Bobcats (Felis rufus), can be found in almost every state, but you will rarely—if ever—see one. They avoid human contact and keep to themselves in their wild habitats. Certain domestic cat breeds look like bobcats, but with important differences. The behavioral patterns of wild kittens differ markedly from those of their domesticated counterparts. You can tell them apart by close observation of their appearance and habits. There are stories of domestic cats hybridizing with wild bobcats, but none have ever been proven by genetic testing.
Examine the kitten closely to see if it meets the basic criteria for bobcat anatomy. See if it has yellow eyes with black pupils, large upstanding tufted ears with sharply pointed tips and long tufts of fur running down the sides of its face. Baby bobcats will often have black stripes lining the tops of their ears, like their northern cousin, the lynx. Bobcats have dark spotted fur with dark stripes on their legs. They have big feet with elongated back legs. Look for the distinctive short, bobbed tail. Check the overall size of the kitten—bobcats are twice the size of most domestic cats.
Observe the habits and behavior of your kitten. Even young bobcats are more aggressive than domestic cats. They are wary of people they don't know and sometimes will attack them. Observe the footprint trail, or spoor, of the kitten. According to Audubon Society nature guide James A. MacMahon, "Its trail is very narrow because its hind feet prints lie directly on top of, or in 'register' with, its forefeet prints, as if produced by a two-legged animal." A bobcat will also take more readily to water than domestic cats.
Look at and compare the appearance of domestic kittens that resemble bobcats with your kitten. Manx cats superficially look like bobcats, with their long hind legs and short tails, but have important differences. They lack the long facial tufts and have shorter ears and snouts than bobcats. Manx kittens do not have the distinctive fur markings and tawny reddish brown fur of baby bobcats. The faces of Maine Coon kittens look a lot like bobcats, but they do not have short tails.
If you found or adopted your kitten from the wild, there's a chance that it's a bobcat.
Bobcats do not make good pets; they are aggressive wild animals with sharp claws and teeth.
- bobcat spring image by Kolett from Fotolia.com