Dermal Punched Ear… On a cat!

Before you freak out about this 2ga punched cartilage on this cat’s ear, which was done by a Connecticut veterinarian under anesthesia, please read Chelsea‘s explanation of what you’re seeing —

“This was done while she was under anesthesia because she was a member of an established feral cat colony that was going to be released back into the wild. The holepunch was supposed to signify that she has been spayed — they do this to control the population, as the cats usually are completely wild and un-adoptable. She was an anamoly and decided that she liked being a pet better!”

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

83 thoughts on “Dermal Punched Ear… On a cat!

  1. I don’t like body mod.. on animals.. is it just me, or is it completely unnecessary?

  2. okay well now that I read the explanation I think we should get her some kaos earskins lol jk

  3. In germany tattooing in the ear is common (a tattoo is readably by everyone even without equipment like it is needed for reading transponders and it shows that the cat belongs to someone – my cat was 2 years away because someone “adopted” him until he was brought to a vet who checked him to find out that he was wearing a transponder), so I’m not sure why punching a hole would be preferable (usually you need a trap to catch feral cats and if you caught the cat you could check for the tattoo as well).

    So I’m not quite sure why these people chose an ear hole instead of a tattoo, but I have to admit it makes neutering a whole colony of feral cats probably much easier if you know right away which cats were already “processed”.

  4. I would imagine that tags could be cumbersome and even dangerous to the animal – what if it were to snag or get torn out? The tiny little hole in the ear seems much less obtrusive.

  5. aww what a cute kitty. my cat’s ears are all torn because they love to pick fights, the ear heals pretty quickly

  6. Here in Seattle, I’m pretty sure they notch the cat’s ears. I like this better and would love to see a nice plug in there… :-)

    To those who don’t know much about this, it is a very kind and healthy thing for the cats (getting them fixed, that is). Cats who have gone completely feral almost never can be brought home to be pets. It would be like taking any other animal from the wild and trying to cage it.

    So, what people do is work to keep the colonies from breeding out of control and provide shelter and food in some cases. In that way, the cats have a good life, but don’t create more little ones.

    The purpose of the notched/punched ears is so that they don’t have to be trapped and carted to the veterinarian over and over again, which can be very traumatic to the cats.

    More info can be found at:

  7. it’s better than shooting feral cats which is a common practice in some “civilized” country’s….Australia.

    Someone throw a plug or an earskin in that thing already. I’m thinking hot pink Kaos silicone

  8. I just met a cat the other day who had been fixed and released and to show that he was fixed they CUT OFF the end of his ear. Poor thing. When the current owners found him it was not healed and it was all gross. That’s definitely way worse than just punching a little hole.

  9. oh ok. feral cats… that’s why someone pays a kid in Gummo to kill a bunch of cats. that’s bad.

  10. The very common practise of shooting cats in Australia has nothing to do with how “civilized” we are, and a lot more to do with the vast negative impact that feral cats (and free-roaming domestic cats) have had and continue to have on Australia’s very delicate island ecosystems. Trap/desex/return programs are in effect in several parts of Australia, but the cost and labour-intensity of such programs means they will probably never become common in rural areas.

    And most, if not all, desexed animals are tattooed with a squeeze-plier type of animal tattoo punch here in Australia. Ear notching is commonly used to mark farm animals such as pigs or cattle, though, and it doesn’t seem any more cruel than the practises that the notching or punching indicate. :)

  11. Fuck that shit.
    I really don’t see why it’s necessary, even after reading why.

  12. In a book Im reading it talks about a society that is so blind to the obvious truth of things or the usefulness of some things because they let their beliefs blind them. These comments make me worry we have those amongst us much like that. I think that if this is a completely legitimate reason to do, and many people fight for the “rights” of the cats. These Feral cats often end up with wounds much more severe from simple fights over territory. Dont be blind and use the “victimizing of cats” as a defense to why you are so, fact of the matter is, this prevents more generations of cats from suffering, and makes it more easy and likely that the groups that do this helpful service will continue.

