Ear tipping is aesthetically unacceptable to some people. So what! – I hear you say. Ear tipping makes a cat look less attractive. This may be important because a good percentage of cats that are trapped, spayed and neutered are domestic cats who are strays. They have a home and an owner. The owner may be reunited with her cat. She may be upset by the mutilated left ear and reject her cat. In a study of the roaming outside cats of Florida University, 25% of the cats were domesticated. They weren’t feral cats.
I don’t know of any research on this but I would expect that shelter managers would assume that any ear tipped cat brought to the shelter was feral. In which case he or she would normally be euthanised. Ear tipping is “branding” a cat. It places the cat amongst a lower class of cats. Yes, I believe there is a class structure among cats (from a human perspective). Ear tipping could be a death sentence to a cat. Although, perhaps, I am being a bit extreme in stating that.
Also, sometimes local humane societies run free spay/neuter clinics. I presume – and correct me if I am wrong – that people can walk their cats in and get them sterilized. One person did this and made a donation to the charity. When he came back his three indoor cats had been ear tipped. From the picture you see below, I have to conclude that the ear tipping was carried out in a heavy-handed way:
I don’t understand why the vets ear tipped indoor cats. It may have been a mistake or they decided to ear tip all cats in the clinic undergoing spay and neuter operations that day.
Ear tipping is probably the only viable way to identify a spayed and neutered feral cat because you can see from a distance that the cat has been a recipient of a TNR (trap-neuter-return) program. Other forms of identification such as a tattoo would probably require sedation which may be impractical.
The fact of the matter is that the “collateral damage” of ear tipping, making a cat look less attractive, must be accepted by people who let their cats stray too much and who are subsequently caught in a TNR program (alternatively called Trap-Neuter-Return-Monitor (TNRM)). That would be the argument by 99% of the population.
Apparently, there are no medical problems with ear tipping. Cats don’t suffer and don’t even feel irritation in the ear when they wake up from the spay or neuter operation.
RELATED: Is ear tipping cruel?
Here’s a wild suggestion as an alternative to ear tipping. The vet could clip into the left ear a small brightly colored plastic tag, which could be removed with a tool by a vet if the cat was a wandering domestic cat and the cat’s owner was upset or a feral cat was adopted. Such a tag could be seen at a distance.
If the ear tipping is heavy-handed, as shown in the picture, I wonder whether hearing is affected slightly on that side? Theoretically, it should be because the ear flap collects sound and directs it down the ear canal to the eardrum. In theory, at least, removal of part of the ear flap would make the ear slightly less effective. This may affect the cat very slightly.
A veterinarian writing on the PET MD website states that many pet owners are reluctant to adopt cats with a part of their left ear missing. They say that it negatively impacts their natural beauty. He thinks that ear tipping should be customised to fit the ‘status’ or circumstances of the cat. If it’s a stray cat entering an adoption program and that cat has been through a TNR program previously then perhaps it is better not to ear tip if it’s reasonable to presume that this individual cat has a home waiting for him.
However, most veterinarians insist on ear tipping and they refuse apparently to perform low-cost feline sprays and neuters without doing it! I’m not sure if this veterinarian is joking a bit but perhaps the bottom line is that the benefits of ear tipping outweigh the cosmetic downsides. If a domestic but stray cat gets ear tipped it is collateral damage, sadly.
Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
Note: this page was written in Nov 2013, 8 ears ago and has been upgraded slightly and republished on Dec 3rd, 2021.
SOME MORE ON EAR TIPPING: