Pet Owners Are Paying For a Dangerous Practice to Give Their Pets “Mickey Ears”

pets with mickey ears and police cars
Credit: Instagram/marupgoma_c/Disney/Canva

Animal advocates and experts in veterinary care are warning against a growing trend in China that involves pet owners subjecting their animals to a painful cosmetic procedure to give them rounded ears reminiscent of Mickey Mouse.

puppy with mickey ears and mickey mouse

Credit: @marupgoma_c/DisneyVideo/Canva

Beginning in late December 2023, numerous Chinese media outlets began reporting on the disturbing trend taking place across the country that is both dangerous and growing in popularity. It involves a painful surgical intervention used on cats and dogs in China in an effort to disrupt the natural structure of their ears so that their ears can be rounded out to look like those of Disney’s beloved Mickey Mouse.

But while the end result is often considered cute by many, the procedure leading to the reshaping of an animal’s ears is one that is painful, chock full of risks, and can leave the animal with both psychological and physical side effects.

In April 2021, a dog with Mickey Mouse-shaped ears went viral on Instagram simply because of her ears. The dog, a Maltese Papillon named Goma, was seven years old at the time and the cutest thing many of her 100 million followers had ever seen.

dog with mickey mouse ears

Credit: Instagram/@marupgoma_c

But according to reports about Goma, genetics, not general surgery, are responsible for her ears. According to at least one report, Goma “has a genetic mix of Maltese and Papillon traits that has given her a wonderful set of giant rounded dark ears.”

But most cats and dogs have naturally floppy or pointed ears, and for this reason, the reshaping of their ears requires a surgical procedure that animal experts say is dangerous and should be stopped immediately.

Reputable veterinarians and animal clinics in China refuse to provide the “service,” but experts say “shady” pet clinics offer the service–and some even offer discounts on group procedures, akin to a “buy more, save more” gimmick.

Liu Yundong, a dean at Loving Care International Pet Medical Centre in Beijing, China, told the South China Morning Post that the painful and risky procedure is a two-step process. The first step involves the surgical intervention, which requires anesthesia and lasts approximately 30 minutes. The second step, referred to as “the styling phase,” involves the shaping of the animal’s ears so they stand upright and stay that way.

dogs and cats

Credit: Canva

The styling phase can take anywhere from 20 to 60 days to complete and requires frequent adjustments to keep the animal’s ears in that upright position.

“As veterinarians, we adhere to the principle of animal welfare and do not advocate these surgeries,” Yundong said. “The colleagues I’ve encountered are tacitly opposed to such surgeries.”

Yundong says that the negative effects of the surgery on the affected animals include physical pain, psychological torment, and the risks associated with anesthesia, which can have their own set of psychological and physical side effects.

cats and dogs with mickey ear hats

Credit: Disney/Canva

Dr. Chen Yong, a veterinarian practicing at the Shenzhen Lianhe Pet Hospital, says that the procedure can also lead to dangerous self-mutilating behaviors in cats and dogs.

“Damaging the natural structure of the ears can cause psychogenic problems in some pets,” Dr. Yong explained. “For instance, some sensitive pets may scratch repeatedly due to excessive pain.”

Animal advocates online have called out those who participate in having their pets ears reshaped to look like Mickey Mouse’s ears.


Credit: Flickr/Brian McGowan

“Cutting tails, cutting ears – are these pet owners sick?” posted one person. “Where does this market demand even come from?” Another person posted, saying, “If they think it’s cute, they should try cutting their own ears like that.”

Another advocate online called out the procedure for what it is: “This is animal abuse, not love.”

As of the time of this post, the procedure is not illegal in China, but as the number of people having the procedure performed on their pets increases, experts are urging the general public not to participate in such a practice because of the dangers to the animals themselves. Others are asking that the procedure be made illegal–and that those who are having the procedure performed on their pets be penalized.

It’s not clear at this time whether there are plans for any laws to be enacted to protect these animals, but the hope is that something is done soon in hopes of deterring pet owners from having the ear shaping performed on their pets.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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