  13. Most people that are saying “That’s just wrong!” Probably haven’t ever seen what a real feral cat would look like out in the wild. They’re torn up, scarred, injured…this humane catching of the cat, spaying/neutering, then marking without a tag that could get caught or torn is a great idea and much less expensive than an ear tattoo or implanted chip…that way they can afford to spay and neuter more ferals, which is a good idea. Collars also get caught on things, sometimes even causing the cat to be trapped permanently and end up strangling them or causing them to starve to death while caught on a fence or whatever.

    Plus, that cat looks fat and happy to me! :D Adorable all around.

  14. I raise dogs for the seeing eye and they have a number tattoo’ed in their ear, so I feel for this purpose it is okay, the main thing is the pet did not suffer in any way.


  16. the cat didn’t consent to having its reproductive organs removed either. Why aren’t you bitching about that?

  17. some examples of animals getting mods..
    cows/bulls get branded.. bulls have septum piercings..
    cats over here have one of the ears, the edge, snipped to mark that they have been spayed.. it actually saves their lives, cz without that lil cut, they can be culled..

    in my opinion, if it’s necessary in order to save it’s life and since an animal cant sign documents to approve it..
    what have to be done gotta be done.

    post-op, come on, definitely it will cause discomfort but i am confident they have been supervised before releasing back to the wild.. as long as the association is genuine about them helping the animals.

    i think if it isnt animal testing for human benefits, it’s all good, for me..
    i do LOVE my animals alright, before anyone tries to put me in my place.
    i just find it amateurish when people say, fuck this, fuck that without a rational explaination.

  18. If it wouldnt eat it and potiently swallow I would totally send it some earskins and some holey buttr

  19. Thank you CutThroat! I needed that. Is operating on an animal with the potential of having an uncomfortable healing bad? No because it saves lives. Is punching a hole in an animals ear bad? No because it saves lives!

    Zomg I hez dah Dermalz!

  20. In a normal situation, I’d probably not be happy with any person doing this to any living being that couldn’t consent (as this is technically ‘cosmetic’ instead of something for better health) whether it be a child or a kitten, but there is a use for it in this case, and it prevents less stress for everyone and saves time for the organization to not have to bring in the same cat five times to the vet to get her spayed.

    This is different that some random owner going into the vet’s office and asking them to put holes in their animal’s ears because they think it’d be cool to have a pet with pierced ears or whatever it might be. It serves a useful purpose (the same goes for identification tattoos, even the Hello Kitty one in the BME gallery I feel was humanely done as it was under anesthesia already) because it’s noticeable and unique- there are lots of striped cats out there, but a striped cat with an ear tattoo or hole is going to stand out more. For the original purpose, it’s a win-win situation for the organization and the animals- time/money is saved and fewer cats have to be stressed out because they can tell them apart easily.

    Oh, and- I HAS HOLE IN MAH EAR!!!!111

  21. I love how much controversy animal modification stirs up. Does no one realize that we have been modifying pets for a very long time? The Egyptians used to pierce their cats ears. We have been docking dogs ears and tails for centuries. We brand cattle and livestock. Even pierced septums can be found on cattle. Is this so terrrible?

  22. My cat has a similair whole in her ear, but she got hers from a fight with a neighbouring cat.
    She did get an ID tattoo in her ear though.

  23. lol there is nothing wrong with body mods on animals. I just found out that my dog had a tattoo on his stomach it was like a cross. It was showing that he was neutered

  24. I can’t tell if the cat is cute if all I can see is the back of her head. =( Buuuut it’s nice they did it under anaestesia. I hope the healing wasn’t too painful.

  25. I don’t think it’s such a big deal, it’s actually pretty cool.

    LOL @CutThroat

  26. i agree with #11–such is the case with collars vs “tearaway collars,” which look shoddy and poorly made, but really save thousands of cats a year from accidental strangulation. i feel this punch, in which the jewelry does not stick out, etc, runs along the same lines.

  27. i agree with #11–such is the case with collars vs “tearaway collars,” which look shoddy and poorly made, but really save thousands of cats a year from accidental strangulation. i feel this punch, in which the jewelry does not stick out, etc, runs along the same lines.

  28. I just want to point out for all the people who think this is cruel because the animal didn’t consent— um, hello? We cut off their genitals. Do you think they consent to that? I think a hole punch is far less obtrusive and cruel.

