Ear-tipping involves removing about 1 cm of tissue from the left ear of feral cats at the time of neutering.
Done under the anaesthetic the process is painless. The procedure means that a neutered cat can be spotted from a distance. Thus a cat can be spared the trauma of a second trapping for neutering, as well as the risk of unnecessary anaesthetic.
Anaesthetic risk is higher in an unfit or very frightened cat: one cannot check heart or lung functions or open the mouth to check for anaemia before anaesthetising a feral cat, so fewer anaesthetics justifies ear-tipping.
In a female cat we cannot tell at all whether neutering has been carried out once the fur has regrown, so an ear tip prevents the need to open the abdomen and stitch up muscle and skin layers for a second time.
It can require a larger incision to find a small stump of uterus to prove, beyond doubt, that a cat has spayed than to spay initially, when the uterus can be found without difficulty in most cases.
Ear-tipping does not count as an unnecessary mutilation, in my view, because it prevents more suffering than it causes, and aesthetically the affected ear is no less attractive than a lot of the shredded ears that have been damaged by cats themselves in fights.
© Katie Whitcomb, BVSc, MRCVS Veterinary SurgeonShare this...