Have you ever wondered why some cats have the very tip missing from one ear? This is called “ear tipping” and is always done on the left ear. Since many rescue groups are involved in trap-neuter-return programs (TNR) it became important to find a way to clearly identify that a feral cat has already been spayed or neutered. Ear tipping is the accepted universal sign that the cat has been altered. Ear tipping is easily visible from a distance, therefore preventing a stressful and unnecessary trip to the vet for sterilization if it has already been done.
When feral cats are brought in to be spayed or neutered, the ear tipping is done while the cat is under anesthesia. Usually just enough of the left ear is removed (about ¼ inch) so that the tipping is easily recognizable. While some rescuers notch the ear with a “V” shape, this may be confused with an injury to the ear. Ear tipping is considered a humane and permanent way to identify a cat which has been sterilized.