Bobcat photos, video and story details by Melanie Piazza
What would you do if this animal approached you on a hiking trail?
If you're like this kitten's rescuers, you would probably exclaim in surprise as the striped and spotted baby approached you and started chasing your shoes, making crying sounds. You'd probably find it odd but cute as she followed you down the path.
Then you'd realize that this isn't a domestic tabby kitten that somehow ended up on your hiking path. This is a baby wild cat, and she needs help!
This baby's rescuers carefully picked her up, avoiding her sharp teeth and claws, and bundled her into a sweatshirt. They returned to the head of the hiking trail and contacted the Marin Humane Officer on duty to transfer the kitten to WildCare's Wildlife Hospital.
When she arrived, the kitten's dehydration and her ravenous appetite told us everything we needed to know: this young Bobcat had been away from her mother's care for a while. She was an orphan.
Read more of her story below the videos...
In the videos below, watch the kitten explore her temporary enclosure at WildCare. Temporary, because we don't have another Bobcat kitten with which to raise her, and all our wild patients must grow up with members of their own species to be successful and releaseable back to the wild.
These videos were taken after the kitten had been in care for several days.
Meanwhile, our team networked with other wildlife care centers in California to find another orphaned Bobcat with whom our kitten could grow up.
Our young Bobcat patient has an excellent appetite! Although her overall body condition was good, her appetite, dehydration and the presence of a large number of intestinal worms all indicated that she had been alone for a period of time.
In this video, watch her enjoy an array of protein sources as she becomes accustomed to the sounds and smells of her enclosure at WildCare.
Wait, water comes in silver bowls? Clearly nothing looks familiar to our Bobcat kitten patient in her outdoor enclosure. But she's ready to explore!
A camera placed at the top of her enclosure shows that curiosity isn't just a trait of our domestic feline friends! This young Bobcat's eagerness to explore bodes well for her success in the wild, as curiosity will help her find, and benefit from, new food sources. Curiosity also keeps her aware of her surroundings, an important skill in the wild.
That water bowl is still an unexpected hazard, though!
The Bobcat in Care at WildCare
The young bobcat was severely dehydrated and thin upon intake at the Wildlife Hospital. While she may look fluffy, our team could feel her spine and ribs.
Medical Staff immediately started her on subcutaneous fluids to rehydrate her, and offered her a 'light' diet (cut up mice with the skin and hair removed) to jump-start her digestive track.
We treated the kitten for fleas and ticks, took X-rays and completed a full exam. Fortunately we found no injuries, but we discovered that the cat had a very bloated belly for such a thin baby. A fecal exam showed that she had a massive load of internal parasites (roundworms). After a few days of proper hydration and nutrition, we treated the kitten for the internal parasites. We also tested her for distemper as part of our study.
Bobcat kittens habituate very easily so it was imperative that our staff and volunteers have as little contact with her as possible.
Centers who raise Bobcats from bottle-feeding age actually have to wear camouflage (an outfit called a Ghillie Suit) whenever they feed or clean their charges! Here at WildCare, a single staff member was selected to be the one to feed and clean the kitten daily. This care was provided as quickly as possible, with as little interaction as possible.
The risk of this cat becoming habituated to humans was so high that, even though all of WildCare's outdoor rehabilitation cages were full, the next morning we moved a group of opossums back indoors and refurbished their cage so that the Bobcat could be moved to an outdoor cage where she wouldn't hear humans talking. All this happened while we worked to find a Bobcat buddy for her.
Luckily our friends at Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center (W.E.R.C.) had a single kitten in need of a companion. By the end of the week our kitten had a clean bill of health — a negative distemper test and her parasites treated, and our amazing transport volunteer Teri Rockas volunteered to drive the kitten (and a lot of frozen mice!) all the way to WERC in Morgan Hill, where the kitten will grow up wild until ready for release.
Photos, videos and story details by Melanie Piazza, Director of Animal Care.