The cat in the photo below has had her left ear ‘tipped’ or ‘cropped’. Ear cropping is a marker that means that the cat has been spayed or neutered.
An ear crop is performed by a vet while the cat is unconscious at the time it is spayed or neutered.
The cat doesn’t look in the mirror and dislike its appearance. The benefits of ear cropping arguably outweigh the aesthetic degradation to the cat. In some circumstances, having a cropped ear can be a life-saver for a feral cat.
• An ear crop is a sign to everyone that the cat has been fixed. No one need bother the cat (or worse) out of fear that it will reproduce and start a feral colony in the neighbourhood.
• The cat is spared the stress of being caught with a drop trap unnecessarily. A trapper can see ear crops from a distance and not drop trap those cats but instead focus on the unfixed cats with intact ears.
• A trapper can tell from a distance which cats have been fixed and which ones have not been. Can you imagine trying to TNR a colony when the cats all look the same (e.g. a dozen solid black cats) and ear crops weren’t done? The amount of time wasted would be enormous.
• Once trapping of the whole colony is complete, the feeder’s job of maintenance is simplified because she need only look out for a cat on site without a cropped ear. If a cat is spotted with two intact ears, then it is obviously a newcomer and needs to be trapped and fixed. That way, the colony will always stay 100% sterilized. Maintaining this level is important.
• If for whatever reason a feral cat with an ear crop changes its location, we might be contacted by people who have spotted the cat for the first time. If we ask them if the cat has a cropped ear and they say, “Why yes, it does!”, then someone is saved the effort of having to trap the cat, thinking it is unfixed. We can simply tell the people to feed it and let it live out the rest of its life while providing environmentally friendly rodent control.