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 their is a class structure amongst 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 undergone the TNR program. Other forms of identification such as a tattoo would require a person handling the cat and that is often impossible or 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. 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.
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. 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 ear drum. 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.