  29. Oh god, after reading some of these comments…it’s like all the PETA freaks jumped out from nowhere even after Shannon’s explanation. Would you rather the cat be dead? It was after all a stray. You think a cat would consent to being neutered? Go eat a tofu burrito and chill the fuck out.

  30. Feral cats must be altered to prevent unwanted kittens. Giving them a visible mark is so they do not get re-captured and possibly go thru another surgery. Here, they notch the ear.

    Anyone who thinks this is cruel has never been to an animal pound and seen unwanted animals locked in cages, or witnessed animals being euthanized for no fault of their own. Animal neglect and overpopulation is cruel.
    Wake up people. Stop whining and devote some time volunteering at an animal shelter or caring for a feral colony.

  31. I think that this is a neat way to identify which feral cats have been fixed or not. I’m all for trying to reduce the unwanted pet population by sterilizing the cats then releasing them back to the “wild”.
    For what its worth I wish that the people around where I live would spay or neuter their cats and actually take care of them instead of letting them be “outdoor” cats. It really pisses me off how many people say my cat’s a cat so it should roam free, have as many kittens as it can, be exposed to the elements/other animals and then bitch about how animals should be treated.

  32. Rock on. Though I can see some issues with this, as in the hole getting caught on something and tearing or further injury in a fight, it’s far more bold and obvious then the classic notching or “tipping” of the ear.

    Any douche who thinks this is unnecessary and cruel needs to read the book that can be found here:

    and spend a week watching unadoptable animals die in a high volume animal shelter. If after seeing the things I and so many other shelter workers have seen (shall I mention decapitation of dead animals for rabies tests?) then if they want to bitch about THIS being cruel… well…I still don’t want to hear it. They would be better off using their time to come up with a better answer.

  33. So, one more note on this whole thing from somebody who hangs out with a vet far to much: The reason the ear is notched (or, in this case, punched) instead of tattooed is so that it can be seen from a distance. The idea is to make a mark that will not change the cat’s body identity (yes, they have them) any more than a normal scar from a cat fight will (i.e. no tags, collars, etc), but still be visible from a distance (i.e. not a tattoo which needs to be looked for).
    Generally, these things are done under full-body anesthesia right after the animal is operated on, under sterile conditions, with clean, sharp instruments. For the most part, they are very well treated to keep the physical and psychological stress to a minimum. After all, the idea is to let them continue their lives with as little disturbance as possible.
    That having been said- I would so pop a ring in that hole!

  34. no offence to anyone here but its a cat.. it prolly doesnt even know it has a hole in its ear. i think a mark like this is much better then say cutting a notch or tip out/off of it. plus you can be fairly certain it diddnt happen in a fight of some kind of accident. i know here tattooing of the ear and or injecting some crazy metal computer chip into animals necks are common and from volunteering at an animal shelter i can tell you that the cats/dogs/whatever do know there is a “Humaine” pain/irritent in the necks (ie the chip). and i agree with a previous post that many of the practises in urban areas would just not be possible in the rural areas and prolly put down so to that respect i believe this is a good alternative

  35. There is a strong difference between a cat having this done to aid the control of a feral species and having it done for the fascination of its owner.

    This is an acceptable act done not for artistic merit but for the welfare of animals overall.

  36. All my cats have their ears tattooed so they can be identified if they ever got lost. The procedure took about 30 seconds under sedation and healed incredibly quickly, there was no blood, no scabs, they didn’t scratch at it. I imagine this has the same healing time, and it saves the same animal from being taken in to the vet’s again. Where I live, they shoot feral cats (and sometimes pets) – so this is obviously preferable…

    Oh, and PETA wouldn’t have an issue with this method, they’re all for TNR.

  37. smash- You think the animal notices the microchip in their neck? Haha that’s totally asinine. Those animals have so much subcutaneous skin they do not feel it. When the needle is inserted into their skin most don’t even react. It’s not a “computer chip” either. The chip is made out of an inert, biocompatible substance, which means it won’t cause an allergic reaction or degenerate over time.
    They are extremely safe and thousands of animals are reuinted with their owners every day!

