Why Do Some Cats Have Notched Ears?

A vet will normally clean the wound, and advise their owner to let it heal in its own time. The missing notch will remain as a legacy of their past misadventures!

In this article, well take a closer look at each of those reasons in turn and the clues for recognizing each one of them on sight. The mutation started in a single individual, and breeders carefully propagated it so that it occurs in the whole pedigree.

At first glance, it gives the impression of their ears having a notch missing from the top especially if you havent seen it before. The next reason a cat might have a notched ear is if they have been fighting and sustained an injury. Occasionally a cat may need to have part of their ear amputated due to disease.

And cats with very fine, short hair, which leaves the skin exposed to sun damage. A vet will often recommend removing most or all of the pinna, to make sure a wide margin is achieved around the tumor and it cant spread further. Finally, a free-roaming or feral cat might have a notch missing from their ear to show that they have been neutered as part of a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program.

Non-profits run TNR programs to control the size of feral cats populations, and reduce antisocial behaviors related to mating, such as noisy fights. Adult feral cats are caught in humane traps, neutered by a licensed vet, and then released again. Did you know that thousands of research papers have been published on cat behavior and health?

They are released because adult feral cats dont adapt well to living with people, and cant easily be rehomed. Whilst under general anesthetic for the spay or neuter procedure, the vet clips a bit from one ear, cleans the wound, and administers a long-lasting antibiotic. Pros And Cons Of The Feral Cat Ear Notch Neutering feral cats and notching their ear to clearly identify them seems like an honorable endeavor, but its actually a pretty controversial practice.

The TNR ear notch tells animal control officers that a cat is fixed, so they dont try to capture it again unnecessarily. A long term study of a large TNR population in Florida found reduced overall population size and a decrease in retroviral disease prevalence. So, weve seen that cats ears may have the appearance of being notched, but on closer inspection they are actually complete, but folded or curled.

And when part of the ear is definitely missing, it can be a battle scar from a fight, the result of surgery to remove cancerous cells, or a signal to show that they are a neutered feral cat.

Why do vets snip cats ears?

Ear-tipping allows them to tell from a distance whether or not a community cat has been spayed or neutered. That tipped ear saves the cat the stress of being trapped and anesthetized a second time. … And it lets animal control officers know that a cat benefitted from TNR and has been seen by a veterinarian.

Which ear is clipped with feral cats?

Eartipping is an effective and universally accepted method to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cat. It is the removal of the distal one-quarter of a cat’s left ear, which is approximately 3/8 inch, or 1 cm, in an adult and proportionally smaller in a kitten.

Why do cats get their left ear clipped?

An eartip is the universally recognized symbol of a cat who has been spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Eartipping is a standard part of most Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, because it’s simply the best method to let everyone know at a glance that a cat has gone through a TNR program.

Can you adopt an ear tipped cat?

An ear-tipped cat can wind up in an adoption kennel or a foster home if the team finds that, after all, the return situation would be unsuitable for the cat. “So then, we’ll make a final determination,” Wong said.

We know nothing about Frankies back story. We adopted him at Petsmart from The Pinellas County Animal Services. The person at Petsmart did not know anything about him so we just didnt think much about it, although I did send a Facebook message to the animal services with his reference number but, even though they have an active Facebook page, I got no response.

Eartipping is an effective and universally accepted method to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cat. It is the removal of the distal one-quarter of a cats left ear, which is approximately 3/8 inch, or 1 cm, in an adult and proportionally smaller in a kitten.

This is important for a number of reasons, but it is vital to have a method to let other cat rescuers know that a cat has already been cataloged and cared for. This is the basic premise behind notched ears.

Neighborhood Cats also offers a good step-by-step text explanation of exactly how the procedure is performed. You probably noticed that the cat notched ears program is called TNR, or Trap, Neuter, Release.

There are many other methods that have been tried to establish a standard identification protocol for feral cats that have been neutered and spayed. This causes a lot of unnecessary trauma to the cat and can strain available volunteer and staff resources. Tattoing doesnt work well because a potential trapper or rescue worker has to get right up next to the cat to see if the ear has been tattooed.

And ear tags can also simply fall out, leaving the cat unidentified again. Ear notching is by far the best and safest method for both the cat and for rescue workers. A notched ear allows a fixed feral cat to be identified from a safe distance away.

And since the ear notch is done when the spay or neuter surgery is done, the injury will be fully healed before the cat is released back to the local area. While the terms ear tipping and ear notching are used fairly interchangeably today in the feral cat rescue community, actually, these two terms refer to different surgical procedures used for identifying neutered and spayed feral cats. As Alley Cat Allies explains, of the two procedures, ear tipping is now emerging as the identification method of choice.

Ear tipping, which is defined as removing just the top portion of one of the feral cats ears, is much less likely to be mistaken for a natural injury and does an even better job of helping rescue workers identify a previously fixed cat. In the majority of cases, feral cats are too skittish around people to be socialized to the point where they become adoptable as family pets. This doesnt necessarily mean that cats will stop roaming around outdoors during the day, although that certainly could happen.

Cats can reproduce quickly and tend to resist all efforts to displace them, starve them out, rehome them or otherwise move them. Dealing with feral and community cats is a difficult and ongoing problem with no easy solution.

