African servals, exotic cats as pets

A Bit About Bobcats, by Lynn Culver
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Our First bobcats - Bobby and Dot

Back in May of 1994, a girlfriend of mine asked us to take in a pair of adult southern Texas bobcats she had rescued from a facility that was keeping them in rabbit hutches. And so Bobby and Dot moved to our place in western Arkansas. Bobby is a beautiful animal, 35 pounds, with a close nap brown\ rosetted pelage. He has an unusually short tail, less than two inches long, and a beautiful full ruff on his impressive face. When I bring these two bobcats their dinner, he always greets me at the door with his muttonchops flared. Dot’s fur is sliver-gray with big black dots and blotches, but rarely do I get the opportunity to have a long look at her, she is so shy.

The following spring Dot went into estrus and bred with Bobby. I’ll never know why, but she gave birth to three kittens and stopped attending to them after cleaning them up. Every year since she has been an excellent mother who produced and cared for both a spring and late summer litter.

My husband heard the pitiful cries of these baby bobcats and found one had crawled through the fencing of the cage and was in the yard! He put it and it’s siblings back in the house, but Dot proceeded to drag them back out of the house onto the ground again, so we decided to pull them for hand rearing. The two females and single male were hungry and eagerly sucked the bottle. We learned that you had to be careful feeding bobby babies as they would over eat and bloat if given the opportunity.

Hair-Raising Kitten Raising Stories

Raising kittens from birth is challenging. These kittens had no protective colostrum in their system. We fed them around the clock, day and night, but on the fifth day, I did something very wrong. I was too tired to get up in the middle of the night and so I fed them late that night and did not check on them again until early the next morning. And when I did, I discovered the male kitten was totally limp. Soaked in sweat from the heating pad under the carrier, I had inadvertently cooked him. He had “gone flat”, a term that is quite descriptive, if you ever see one in this condition.

I immediately gave him a 3cc injection of lactated ringers solution under the skin and then 20 minutes later repeated this procedure. I had managed to re-hydrate him and correct his electrolyte imbalance with the lactated ringer’s solution, but he was in a very fragile condition. This kitten did not have the strength to suck a bottle. And so began our introduction to tube feeding. Bart and I measured the distance from his mouth to the bottom of his ribcage and marked off the tube and while one of us held him still in our hands the other carefully slid the tube down his throat and filled his stomach with KMR formula. We had to repeat this procedure five times a day for five days, before he was finally strong enough to suck the bottle. I remember wondering if he would ever suck the bottle again. But the crisis did eventually pass and in the process he earned the name Wimpy, because that’s what he was – a very wimpy kitten.

And when his sisters were 10 days old, they fell ill. I woke them from their afternoon naps and instead of immediately squirming and squealing for food, they yawned and stretched. That is a red flag – trouble in paradise. We injected them with lactated ringers solution sub-Q and took their temperatures. They both had fevers. We drove them to our most knowledgeable vet, who happened to be 70 miles away. I had brought formula and bottles for the drive, but I regret not bringing lactated ringers solution and syringes. They started going downhill and one was extremely critical when we arrived. They spent the night at the veterinarian’s home, and one female didn’t survive.

When the remaining female was 17 days old, she developed pneumonia – most likely aspiration induced, as bobby babies are very greedy with the bottle and get over-excited and can easily inhale formula into their lungs if you are not careful. And that left us with just Wimpy, who was by this time, quite strong. And two weeks later, I flew to Wisconsin and picked up a litter of three, 6-week old bobbies. We sold two and kept one, which we named Missy Woo.

Mystery Anemia

The two bobbies bonded immediately and we hoped to someday produce kittens from this delightful pair. But when they were about 10 weeks old they came down with a mysterious illness that left them anemic, feverish, and anorexic. I consulted our vet and we treated them with antibiotics and sub-Q fluids, and lots of lixotinic vitamins, rich in iron and B vitamins for their anemia. We force-fed them their bottle formula and lavished all our love and attention on them.

They hung on like this for three days and slept in our bed by our heads, but we couldn’t seem to break their fevers. Sunday, they took a turn for the worse. Wimpy’s nictitating membrane was covering his eyes, something that wasn’t happening earlier. His fever had been running around 103 to 104 steadily. He was so weak, and I knew he would die that day. While my husband Bart lay with them giving them comfort, I began gathering up all the bobby toys scattered about the bedroom and house and I braced myself for the bitter end. Bart noticed the toys missing and realized what that meant and we both cried.

We laid beside them all morning into the afternoon and prayed to God for a miracle and begged them to hang on. And later that afternoon when we could stand the pain and sadness we felt inside no more, we left them sleeping on our bed and moved to our porch. We immersed ourselves in lovemaking to release the fear and sadness and hopelessness we had endured for the past three days. It was several hours that we spent away from our beloved bobbies. Then it was time to face the grim reality. We entered our bedroom afraid of what we'd find. We discovered our formerly dying patients staring at us with new vigor and bright eyes. We had been granted our miracle!

