Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tip an Ear, Save a Life


by Adam Jablonski

What an oddly shaped ear. Was kitty born that way? Did she get in a fight? No way! If you see a cat whose left ear tip is gone, you're probably looking at a feral cat who is a member of a managed colony.

Perhaps the most unique thing about a community cat's appearance is his or her tipped left ear. Ear-tipping, which removes the top 1/4" of the left ear, is an integral part of every trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. It is done while the cat is under anesthesia for spay/neuter surgery (so it's quick and painless) to identify clearly that the cat is part of a colony and is sterilized and vaccinated. For new colony caretakers, this helps identify which cats have been TNR'd and which have not, and is especially useful in identifying new cats who join an established colony.

Ear-tipped cat at ACR-managed colony.
A tipped left ear is also a crucial symbol to animal control and shelter staff. For example, the county where Alley Cat Rescue is located has a regulation that requires municipal shelter staff to alert rescue groups whenever an ear-tipped cat is brought in by an animal control officer. It is then our responsibility to retrieve the cat and return her to her colony. Since feral cats typically aren't socialized to humans, they often display behaviors in the shelter environment that get them labeled as unadoptable. In a shelter that means euthanasia is right around the corner, but for groups like ours, that just means she wants to be back at her outdoor home.

If you see an ear-tipped cat around your neighborhood, you can rest assured the cat is healthy and cared for. And if you're a colony caretaker, please make sure each and every one of your cats gets ear-tipped during TNR, as it could be a lifesaver. It was for this little guy ACR retrieved and released back to his home.

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