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C2006-39

Dear Christopher Cat

My neighbor feeds stray cats, and lately I’ve noticed that some of them are missing the tip of one ear. What’s going on?

Christopher Responds

Ear tipping identifies feral cats that have been sterilized.
When people feed feral – wild – cats, they inadvertently cause overpopulation and the problems that go with it, unless they have the cats “fixed.”

Sterilized cats can’t reproduce, of course, and they also don’t engage in the hormone-driven behaviors their human neighbors dislike so much: yowling, spraying to mark territory, and fighting for mates.

Educating people about the importance of spay/neuter surgery is so important that feral cat groups recognize October 16 as National Feral Cat Day.

On that day – and throughout the year where I live – feral cats are trapped and sterilized. While the cat is anesthetized, the veterinarian removes the tip of one ear and vaccinates the cat.

Some vets also inject a microchip to permanently identify the cat, administer anti-parasite medication and test for common cat viruses.

Ear tipping alerts animal control officers that the cat belongs to a managed colony, and it protects the cat from being trapped and anesthetized again.

So the next time you see a cat with a tipped ear, thank your neighbor for caring enough about the cats – and the people who live near them – to have them sterilized.

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