North America is home to this member of the small cat family, called a bobcat. It gets its name from the short, twitchy tail it sports.
"Walter" (at right) and "O'Malley" (below) are both former house pets. O'Malley was raised for four years in a private home where he was loved and well cared for. Unfortunately, his owner grew tired of his territorial and nocturnal behaviors. Walter was captured by Animal Control in a park in South Bend, Indiana, after he slipped out of the door of his owners' home. His owners didn't seek to find him because it is illegal to keep such animals where they live, as it is in most cities.
Unfortunately many people think these attractive small cats might make a neat pet, but they don't.
These carnivores can live into their late teens in captivity and grow to weigh up to 40 pounds. In nature they are quite solitary and nocturnal, preying on rabbits and other small mammals, snakes, and birds. One of the biggest problems with trying to raise a bobcat as a pet is that they can be aggressive, and they spray urine to mark their territory - Yuck!
Though very elusive, you may encounter a bobcat or find traces of one in nearly every state in the United States, throughout Canada, and in parts of Mexico. It is now illegal in some states to trap these animals, prized by hunters for their thick spotted winter fur.
Photos courtesy of Clay Myers.
InfoBox - Bobcat
Status: Endangered in Indiana, though numbers are rebounding. Overall good throughout their native habitat.
Diet in wild: Small animals, including rabbits, birds, snakes.
Life span in wild: 12 to 20 years.
Weight: Males 30 to 70 pounds; females 15 to 50 pounds.
Native habitat: North American forests.