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Tip of the Week: Tat Marks the Spot

Did you ever wonder, Is this animal already spayed or neutered?



A tattoo placed on the lower abdomen of spayed and neutered animals is a great way to indicate that an animal has been surgically altered. Doing this avoids an abdominal exploratory surgery that may be unnecessary.

Check out the instructions on tattoos on page 11 of our comprehensive, free booklet Special Considerations for Community Cats at Spay/Neuter Clinics.


Doing this already? Need to ‘ink’ about it first? Let us know your thoughts.


Photo: Brenda Griffin, DVM, MS, DACVIM


Related Links

Spay/Neuter Resources: Facebook Album
“Tip of the Week: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”


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I do not like the look of tattooing. It looks bad and its unwanted. Females have a scar,males have no testicles. Unsure why this is needed. If my dog is microchipped and it's my dog,I should have the choice. MY dog has white hair with a pink belly so it would be noticeable and looks cheap. When I called to make an appt, I was told it was non negotiable. I will drive further and or pay extra to avoid it. Your site asked for opinions, so here's mine.Thanks


My adopted dumb friends female cat has the blue tattoo 1" long. My adopted male cat has nothing. Both have chips. Neither was tipped. I wish all my animals had at least the minimum of the blue 1" ketchum tattoo ink scar as well as the ear tip and chips. I want anyone to know if they see these animals outside my house, that they were cared for animals, that they do have a home to maybe look for their return, and if they are "re-adopt" (as is so typical of 40% of all pets coming as strays), they don't need to be traumatized one more time for a s/n. The tipping and blue tattoo line are marks of "I am loved".


Hi Stacey,

Thank you for sharing your concern regarding tattooing animals who are spayed/neutered. It is understandable that the appearance of the tattoo may be unwanted by some owners. Many private practitioners do not perform tattooing. However, we hope by explaining the “why” behind this practice, a better understanding of the benefit to animals can be provided.

In most shelter settings, when animals are discharged, they must be confirmed to be spayed or neutered first. Spay and neuter status can be very difficult to determine quickly when animals have unknown histories, especially in patients that have had surgery prepubertally. Tattooing is a simple and inexpensive procedure that can help to identify an animal’s reproductive status rapidly. It can actually be quite difficult to see a well-healed spay scar in many animals and, while microchip information can be helpful, it is not as simple or accurate as a tattoo. Many shelter staff have spent some portion of their working lives staring at their patient’s abdomens in an effort to decide if that tiny white line they see is truly evidence of a prior surgery. When in doubt, exploratory surgery is typically performed. The goal of the tattoo procedure is to avoid unnecessary surgery by providing a visually accurate, quick, permanent means to assess whether surgery has been performed.

Miranda Spindel, DVM, MS
Senior Director, Shelter Medicine
ASPCA Research and Development


My dog has one and you can barely even notice it unless you are looking. She is lightly colored on her belly with no hair toward the bottom half, I wish I could post a picture of her so you could see how unnoticeable it is.


I volunteer for several rescue groups and worked with a low cost spay/neuter clinic. I believe the tattoo is a valuable asset to help identify a cat already altered. It's both sad and joyful when a cat is under with belly shaved only to find out this cat was already spayed. Tattooing is a good practice but not all vets do this procedure.


Our Daisy, who is a rescue, has a small green X. It's very discreet, & cool. It makes so much sense - can't imagine why anyone would have a problem with this!


My dog has had this done. It is barely noticeable unless you are looking for it.
My dog has a pink belly and like i said it is barely noticeable.She came from a shelter.

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