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Eartipping—What Does it Mean?

Eartipping is the removal of the tip of a cat’s left ear (approximately 3/8”). It is an effective and universally accepted method to identify a neutered and vaccinated feral cat.

Learn more about eartipping »

Working with a Veterinarian

When you find a veterinarian or veterinary clinic interested in treating feral cats, establish a protocol to ensure that everyone involved understands what to expect and that you receive all of the services the cats need.

  • Prices: Note the exact charge for spaying and neutering, vaccines, and all other treatments. Figure out the cost of veterinary care for a male and a female cat, so that you can estimate a budget for the whole colony. Spay surgery is typically more expensive than neutering. Some clinics provide many services for a flat rate. Others itemize all of the services that they provide, including flea, deworming, and earmite medication if needed, and may charge additionally for any treatments related to surgery, such as anesthesia and pain medication. Ask if these treatments are optional and then decide which services to request. Alley Cat Allies strongly recommends that all cats being sterilized be given pain medication unless there is a medical reason not to.

    Some veterinarians will offer discounts because you are providing a community service. If they do not offer, always ask. You may also be able to locate a low-cost clinic for feral cats through our Feral Friends Network. If the cost of sterilizing the colony is too great, ask for financial help from neighbors and businesses where the colony resides. They may be happy to contribute because you are taking action that will benefit everyone.

  • Appointment Policies: Find out how many cats the clinic can accommodate on a single day. This information will guide your trapping activity. Also find out if the clinic understands the unpredictable nature of trapping cats. You may intend to trap six cats, but only end up trapping four. Conversely, you may think there are six cats to be trapped and then end up discovering a seventh. It’s important that the clinic be flexible in order to accommodate a few more or less cats than you expected.

    Each cat will require a spay or neuter procedure (using anesthesia that can be administered while the cat is in the trap), eartipping, vaccinations, and other treatments as deemed necessary, such as flea treatment.

  • Testing Protocols: Ensure that testing for FeLV and FIV is not a requirement. Alley Cat Allies is against routine testing for FeLV and FIV and against euthanizing cats who test positive unless ill beyond recovery. Learn more about FeLV and FIV testing. If a veterinarian insists on procedures you do not want, refer him or her to information about treating feral cats, including information about testing.

  • Vaccines: Find out which vaccinations they require, which they offer, and how much they cost. You will want to get rabies vaccines, as mandated by your state regulations. If funding is available, FVRCP vaccines are also recommended.

  • Ill or Injured Cats: Get to know their policies concerning cats who need extra medical attention. Make sure you know how they will charge you for treatments. Ask that they call you before making any decisions about procedures or how they will treat the cats. Ensure that you will be given the power to make the ultimate decision regarding humane euthanasia if necessary.

  • Kittens: Do they have age or weight requirements for kitten neuter? Ask for their kitten surgery protocol. Kittens can be safely spayed or neutered as soon as they weigh two pounds. Learn more about early-age spay and neuter. Also, feeding kittens during trapping is different than with adults. Kittens should not have food withheld before surgery because their metabolism is faster than adult cats. Learn how to safely feed cats while they are in their traps.

  • Pregnant or In-Heat Females: Will they spay a pregnant female or a female in estrus (in heat) and are they experienced in the procedure? Is there an extra fee for this?

  • Recovery: Find out when they discharge cats after surgery, if they have different discharge times for males, females, pregnant females, etc. Ask if they hold cats overnight for recovery in their office and if so, if there is an extra charge for this service.

  • Other Protocols: Confirm that they use dissolvable sutures so no follow up appointment is needed, and that they will remove all items attached to the cats, such as tags and collars, that may have identified them in the clinic. Also confirm that they eartip the cats. Make sure there is agreement ahead of time on treatment in winter months, such as shaving less fur for surgery preparation. Be sure to ask the veterinarian’s staff to replace any soiled newspaper in the bottom of the trap with fresh newspaper while the cats are anesthetized. See Surgery Recovery instructions for veterinarians.

Learn more about other considerations you should take into account and issues veterinarians must know about when working with feral cats » 

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