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From Our Jungle toYours


A Few Thoughts On Bobcats

I find bobcats fascinating, intimidating, and entertaining. I never forget that our wonderful, bottle-raised babies are Wildcats, fully capable of inflicting serious injury. So far we have never been bitten, or scratched, even when they were young kittens, learning manners. Bobcat body language is very expressive. Their mutton chops flair when nervous or curious. Their tails, while lacking in length, are constantly in motion; curled into a question mark, swishing in anger. And their vocal signals leave little to the imagination, from warning growls, to a woo-woo greeting they communicate their emotional state. We approach our adult bobcats carefully, and we ask permission for intimate contact with them. We do not assume our gestures are understood or even welcome. We ask, and if they are willing, they grant. To be loved by a bottle-raised bobcat is a very special gift few people will ever experience. They can purr so loud, and be so sweet, that you tolerate all their bobcatty ways.

And speaking of bobcatty ways, you can't talk about adult bobcats without talking about bobcat spray. That's a behavior one needs to accept if there is going to be harmony in bobcat ownership. Bobcat urination sites can be classified as 'squirt backwards'; "squat", which involves only a small amount of urine; and "voiding", which incorporates a squatting position and a large volume of urine. Of 217 urination sites made by free roaming bobcats, McCord documented over 89 percent of these the "squirt backwards" type, with 4 percent "squats", and 2 percent "voided", and 3 percent scrapes with urine detected. If you care for a captive bobcat, especially a sexually mature pair, you will easily concur with these observations. It can be tiresome to constantly be on guard or be golden-showered, but if you're a true bobcat nut you might actually develop a liking to the faint, faded odor of bobcat spray.

Another consideration that comes to mind is just how long and sharp their canines are. They can bite rapidly and repeatedly. In describing the killing method employed by free ranging bobcats hunting deer, it was noted by McCord that "bobcats generally bite three areas on the deer; the throat, the base of the skull and the chest. The chest area at the base of the throat is rich in blood vessels, and sometimes a few bite marks were found there in addition to other areas. The base of the skull was more frequently bitten, and on some deer was the only area of attack. Apparently the bobcat is able to reach the spine in the region of the atlas and axis. The throat, however, was almost always a focus of attack. The biting speed of adult bobcats enables them to pulverize the throat, including the major blood vessels and the trachea, in a matter of seconds." I don't know about you, but as a bobcat care giver, that description gives me the willies.

Adult bobcats need to be outdoors. Our bottle-raised adults spend time in our home with us, but they have their space too - a cage outdoors that connects to our porch. Furniture on the porch is inexpensive and replaceable. The painted concrete floor must be regularly washed and bleached. The wall above their bed on the porch has taken on a permanent yellowish stain from repeated "squirt-backwards" activities.

We have experimented with different compound designs for our breeding groups. Cage size varies from 16' by 24', to 29' by 32'. We have had great results using bamboo in the enclosures. Once established, it seems to tolerate bobcat spray, creating shade and a wonderful jungle habitat. We built elevated wooden cat walks through the bamboo tops and they are frequently traveled. We have also been successful with forsythia, rose of sharon and quince bushes inside the cages. We planted native honeysuckle on the outside of the cat compounds and it's growing up the walls. We placed large rocks and tree logs inside to add habitat diversity and scratching posts. First thing in the morning our bobcats are especially playful, racing the length of their compound and chasing each other up and down their elevated highways. In the summer months we fill a kitty pool with well water and stock it with small fish. The water has to be drained and replaced daily, as once the fishing is over, it seems to beckon them to defecate in it. We have also given them potted catnip plants to smell and roll in. These plants don't last long, so we have numerous pots of it, and after a rubbing session renders the plants be-draggled, we remove the plant to recover.


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Bart & Lynn Culver

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