If a cat has lost a part of its ear in a fight or had its ear-tipped, it will not grow back, no. A lot of outdoor cats will lose a bit of an ear at some point, and in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about.
Small cuts and injuries will heal. But if your cat has lost a good chunk or an entire ear for some reason, then it absolutely will not grow back.
How Do Cats Lose Bits of Their Ears?
It’s not uncommon for cats – especially wild or feral cats – to lose a bit of an ear in a fight. If you’ve seen cats fighting, they tend to get in close and tuck their heads in when they’re fighting.
They are also good at tucking their ears in, but their ears are one of the most vulnerable and exposed body parts and often end up getting slashed or bitten.
There is also a common procedure called ear-tipping or ear-notching in which a feral cat has the tip of its ear surgically removed.
This procedure is performed on cats that will always be feral. It’s a way of knowing on sight that the cat has been trapped, neutered, and returned (TNR) before.
Trapping feral cats and neutering them is a time-consuming and expensive process. The easiest way to mark a cat so it’s easily identifiable as being previously neutered is to snip the tip of its ear.
I’ve owned a couple of Toms over the years that would scrap at almost any opportunity. They notched up a bunch of slits and injuries to their ears.
It was almost like notches representing how many fights they had won (or lost?), and certainly gave them a mean look!
Related – Feeding feral cats? Here’s how to do it on the cheap!
Can Cat Ears Regrow?
There are some creatures that can regenerate parts of their bodies that have been cut off or severely damaged – but cats are not one of them.
If a cat loses some of the flesh from its ear – especially if it’s a substantial amount – that part of its ear is not simply going to just regrow or regenerate.
Small cuts, slashes, and other minor injuries will heal. A lot of injuries will even go unnoticed once the fur has grown back over the injury.
While on topic, if your cat has sustained an injury to its ear, you should always get it seen by a vet.
They’ll need to clean up the wound so it doesn’t get infected, and will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment if any is required.
Why Is My Cat’s Ear Cut Off?
If you’ve adopted a cat with the tip of its ear cut off, there is a chance it was due to an injury but it’s more likely the result of being ear-tipped.
Ear-tipping is a humane way that vets and animal welfare organizations mark feral cats so they know that they’ve been neutered after a TNR.
Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) schemes are the most effective way of reducing the population of stray or feral cats and the transmission of diseases without needing to euthanize healthy animals.
A TNR is exactly what it sounds like; feral cats are trapped, neutered, and returned to the wild.
It’s impossible to keep track of which feral cats have been neutered, especially when it’s usually members of the public reporting wild cats.
The easiest way to tell if a cat has been trapped and neutered before is to make a physical mark on them.
This is where the idea for ear-tipping came from, and it’s been an effective way to reduce the number of cats being re-trapped, which is an expensive process.
Is It Cruel to Clip a Cat’s Ear?
It’s not cruel to clip a cat’s ear, no. It’s certainly a lot crueler and has a larger impact on the environment to allow feral cats to breed freely.
Cat welfare organizations have tried a number of things over the years to reduce the population of feral cats, and ear-tipping has been by far the most successful.
Ear-tipping is performed while a cat is under anesthesia by a trained vet. It’s typically done at the same time as their neutering operation.
About 10mm of the tip of the left ear is removed. Cats heal very quickly from it, and it has no lasting effect on their health or welfare.
If it means they are not captured again and we can know that they’ve been neutered, I’m perfectly fine with ear-tipping.
An alternative idea I’ve heard people throw around is microchipping feral cats. That’s nowhere near as practical, unfortunately.
You would still have to trap a feral cat to scan it for a microchip. Which, if you’ve ever tried to trap a feral cat, you’ll know how difficult that can be!
Whether you have a cat with an injured ear, or you’ve spotted a cat with the tip of its ear missing – it’s not going to grow back.
Generally speaking, cats heal well from small injuries, but they are not able to regenerate or grow back bits of ear that are missing!
Image credits – Photo by Anna Ogiienko on Unsplash