Notched Ears on Community Cats


Community cats, also known as feral cats, can be found in every corner of the world. They are typically offspring of unaltered domestic cats that have been abandoned or lost and have reverted to their wild ancestors.

When you see one of these felines, you might wonder about its ear notches, since this practice isn’t usually associated with domesticated cats.

So what does it mean when you see those notches on your community cat? To learn more about these fascinating creatures and their ear notches, keep reading to find out!


An ear notch does not mean a cat is tame

Generally speaking, the shape of a cat’s ears tells you about its lineage. If a cat has a triangular notch in each ear it is likely to be an American Bobtail.

Triangular notches in just one ear indicate that the cat may be an Asian Leopard Cat, while small dots at the end of the cat’s ears are considered to signify Siamese.

Cats that have been spayed or neutered may also exhibit triangular notches in their ears to denote their altered status with wildlife officials.

The number of notches signifies the animal’s age and shows how many times they’ve gone through this process. A new law passed by California state legislators mandates that all cats found outdoors must be sterilized by 2020 in order to control overpopulation and the spread of disease.

However, some people feel that shelters should accept more animals as part of their adoption program so as to avoid more euthanasia rates. Others argue for TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs where feral cats are captured, sterilized, and then released back into the community.

Trap-neuter-return programs cost much less than capturing and euthanizing every single feral cat; furthermore, they do not put any stress on shelter resources or release fewer unwanted animals into the environment.


Ear notches on all four paws

Ear notches may mean different things in different areas. The most common explanation for a cat’s notch is it signifies the animal has been spayed or neutered, but this interpretation isn’t universal.

Cats who are being returned to the shelter can have an ear notch applied to signify they’re already vaccinated and declawed. In some parts of the world, including France, Britain, Switzerland, and Germany, ear notches serve as proof that a cat is vaccinated.

So if you see a cat with ears trimmed around its entire circumference, it means they’re up-to-date on its shots. If only one ear is clipped (or both), then they might be old enough to get rabies shots but haven’t gotten them yet. 

In other regions, such as North America and Australia, people commonly use different colors of nail polish when trimming cats’ ears. For example, red indicates a cat is unadoptable because of its age or health issues.

Blue indicates it has already been adopted by someone else. A white tip on one ear indicates the kitty will soon be available for adoption again after spending time at the humane society or animal shelter.


An ear notch doesn’t mean a cat is part of a colony

Ear notches are markings made by humans to help identify stray cats in the community. It is important to know that ear notches do not mean a cat is part of a colony. For colonies, ear tipping or removal is done.

Tipping means a veterinarian cuts off about an inch and a half from the tip of one ear so that it will stay upright like a hearing aid. Removing means cutting off both ears so they look like those of an alley cat (or those without tips).

These practices have been outlawed in many areas, but may still occur illegally. You can often see these different markings if you adopt a pet and then notice their ears when they get their vaccinations.

The most common practice for identifying colony cats is the notch, which can be either on the top of the ear or along its side depending on where people prefer to place them.

When you spot a tipped ear, what does it mean? First, the little tuft at the end of your cat’s ears should not be confused with an ear tip.

Second, it doesn’t necessarily mean your cat is a feral animal. Many shelters put small white stickers on feral cats to make them easier to tell apart from domesticated animals as they try to find homes for them.

Finally, if you find a shelter puts these stickers on your adopted pets’ ears and they fall off after a while—don’t worry!


A cat’s ear notch tells you where it has been, but not what kind of life it leads

What do the notches in a cat’s ears mean? Ear notches are so common today that we barely give them a second thought, but they tell you more about the cat than you might think.

Not only does an ear notch tell you where a cat has been (i.e., whether it’s feral or has been part of another rescue group), but also it tells you what kind of life it leads outside.

If a cat has two large, triangular notches to either side of its head, for example, then it’s most likely stray and used to living on the streets.

The depth and angle of the notch can indicate how hardy the animal is and how good it is at catching prey—or if there’s even any prey available to catch.

A light notch means less chance of survival; deep and steep notches usually indicate that this cat has survived tough times.


An ear notch can tell you about the age of a feral cat

A cat’s age can be determined by examining the notches in its ears. A brand new feral kitten will have no notches, but over time they’ll develop one notch every six months or so.

Ear-notching is a form of marking, with kittens getting a lowercase letter or number in their ear while fully grown cats are given an uppercase letter or number.

This is done to help shelters keep track of populations and find individual cats if they’re lost. If you notice your community cat has two notches, this means it’s between 1 and 2 years old; three notches means it’s between 3 and 4 years old; four notches means it’s between 5 and 6 years old; five notches means it’s 7-8 years old; six notches means 9-10 years old.

In some cases, these markings will show up differently than others because of the way fur covers them up. The bottom line is that anyone who cares about these animals should know how to identify them!


If you find an unnotched littermate, that means it is wild and needs to be left alone

The notched ears don’t signify wildness, it signifies domestication. A domesticated cat will have a notch in one or both of its ears to signify that they are less likely to be targeted by predators because they look like a human’s pet.

Wild cats, however, do not have the notch in their ear and therefore can be approached without scaring them off. Another way to tell if a cat is domesticated is if they make eye contact with you.

If they avoid eye contact, then it is safe to assume that this individual is feral and should be left alone. The cut in the ear helps differentiate between wild and domestic cats so people know how to interact with them appropriately.


Why do we notch kittens?

Kittens can be notched when they are just a few days old. This process usually consists of taking off a small piece of skin that is located near the top of the cat’s head, which creates what looks like a notch.

These notches, or cuts, are often mistaken for ear piercings but serve a much different purpose. The notches have been utilized as some type of sign for years by communities all around the world, with specific meanings depending on where you are in the world.

For example, in Japan, it symbolizes that the animal has undergone and survived TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) surgery. In North America, it is typically used to signify that the cat was trapped rather than born into being feral.

However, if you see a kitten with a notch who does not have any other visible injuries or signs of trauma then it may be time to get them checked out by your veterinarian!


How do I identify unowned cats in my neighborhood?

You can identify unowned cats in your neighborhood by looking for any form of identification, such as a collar or tag, which often lists their owner’s contact information. You might also see intact animals.

Intact refers to pets that have not been spayed or neutered and are in the reproductive stage of life. As cats wander freely outside, there is an increasing risk of them contracting parasites or developing a disease that causes discomfort if they do not receive proper medical care.

Many feral cats carry rabies, which is usually fatal if untreated. If you find an injured cat, it’s best to keep your distance and call animal control instead of trying to capture it yourself unless you know what you’re doing.

You should never touch a cat without asking its owner first!


Importance of Spaying Your Pets

Spaying or neutering is vital for the community, as it prevents these cats from reproducing and increases the population of feral cats.

Not only does spaying and neutering make the animals’ lives more pleasant, but it helps to alleviate future animal populations as well.

There are also health benefits to spaying/neutering animals; when an animal is not spayed or neutered it can lead to certain cancers in both males and females, among other health problems.

The process of spaying or neutering a cat involves surgical removal of the reproductive organs which then prevents them from being able to reproduce.

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