Categories: trap-neuter-release

Does feral cat ear-tipping need clearer guidelines and higher standards?

While browsing the internet I noticed this photograph by Nancy Simmons of an ear-tipped cat. I’ll guess and say that you thought the same as me: too much of the ear was amputated.

Ear-tipped feral cat. Photo courtesy of Nancy Simmons

At least it is the left ear. I see ear tipping of the right ear as well as the left. As I understand it, and based on the advice provided by Alley Cat Allies, the left ear should be ear-tipped to a near fixed length.

Ear-tipping. Photo: various sources and believed to be in the public domain.

Their full advice is as follows:

“Eartipping is a surgical procedure performed under anesthesia by a veterinarian – that removes 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.” – Alley Cat Allies. “Distal” means the extremity.

For clarity: 1 cm is .39 inch and 3/8th of inch is about 0.37 inch. Another site ( says that a 1/4 inch should be amputated. This is 0.25 inch. Some confusion.

One centimeter ear-tipping

The best guideline, I believe, is that 1/4 (0.25 or 25%) of the left ear should be amputated. This allows people to see the ear-tipping at a distance while keeping to a minimum the aesthetic disturbance of the operation which is carried out under anaesthetic by the surgeon who does the spay or neuter operation. This guideline also accommodates various ear sizes and feline ear size does vary considerably. It also accommodates young cats with smaller ears.

For those who are unaware (not many) ear-tipping is carried out by volunteers engaged in TNR programs on feral cats. It tells people that the cat has been sterilised under a TNR program. This is good for that. It protects the cat in fact. Sometimes these programs are government sponsored or approved.

In do not wish to criticise the good people involved in TNR; the opposite in fact. I simply think there might be a need for improved guidelines concerning feral cat ear-tipping and better training.

[weaver_breadcrumbs class=’alt-class’ style=’inline-style’]

[weaver_show_posts cats=”” tags=”cat-neutering” author=”” sort=”ASC” number=”2″]

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I really have gone over this many times in my mind, Michael. Thank you for examining this topic. While I understand the reason for ear-tipping, I believe that only the tiniest portion of the ear should be clipped. Personally I think that a 1 cm portion is too large. I do not know why, but this bothers me a lot. It almost seems cruel, even though I know it is not done as a pointless procedure. Sometimes I cringe when I look at pictures of these precious cats. I agree that guidelines for the ear-tipping practice are necessary. 😔

Recent Posts

Domestic cat defends her kittens with extreme aggression and courage

BAGCILAR, ISTANBUL, TURKEY: This is a video taken from a television screen of a community…

7 hours ago

5 reasons why black cats are less likely to be adopted

Despite Cats Protection reporting that their campaign to promote black cats has been successful and…

13 hours ago

Prospect of water resources drying up affecting dog and cat food manufacturing in US

Water resources are under pressure and it will get worse. Globalisation is putting pressure on…

17 hours ago

Will driverless cars mean less cats killed on roads?

We're not sure how many cats are killed on roads in either the UK or…

18 hours ago

Do cats have nine lives?

Of course they don't. It's just a saying based on the fact that cats are…

19 hours ago

Feline mindfulness: staying in the present

John Gray, the philosopher, says that we should not live in "an imagined future". The…

20 hours ago