  38. I’m SO glad that the overwhelming majority of responses to this post are sensible and rational. Any reasonable person can see that this ‘modification’, like tattooing and microchipping, is done for the welfare of the animals and the other species with whom they cohabit. To see these responses is such a refreshing change to the usual spur-of-the-moment PETA-type bullshit about ‘consent’ and such.
    Furthermore, I wanna see a pic of the kittie’s face!

  39. >>48

    Yeah, now that the hole is THERE (and just inherited, so to speak) if the cat was friendly enough I’d definitely wanna put a ring in it at least just the once for a photoshoot!

  40. hehe I can’t believe my kitty made it onto modblog!

    I would just like all the people who have said that this is wrong/harms her in some way, that all of the cats that are spayed/neutered are sent to foster homes after for at least two weeks to make sure that there are no complications from the surgery. During this time, they are mostly kept in cages because they are so wild and will attack people when scared, and it was during that time that they found my cat to be friendly.

    I have wanted to put a plug of some sort into her ear, but I don’t think she would stay still long enough for me to do it (I could barely get those pictures :]) and i think she would probably try to get it out.

    I would agree that random “modifications” on animals are wrong, but if there is a purpose (even if it is only for future identification) and it is done in a proper enviornment and looked after, I don’t see the problem. Is tagging an animal in some way any worse than killing and eating one? (I don’t think so, hence why I am a vegetarian.)

    Overall, she doesn’t seem to mind having a hole in her ear. She is, as someone said, fat and happy.

  41. hehe I can’t believe my kitty made it onto modblog!

    I would just like all the people who have said that this is wrong/harms her in some way, that all of the cats that are spayed/neutered are sent to foster homes after for at least two weeks to make sure that there are no complications from the surgery. During this time, they are mostly kept in cages because they are so wild and will attack people when confronted, and it was during that time that they found my cat to be friendly.

    I have wanted to put a plug of some sort into her ear for the longest time, but I don’t think she would stay still long enough for me to do it. (I could barely get those pictures :]) And i think she would probably try to get it out.

    I would agree that random “modifications” should not be done on animals, but if there is a purpose (even if it is only for future identification) and it is done in a proper enviornment and looked after, I don’t see the problem. Is tagging an animal in some way any worse than killing and eating one?

    Overall, she doesn’t seem to mind having a hole in her ear. She is, as someone said, fat and happy.

  42. I work at a vets office in the USA that doesn’t mark the feral cats that get spayed (We work with a fix-a-feral program and sometimes spay/neuter 3 feral cats in one day). We have gotten in cats that have already been fixed. All have to go through being put under anesthesia since they can’t be handled otherwise, and with the girls were it isn’t always immediately noticeable that they were worked on before some get opened up again for no reason. Yes this has only happened a few times but enough that I would think marking them would be a smart thing to do.

  43. for those who think this is more along the lines of “cosmetic” as opposed to for health reasons, realize that if there is no outward sign that the cat has been fixed they will cut the animal open again to fix it only to realize that it has already been done.

    I think it is great. You are saving the life of the cat and making sure it doesn’t have to undergo more procedures than it needs to.

  44. First off, Thank you to the cat owner for adopting a rescue!! we need more people being responsible with their animals out there. Secondly, I work @ a city shelter in california where the feral cat issue is a huge topic of debate. This would be an even better way to let us know that a cat is from a feral colony then the ear tipping method, just because its so obvious. That way, we could contact our local rescue groups to see if they’re missing a cat. It would be even better if certain groups had different sized punches. As for the comments about microchips, which i insert daily, i really don’t understand the issue of irritation to the animals. Sure, some do have reactions, depending on the breed and skin characteristics (less loose skin, etc.). I think I’ve seen maybe 2 reactions, and only at the injection site, (ie inflammation, hair loss) in my 2 years on the job. I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. I don’t know how many times we’ve gotten in aggressive/ freaked out animals which would have not been able to be put up for adoption and had to have been euthanized. But upon scanning them we find a chip and an owner to call to pick them up. Anyone have a better solution then?? In a perfect world these things would not be necessary, but we’re coming up with the best ideas we can to deal with a jacked up situation.