Their fever had subsided and they were finally on the road to recovery. It took about another week for them to finally be completely well, their fever waxed and waned several more times. I took them to my local vet on Tuesday, and he wormed them and gave them a shot of dyperone – which is an anti-pyremic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. That seemed to help also, but the mystery illness just had to run its course, which was almost 10 days from start to finish.

Boundless Bobcat Energy

That was the last time these two cats have ever been ill. Today they are 8 years old. Raising them has been a joy. They spent the first 11 months of their lives entirely in our homes. Bart and I both worked part time, and some days we would work the same days, and we would leave them home alone and return to find that they must have spent the day sleeping. Missy Woo and Wimpy never destroyed anything. They never used their claws to scratch the furniture, they never broke any knick-knacks, they never chewed anything – they never went through a bitey-phase. We never had to teach them “no-bite” – they never even opened their mouths on us. We never had to teach them “no scratch”.

They were however, playful and energetic, so sometimes we would move them onto the porch to vent their boundless energy. We did have to keep the toilet seat down or they would go fishing, splashing toilet water all over the bathroom walls and floor. And they did kind of whoop-up on my gardenia bushes on the porch, but that was the extent of their destructive behavior.

They were purrfect, except for their spraying behavior – that’s what got them banished from our house. They had reliable toilet habits as kittens– always used the kitty litter, but when they were 11 months old, I noticed a smell on the porch. I pulled up the rug in front of their litter pan and discovered they were peeing on the carpet. Missy Woo had her first baby heat and was marking around, and Wimpy was following suit. It was time for our beloved house bobbies to move outdoors.

The Feel of Grass between their Toes

Bart built them a wonderful 600 square foot compound that connected to a porch window by an arched wooden tunnel about 12 feet long. They could come and go as they pleased. For several years they lived in this enclosure with access to the cat room, which contained their own double bed (mattress covered with a protective plastic cover and sheets and blankets) their own couch (covered with a throw) a picnic table, a rocking chair and a custom-built cedar cat tree with carpet covered platforms. Outdoors, their compound had a kitty pool for summer weather, elevated wooden ramps all around the walls, a cedar tree tower in the middle with springy stair-step platforms, a two-story log cabin and a few clumps of bamboo struggling to get established.

When this pair of bobcats was 16 months old, we adopted a 4-month-old, vaccinated, domestic kitten. We carefully introduced him to Missy Woo and Wimpy, who now weighed about 20 pounds each, and it was love at first sight. They adored Darlin and would greet him with bobcat “woo-woo’s and groom him and lay with him. In fact, the first three years we raised bobcat kittens for sale, every kitten we produced loved Darlin. He had a way with the bobbies and it was our highest hopes that he would one day mate with a bobcat, but he had other ideas and eventually he moved over to the neighbor’s barn and he left us forever.

I loved to visit Missy Woo and Wimpy on the porch, when they were cuddled together on their bed I would lay beside them and stroke their soft fur and whisper in their ears “I love you” and they would purr so sweet. And then they will stand up and try to pee on me. That is the one behavior you have to get used to if you want to share your life with a bobcat. Having them neutered or spayed is no guarantee it will stop that marking behavior. Face it, Bobcats=Pee.

Eventually, the amount of time I was spending mopping the walls and floors of the cat room, combined with the smell that was making it into the house was more then I wanted to endure, so we began designing another enclosure for these two. It needed to be a step up in the world, since they were loosing the porch forever. Bart built them a cage about 10 feet from our house that connects to a large hillside exercise area that is rich with native plants, bushes and small trees and is quite lush and private. The exercise area is constructed of a fence 10 feet tall and atop that, the fence leans in at a 45-degree angle for about 18 inches. There is an electrified wire at the 8-foot height and another at the end of the recurved part of the fence. This seems to work fine for these two bobcats.

One leads to another. . .and another. . .

Today we have a total of seven very tame bottle-raised pet bobcats. I don’t know how we ended up with such well-behaved bobcats. When I hear about naughty, mouthy bobcats, I shake my head and count my blessings. I know that one should fully expect to have to teach a bobcat “no bite”, and you should have to spend countless hours protecting your belongings. So anyone reading this – do not expect your bobcat to act this way. We are just very lucky, I guess. And very, very grateful too!

Many thanks to Lynn Culver of NOAH Feline Conservation Center, for allowing the use of this article on in cooperation with the Feline Conservation Federation. This article is copyrighted 2003 by Lynn Culver, and originally appeared in the FCF Newsletter. All rights are reserved. FCF members receive a bi-monthly newsletter containing a wealth of articles like this one, and I highly recommend becoming an FCF member to learn more about exotic felines.


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© Jessi Clark-White, 2005
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