Cats With Naturally Odd Shaped Ears

Does that cat in the distance look like both of their ears have the tips missing?Look again – they might just be folded over or curled back.The pinna (plural pinnae) is the visible bit of a cat’s ear – the bit which stands out from the head.In American Curl cats, the pinnae curl backwards at the top. And on Scottish and Highland Fold cats they fold forwards at the top.In both cases these unusual ears are caused by a genetic mutation.The mutation started in a single individual, and breeders carefully propagated it so that it occurs in the whole pedigree.At first glance, it gives the impression of their ears having a notch missing from the top – especially if you haven’t seen it before.

Cat Ear Notches Caused By Amputation

Occasionally a cat may need to have part of their ear amputated due to disease.An example of this is if sun damage causes cancerous tumors on the skin of the ear.This is most likely to be a problem for hairless cats. And cats with very fine, short hair, which leaves the skin exposed to sun damage.A vet will often recommend removing most or all of the pinna, to make sure a wide margin is achieved around the tumor and it can’t spread further.The best way to protect against this is to limit your cat’s exposure to intense sunshine.

The TNR Ear Notch

Finally, a free-roaming or feral cat might have a notch missing from their ear to show that they have been neutered as part of a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program.Non-profits run TNR programs to control the size of feral cats populations, and reduce antisocial behaviors related to mating, such as noisy fights.Adult feral cats are caught in humane traps, neutered by a licensed vet, and then released again.
They are released because adult feral cats don’t adapt well to living with people, and can’t easily be rehomed.Whilst under general anesthetic for the spay or neuter procedure, the vet clips a bit from one ear, cleans the wound, and administers a long-lasting antibiotic.

References & Further Reading

Cavanagh & Bell. Veterinary Medical Guide To Dog and Cat Breeds. CRC Press. 2012.Crawford et al. A Case of Letting the Cat out of The Bag—Why Trap-Neuter-Return Is Not an Ethical Solution for Stray Cat (Felis catus) Management. Animals. 2019.International Cat Care. Ear Problems In Cats. 2018.Kreisler et al. Decrease in Population and Increase in Welfare of Community Cats in a Twenty-Three Year Trap-Neuter-Return Program in Key Largo, FL: The ORCAT Program. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2019.Longcore et al. Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap–Neuter–Return. Conservation Biology. 2009.Scarf. Solar (actinic) dermatoses in the dog and cat. Companion Animal. 2017.Winter. Trap-neuter-release programs: the reality and the impacts. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004.

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Why Do Some Cats Have Notched Ears?

This is an important part of community TNR programs. TNR stands for “Trap, Neuter, Return,” as Cats Exclusive Veterinary Clinic explains.

See a Cat Ear Tipping Procedure

In this short YouTube video, you can watch trained veterinary surgeons performing a typical “ear tipping” or “ear notching” procedure.This procedure is typically done while a cat is being “fixed” (i.e. spayed or neutered).Not only does this ensure the procedure is painless to the cat and is done safely under sanitary conditions, but it also protects that cat from being picked up again in another feral raid.

Do Female Cats Also Get Notched Ears?

You probably noticed that the cat notched ears program is called TNR, or Trap, Neuter, Release.This means it is sensible to ask if female cats qualify for the same program. Even though the program uses N for Neuter, female cats that get spayed under this program will also receive notched ears.

Cat micro-chipping

Micro-chipping might be the obvious first choice for keeping track of feral cats. But actually, micro-chipping doesn’t work well at all for feral cats because it is first necessary to trap and scan the cat to find out if they’ve been previously fixed.This causes a lot of unnecessary trauma to the cat and can strain available volunteer and staff resources.

Feral cat ear tattooing

Tattoing doesn’t work well because a potential trapper or rescue worker has to get right up next to the cat to see if the ear has been tattooed. And as any experienced feral cat worker knows, feral cats don’t like people near them!

Feral cat collars

Collars and ear tagging can be dangerous to the cat in other ways. Collars may cause a cat to get trapped on a fence or branch. If a collar is placed on a young cat, as that cat grows up and gets bigger, the collar may actually cause strangulation.Sometimes the collar can also fall off and then the cat is at risk of being picked up again, placing extra strain on the entire feral cat management program in that area.

Feral cat ear tags

Ear tags have similar risks. The tag may get caught on something and tear the cat’s ear as the animal tries to free itself.A tag may also cause infection in the ear and illness that becomes more expensive to treat. And ear tags can also simply fall out, leaving the cat unidentified again.

Ear notching

Ear notching is by far the best and safest method for both the cat and for rescue workers.A notched ear allows a fixed feral cat to be identified from a safe distance away. And since the ear notch is done when the spay or neuter surgery is done, the injury will be fully healed before the cat is released back to the local area.

Ear notching

Ear notching refers to putting a notch or tears into the ear of a feral cat. This is no longer the preferred method, although it is still widely used in some areas.Ear notching is less preferred than ear tipping because the notch can look a lot like a natural injury instead of a deliberate human-made attempt to identify a cat.

Ear tipping

Ear tipping, which is defined as removing just the top portion of one of the feral cat’s ears, is much less likely to be mistaken for a natural injury and does an even better job of helping rescue workers identify a previously fixed cat.