My fifth-grader has an idea. He’s appalled at the practice of ear-tipping feral cats when it comes time to spaying, neutering and vaccinating them. He thinks it’s barbaric and he wants to put an end to it.


That’s what compelled him to come up with a science project-worthy idea to use ear tags to identify cats as owned, vaccinated, and altered.


Granted, I’m OK with the ear-tipping thing. Sure, I wish there were a better way, but ear-tipping feral cats works. This method of visibly slicing off the tip of a cat’s right ear keeps us from 1) relocating and/or anesthetizing trapped cats again, 2) generally wasting our resources when it comes to cat colony work, and 3) needlessly euthanizing these “neutralized” animals should certain factions identify them as “vermin.”


Here's an illustration of a typical ear tip (though I like to make mine more dramatic for ease of identification from afar):


Image courtesy of Flickr member Cibola. Click for larger view.


But maybe there IS a better way.


Would a cat wear a small (0.5 centimeter), indelible, but easily visible (fluorescent orange) and removable “earring,” thereby identifying it as owned and/or already altered?


If so, perhaps…

1)    that would save many feral cats from having to undergo the “unnecessary” ear-tipping my son abhors.

2)    maybe these ferals would serve as more visible reminders of the work some of us do to care for them.

3)    maybe those of us who keep outdoor-roaming cats would consider placing these tags to remind shelter workers and others that these cats are owned and may carry a microchip with more detailed contact information.

4)    maybe it would keep our neighbors from trapping and relocating our cats.

5)    it might even inspire more community members to become involved in trapping and identifying outdoor cats.


It’s a well-understood phenomenon that even loved and owned cats that are allowed free reign of the outdoors (even if only for a few hours every day) can lose their collars easily. It’s also clear that they’re at greater risk for being trapped and/or relocated—or even euthanized—when well-intentioned neighbors try to control cat populations in their neighborhoods by remanding them to shelter care.


Why not attempt to identify our cats more visibly by painlessly applying a small, removable tag to their ears?


I’m not sure it’s more effective than an ear-tip for ferals. But it sure beats ear-tipping our personal kitties—especially the ones who manage to slip their collars so frequently (and you know who you are).


If you can’t build a large, outdoor enclosure to provide your cats the greater freedom you want for them, and/or you’ve experienced the loss of your cats to aggressive neighborhood cat control groups, would this approach convince you? Consider your comments research for my ten year-old’s science fair project…and type away.





Image: Supernova / Flickr