  45. just to incite the rage
    ive happily pierced a rabbit….rabbits get eaten here and are rarely kept as pets but are kept as a food source i got asked to pierce a rabbit’s ear and thought why not it might save it fromgetting eaten and it did just that. the owner was so proud of his very cool rabbit hekept it as a pet…. i saw him about a couple of months later the piercing had healed without any hassles and the rabbit was definately not ending up on a plate…

  46. they tattoo dogs and cats for identification pierce cows septums and ears they also pierce babies with a piercing gun

  47. just me – Who is ‘they’? I don’t know any civilised member of society who would pierce a baby with a piercing gun or a rabbit’s ear for artistic merit.

    Eating a rabbit is part of a natural relationship with it, piercing it’s ear is not.

  48. you know, there are alot of comments on here, but hopefully someone will read this!!!

    a friend of mine has an inside/outside cat. we have the ferile cat program here as well, where they pick up the cats and spay/nueter them. his cat (already nuetered) was picked up by mistake as an un spayed female… the poor kitty dissapeared and returned 3 days later with stitches down his poor belly and the tip of his ear was clipped. poor little guy.

  49. ho ho it wasnt done for artistic merit it was done for the fun of it. and i never said babies ears were pierced by civilised people what makes a person civilised? take a walk down the street and you will see many under five year olds with their ears gun pierced a good raeson why responsible piercers should pierce children with a needle another thing ive happily done in the past

  50. I had a feral cat as a pet once. Instead of a hole punch they snipped off the tip of his ear. We were told he was wild an untamed and the place that had him tried to convince us to adopt another cat instead, but he ended up being a lovely companion! (Although he did randomly bite at times.)

  51. My last cat, who was a stray until she adopted me, was missing the tip of one of her ears. I had assumed it was a victim of the streets, but it turns out it meant that she had been caught, snipped, and released. The ear nipping prevented her from being caught and hauled off to the vet a second time. Personally I much prefer this method of animal population control to euthanasia. ;)

  52. #21 or Lori

    “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progression be judged by the way it’s animals are treated” Mahatma Gandhi

    It all boils down to the bottom line. I respect that people are concerned with protecting what is the beautiful and delicate ecosystem of Australia. However, I have no respect for the murder of animals due to a lack of funds. This is my primary concern. The visual modification is a secondary issue in my opinion. I would rather be forcibly modified and alive then dead and in some dumpster somewhere. I think that most cats would agree.

    I hope you haven’t felt disrespected as it was not my intention.

  53. #64, as unfortunate as it is, after working at a piercing studio I’d see people once a week bring in their babies looking for us to pierce their ears and were shocked that not only would we not do it but that we used needles for any piercing in general. I still see pierced babies around town almost daily.

    I personally think notching or tipping the ear would be better than a whole. My cats would certainly get their ears caught on things. I once had a cat get an infection in it’s ear and the entire thing ballooned up, had to go through surgery to get drained, and the poor thing never really got it’s balance back. Ears can be very vital parts of cats anatomy. If one of these cats gets it caught and torn on something, they could end up with an infection. Less likely if it’s just the tip or a notch.

  54. Have these people not heard of microchipping? This is as unnecessarily painful and archaic as tattooing numbers on housepets to identify them. As others have said already, if this gets caught on something before or even after it has healed, it could cause an infection that is painful or worse.

  55. You have to catch a cat, drag it to the vet and scan it to detect a microchip. That is unneccessary extra trauma for the cat. Being trapped and handled isn’t exactly a picnic for them, you know.

  56. my dog has a tattoo on her stomach, I’m glad she has it, you can’t see the scar from her getting spayed AT ALL, so what if she was a stray and they couldn’t tell if she was spayed or not? of course that would never happen because she would never get lost, and has a microchip implanted (another great thing for pets but freaky for people). I love my dog being modified.

  57. #74: My kitty, a former feral herself, has her tipped and it did not affect her one bit. They did the procedure when she was spayed and monitored it along with stitches on her belly. As to chipping vs. modding, microchipping is a way to reunite lost pets with owners, while tipping/notching/what have you is done solely to identify whether or not the animal has been spayed or neutered.

