Domestic cat fosters newborn wild Bobcats
A walk on the wild side (photos below)
She was wandering the streets when a little “Grandma” scooped her up, took her home and fed her. Grandma noticed that the black and white domestic kitty with a bobbed tail kept getting larger through her mid-section. Although Grandma had become extremely attached to the sweet, friendly and personable cat, she, herself was scheduled for surgery and had to part with her new-found friend. It was a teary scene when Grandma brought the kitty to Suncoast Animal League and said “goodbye.”
Very pregnant, it was important to get the bob-tailed domestic cat, appropriately named “Bobbi”, into a foster home prior to her giving birth. Experienced Suncoast Animal League foster parent, Rachel took on the task and on April 1st, Bobbi gave birth to six kittens. If that wasn’t enough, a few days later, some kittens were found in a box, taken to the League for help and Bobbi accepted the two stray kittens with “open paws.” But as it turns out, eight was not enough.
On Monday, April 26th, Suncoast Animal League received several communications from Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. They told the story of a hunter in Alabama who showed up at a vet’s clinic with a rifle in one hand and a bag of three newborn Bobcat kittens in the other. He asked the staff to raise the Bobcat kittens so he could give them to his kids as presents in the future.
Suspecting the hunter had shot and killed the mother Bobcat, the clinic staff was concerned for the welfare of the kittens whose eyes were still closed and umbilical cords still attached. They accepted the kittens and quickly turned to the Internet to find help for the wild newborns. They contacted Big Cat Rescue and soon after, the Bobcat kittens were transported to the Tampa rescue facility.
Big Cat Rescue’s goal is to release the three Bobcats back to the wild once they have gone through an extensive18 month rehabilitation program where they’ll learn how to hunt on their own and . But until the kittens are old enough to start their rehab, they needed a foster mom of the feline persuasion to get them through the first few weeks of their lives, when a mother’s warmth and caring is most critical.
More specifically, because a female cat is more likely to “adopt” new kittens when her own kittens are present, they needed a mother cat with nursing kittens. That’s when we thought of Bobbi. With her first six kittens already eating solid food and ready to start life without mom’s constant care, Bobbi suddenly had room “at the inn.” And since the two additional stray kittens were still nursing, she fit the bill perfectly. Plus, she already had a proven record of accepting others’ “kids” as her own.
Question was ‘would she accept three more kittens after all the hard work she’s already done and especially wild Bobcat kittens?’ Only a formal introduction would provide that answer, but we had a feeling this special kitty might just accept our request.
So Monday evening Suncoast Animal League’s Rick Chaboudy and Annette Dettloff drove Bobbi and her two nursing kittens to Big Cat Rescue. We were immediately greeted by Carole and Jamie who operate the facility and ushered into the hospital area where the Bobcat kittens were being kept.
All was quiet in the room as we opened Bobbi’s carrier and collectively hoped for the best. She looked around at us staring at her, wondering what was going on. Then we all heard the soft “mew” cry of the newborn babies in the next carrier over. Bobbi’s motherly instinct instantly kicked in and she grew anxious, swinging her head around, trying to locate the source of the crying.
Jamie pulled the first Bobcat kitten out of the carrier and the introduction was in progress. Bobbi sniffed the kitten for a few seconds and gave it a good stare. Then ever so gracefully, she rolled over on her side, lifted up her front leg and invited the kitten to dinner. The little Bobcat kitten knew just what to do, and as it suckled, Bobbi gently leaned over and gave the baby a good cleaning. We couldn’t help but get a little choked up as we looked on.
Next, the second Bobcat kitten was introduced and the same thing happened. No qualms, no questions. Then the third wild baby met its new foster mother. It was an immediate and overwhelming success, much easier than any of us anticipated or could possibly have hoped for. As all three Bobcat kittens fed, Bobbi stretched and extended her head out of the open carrier. She slowly squinted her eyes and her face was filled with total contentment. This was one very caring kitty!
It is important that the Bobcat kittens have as little human interaction as possible for their rehab and release to be successful. By having Bobbi as a foster mom, she will provide the feline characteristics that we humans are unable to mimic, such as the cleaning and discipline. The original two kittens, being a little older, will provide the Bobcat kittens with much needed play and socialization experiences.
Although Bobbi’s interaction with these newborn Bobcat kittens will last only a few weeks, her impact on them will last their lifetime. Let us all wish the best for Bobbi the bobtailed domestic cat and her large, domestic AND wild adopted family.
We will keep you updated on their progress. For regular updates, click here to visit Suncoast Animal League on Facebook.