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To Touch a Baby Bobcat

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I have so many fond memories of my dad, and one of my favorites is his saying, out of nowhere, 
"I've always thought a bobcat would make a nice pet. Get him young, tame him down, that'd be a real nice pet."
He'd usually go on, "I don't have much use for housecats, but a bobcat seems like a real nice animal."


As to the "getting him young" part, this'n my friends, who know cats very well, figured at about five weeks old, straight from the woods to their drainpipe. He had all his teeth.

He was rawther well armed. 

In nail and in tooth. That little sucker was absolutely gnawing on the gauntlets. Young as he was, he knew he was wild, and did not appreciate being handled for the transfer from bed to feeding carrier.

My friend gently installed him in the feeding carrier and I offered fresh minced raw chicken breast, which I thought would be better for him than cat food. The wildlife rehabilitator I had spoken to had recommended stew beef, but I didn't have any on hand. The chicken had been bought that day, and I rinsed it too, knowing that chicken can carry a good bacterial load.

The bobkitten heartily approved of the diet change. My friends chuckled at his avid acceptance of the birdy offering. "He likes your cooking better!"

The first thing Eric Bear, our Washington County Wildlife Officer, asked when I phoned was, "Are you sure it's a bobcat? Does it have the white spots on back of its ears?"  (He don't know me vewwy well, do he?)

White spots: Check. Leetle bitty tufts, too.

Officer Bear wanted me, as a Category II wildlife rehabilitator, to take the kitten so all would be legal until he could get in touch with ODNR in Columbus, which would match the kitten with someone who knew how to care for bobcats, and had the facilities to return them to the wild.
Oh, well, if I must...He'd spend Sunday night in my care, and with luck we'd have a rehabilitator lined up sometime Monday morning.

Category II means I've had my rabies shots and taken a course on handling rabies vector species, so theoretically I'm equipped to do this. Totally feeling my way. Who gets a baby bobcat, after all?

As long as we had to handle him, we decided to see to some of the hideous burrs matting his fur. We wondered how long he'd been without the care of his mother. I could feel every bone, every bump of his little spine. Looked like a male, which is hard to tell from this blurry shot, but please note teeny tiny stump tail and giant hindclaws. 

My friend held him firmly and I went to work on the burrs, picking them out of his fur as quickly as I could. My fingers moved up and down his tiny body, and as I worked him over, I felt him relax and go still. Twice, I heard a rumble that was not a growl. Like the chicken dinner, this made sense to him. I envisioned his lost mama holding him down, pulling out burrs with her teeth, and I imagined he did too.

He was purring.

I was so disarmed by that, by feeling him respond to kindness and what felt familiar to him. No matter how wild, all young things need to know they're loved.

All right, DOD. You may have a point. Every cell in my body was wanting to hold him up under my chin and rock him to sleep. But wild things must stay wild, and this dear little creature would be no exception. Later that night I'd creep up and peek through the vents in the carrier to see him stretched out luxuriously on his side, belly round, one arm flung out, cuddled into his pile of soft towels. It was a sight to do my heart good. 

Next: Wild thing, wild food!


Love the Bugs Bunny quote! Always a pleasure to read and learn from a fellow science chimp.

"I was so disarmed by that, by feeling him respond to kindness and what felt familiar to him. No matter how wild, all young things need to know they're loved."

That's a complete Sunday sermon right there...

I agree with Cyberthrush. This story is very moving. Looking forward to the next chapter!

The last photo is enough to melt just about anyone's heart. What an experience.

See, now you've got me crying! Those eyes, that innocence, that lost little creature! You are privileged to have it in your care for however a short time.

There is something about you pulling those burrs from that sweet bobcat baby that really says it all. And then to know that you couldn't just hold and comfort him, as much as you wanted to. His need to be stay wild comes first and wow, you really do know how to love and protect this creature. YOU ARE THE BEST!

wow! I have a lump in my throat! amazing. astounding. I am in awe. bravo.

I am super jealous now!! I like house cats but a bobcat, that would be a cool pet. But I know that putting him back into the wild is the best thing for him. Just wish I could have had the chance to see and touch him. Lori

Posted by Anonymous June 14, 2015 at 1:35 PM

Thank goodness he was found and is getting such special care! Can't wait to read more.

Tweety Bird said it best. :)

This gives me happy chills! So glad he's in your care, however short--He'll be ok now. :-)- Anita.

Apropos of nothing, but that originates neither with Tweety nor Bugs. It's an imitation of Red Skelton's Mean Widdle Kid in the '40s. MGM cartoons preferred, "If I dood it, I get a whuppin'. I dood it!"

Such a beautiful baby, though.

Posted by Anonymous June 15, 2015 at 12:49 PM

Oh. My. Goodness!

Just catching up to the bobcat story.

You know me to be a cat person, a one-time bobcat spotter in northern NH, and a denizen of Wildcat Mountain. How can I not love this story? How can I not know that he'd be purring in your care?

As for the claws and teeth and suchlike, I think it was Calvin who said it best, about tigers, but fits here: they've got six end points, and five of them are SHARP.

Okay, this isn't a house pet, but glad he's getting some of your homegrown loving.


Posted by KH Macomber June 15, 2015 at 1:04 PM
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