    While I normally find modding animals stupid, cruel and unnecessary, I wholeheartedly support notching and tipping and the like. It’s a much better alternative then going through the routine of capturing the cat, taking to the vet, opening it up and find out it has already been fixed…or, worse, that it’s a male. Imagine the trauma if a cat had to go through that four or five times in its life. Plus rescue organizations are so underfunded as it is. If they had to haul the same cat to the vet multiple times just because they “weren’t sure,” they would cease to exist.

  58. My dog has a tattoo on her ear, which is quite sad bacause I’ve yet to get a tattoo…My dogs cooler than me xD

  59. I see nothing wrong with a little hole punch or snip in the ear to help identify feral cats that have already been cared for. there are about 20 feral cats that live in an abandoned house next door to me. they are taken care of by people around the neighborhood, but they will not come to any of the people because they are so wild. And they keep mass producing so the population just keeps growing. i had tried to cat a kitten and it was severely traumatized. it screamed the whole time i had it and bit and scratched and just basically freaked out. so being caught several times could be very traumatic for these kitties. where as a little hole in the ear could help identify them quickly so they do not have to be caught again and have to go through the trauma.

  60. Glad to hear that a feral cat got to decide it wanted to be a house cat. It’s kinda cool that your area does Catch, Fix, and Release of the wild animals instead of killing.

    Why is there so much controversy over “punching a hole in a feral CAT ear to ID it as fixed” from the same country (USA) where over half of “infant HUMAN boys are tied down and have part of their genitals mutilated and removed” under the term ‘circumcision’? I *REALLY* don’t get it. Nice to see feral cats have better lobbiests than our babies.

  61. lol its always funny to see people freak out because they can’t see the forest through the trees as it were, ear clipping or punching makes sense, as it has been pointed out it allows for immediate identification of the individual as having been fixed already so they can be immediately released, to use a tattoo or microchip would require the animal to be removed from the cage and physically immobilized, besides the fact that that is DANGEROUS to do with a unhappy cat, it causes undue stress in ANY wild/feral animal that is not used to being handled – animals can actually go into shock and die from this! so if you think that is more humane then something that allows immediate ID than i have a nice bridge in new york to sell you.

    as for microchip id tags in general, besides the aforementioned dangers from excess handling they are expensive, starting at 9$ US per tag if you buy them bulk, which most people don’t since its more work to sterilize and load them into an injector yourself, prepackaged ones in sterile disposable injectors like those used on pets cost $12-$16 dollars directly from the company. that adds up to be a lot of money very quickly! money which could be spent on fixing more animals in order to prevent future generation suffering from living in inappropriate habitats.

    Building on #52 animals definitely don’t notice the “chips” after implantation, we can know this because there are people that have them to, they can feel where the tag is by feeling through the skin but the cant feel the tag itself. The implantation is also quick and simple, anyone with a 12 gauge piercing (same size needle as used in most tag implantations) can attest that it is a big needle but they don’t really hurt for more than a split second if that. The animals dislike being held down far more than the actual implanting – I should know i put them in platypuses :)

    and FYI ID “microchips” as #52 said are not actually microchips at all, they are tiny coils of wire encased in solid glass. Glass in itself is entirely biocompatible and thus safe from reaction or rejection. new very expensive versions may be partially coated in special biopolymers (partially organic plastics basically) that promote the rapid adhesion of connective tissue to prevent migration, the chances of which are only significant in certain places on certain species of animals. The chips are read when a device emits a set radio frequency that then reflects back of the tags in a way that is unique to that tag, hence the full technical name of Passive Radio Frequency Identification Device.

  62. I would rather see the dermal punch than what a local vet did to a beautiful feral we trapped…she “whacked off” more than one third of the top of the ear. We had complained that the previous trapped feral had been “overclipped”; jagged and crooked!! This little girl we trapped had apparently been done a few months before. We had paid to not clip the ear in hopes of socializing and having her adopted.This failed and she was released. She did enter a trap again. When we brought her to the vet, we explained that she “possibly had been spayed a few months before…please look for the scar” The vet obviously wanted to make a point to us…the kitty was reopened and the ear was mutiliated! Needless to say, we shall not take our trapped cats or OUR PERSONAL CATS to this vet again. This has sicked us!!

  63. My boxer has a bright green tattoo on her belly to show she’s been chipped. They could’ve done something a little different with the cat, but in the end it’s all for a good reason.

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