Cat Missing an Ear-Tip? That’s a Good Thing!

January 2, 2015

Have you ever seen an outdoor cat missing the tip of one ear, and wondered what happened to it? This is called “ear-tipping,” and is actually a sign that the cat has been the lucky beneficiary of a Trap/Neuter/Return effort like Kitsap Humane Society’s Port Orchard Community Cats free spay/neuter program. When free-roaming or feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and given a rabies vaccination, they are also ear-tipped before being returned to their outdoor habitat. This identifies the cats as already fixed, and makes it easy for later TNR trappers to identify those that do not need to be trapped again. When a cat is ear-tipped, the veterinarian removes about a quarter of an inch of the tip of an ear (left ear for male cats, right ear for females) in a straight line cut. This is done while the cat is still under anesthesia from the spay/neuter surgery. Ear-tipping is safe, easy to spot, and quick to heal. Some TNR groups originally used tattooing to identify altered cats, but the small tattoos were too hard to see from a distance, meaning the cats had to be trapped and examined closely to know if they were fixed. Ear tags (small metal clips on the ear) are also sometimes used, but while they are more visible than tattoos, the clips can cause problems when outdoor cats catch them on twigs or brush, potentially causing tearing and infection. Our free spay/neuter program in Port Orchard (98366) utilizes ear-tipping to identify cats that we or other TNR programs have already trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned. The practice benefits the cats by helping to avoid needless stress from repeated trapping and surgery prep, and makes it easy for caretakers to identify newcomers to feral colonies so that we can get those cats fixed quickly, avoiding any new litters of unwanted kittens in stabilized colonies. If you notice a healthy-looking ear-tipped cat in your neighborhood, please do not catch it and bring it in to KHS as a stray, or call Animal Control to retrieve it. The ear-tip is a sign that the cat is outdoors where it wants to be, and has already been fixed so he or she won’t be adding any more offspring to our feral cat population. If there are un-owned or feral cats living in your neighborhood, and they still have the tips of both ears, contact us at (360) 536-2668 or email, and we will coordinate a TNR effort to improve their health and gradually reduce their numbers.