Sunday 18 April 2021

Good and bad ear-tipping

Over the years of writing about cats, bad ear-tipping returns like a bad penny. It seems to pop up from time to time. It can only be due to negligence or a careless approach. And I will suggest that this carelessness comes about because ear-tipping is normally carried out on feral cats. Feral cats have a lower value in the eyes of humankind than domestic cats. This lower value engenders negligence.

There are two images on this page. One shows what I would regard as a good job on ear-tipping and some errors. The other shows an horrific job on ear-tipping. Ironically, the very poor surgery was carried out on a domestic cat by a vet tech under the supervision of a veterinarian at an animal rescue centre in Cabot, USA.

Good and bad ear tipping. Pics in public domain.
Horrific ear-tipping. Pic: Danyelle Freeman.

The veterinarian excused the error by saying that the vet tech thought the cat was feral. And he also said that they were very busy in providing a discount service. But there is no difference to the surgical process whether you are carrying it out on a feral or domestic cat. Indeed, there is no need to do the surgery on a domestic cat. The case concerned a domestic cat.

If a vet tech does this to a domestic cat you must call into question their attitude more than their ability. The surgery is absolutely minimal. Anybody can do it. It does not require skill. It requires the right attitude. And it seems to me that this vet tech has a poor attitude towards the welfare of animals. I would question whether they should be a vet tech.

Although, to be fair, they were carrying out a discount service and therefore must be praised for that aspect of their work. The veterinarian concerned apologised as did the mayor of the town. The veterinarian described it as an accident. I would describe it as negligence.

When ear-tipping goes wrong this is what happens: too much is taken off the ear. And sometimes the right ear is tipped rather than the left. It should be the left. There are alternatives to the surgery: tattooing the inside of the ear flap is one way.

There are advantages to ear-tipping. People know that the cat has been sterilised. This helps to protect them in urban environments where a lot of people don't like feral cats. Also a lot of people don't like domestic cats wandering around. Sometimes vigilante-types like to trap someone's pet and take them to the pound or an animal shelter. This is a crime but if the cat is ear-tipped they at least know that he or she is neutered.

This may help to protect them and it gives the impression that the cat's presence is authorised by the local authority. This is because sometimes local authorities become involved in TNR programs which includes ear-tipping.

The bottom line reason for poor ear-tipping is a poor attitude towards the value of cats particularly feral cats. It indicates a lack of respect for feral cats which is not a good look for a veterinary clinic. Veterinarians should respect all animals as it underpins all the work that they do.

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