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What’s the Deal with That Cat’s Ear?

What’s the Deal with That Cat’s Ear? Ear Tipping and TNR

You may have seen a cat on the street, in a shelter, or even at Feline Good Social Club with the tip of one of the ears missing. Were they hurt? Did something bad happen to them? If you don’t know what it means, it can be a bit confusing and even alarming to see.



Removing the tip of an ear is called “ear tipping.” It is a clear visual indicator that the cat has been treated as part of a Trap-Neuter-Release, or TNR, program. But what does that mean?

TNR is a highly effective and humane way to help manage feral and stray cat populations and reduce their numbers. Feral cats tend to band together into colonies. The cats in these colonies are caught and taken to veterinary clinics, given spay or neuter operations, and released back to the colony. They will also receive vaccinations and have their ear tipped at this time. Once they are released, a caretaker keeps an eye on the colony, and can keep an eye out for new individuals, ensure food and shelter is available, and, if foster or permanent homes are available, can remove kittens and friendly adults from the colony and re acclimate them to living with humans.

TNR programs help keep feral cats healthy and safe. Illnesses are prevented through vaccination. Fighting, as well as many behaviors associated with trying to find a mate such as yowling, spraying, and widespread roaming, are greatly diminished, if not entirely eliminated. This helps them to fit in with the neighborhoods they are found better, making them less of a nuisance to homeowners. The ones that can adapt to living with humans are given an opportunity at a loving, safe home, and the others are free to live out their lives.

TNR programs are most effective when they are run consistently and efficiently. A long-term program can help keep sterilization rates as close to 100% as possible. This not only avoids removing the cats from an area that has resources, allowing new cats to move into the empty territory, but prevents the need to find something to do with the removed cats. In trap and remove programs, the outcome is often euthanasia. People who care for and about the local feral cats do not resist TNR programs as they would other attempts to control the population, as it is kinder and more effective.


TNR helps to ease the pressure on animal control and shelters, lowering the number of intakes and euthanasia. It helps to keep unhomed cats healthy and safe while lowering the number of felines roaming the streets, and helps to limit unwanted behaviors that frustrate the people around them.

If you see a cat with a tipped ear at the Lounge or a shelter, know that they have a colorful history. They’ve lived outside without humans for part of their lives, and they might be a bit shy or unsure of their surroundings. They’re just as ready for a loving home as any other kitty though, and they’re all looking for a perfect place to call home.

To learn more about the work Long Beach Felines does, visit https://www.longbeachfelines.org/.

Written by FGSC Volunteer: Siobhan Armstrong

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