their spay/neuter. This make is easy to recognized cats from a distance. Many organizations further identify cats by tipping the right ear of females, and the left ear of males.
We’ve also learned that tipped community cats should be left where they’re found – unless they seem ill or in danger. This clipped ear is a sign that they are a part of a stable and cared for community.