Can You Own A Pet Bobcat?

Do bobcats make good pets? No, if you plan to get one you should stop dreaming. Bobcats are wild animals. If you really want to keep one as a house pet you would have to pay a high price in terms of maintenance and adjustments you would have to make. Most people who think about getting this kind of pet aren’t fully aware of what it means. 

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Bobcat lying on rock

Why Do People Want To Own A Bobcat As A House Pet?

Some people are just bored by traditional pets like cats and dogs. They seek out something more exotic. A pet that is wild. One that only a few people own. And one that makes them feel special. The rarer the pet, the better. Perhaps a rare black bobcat that looks like a panther is a dream.

Often they want to impress others by showing that this wild feline has chosen them as family. But they forget: It all wasn’t the cat’s choice.

In the last years with the rise of social media the desire for this kind of pet became even stronger. It’s easy to find someone on Instagram or Youtube who owns even the most exotic pet.

It doesn’t matter if the species is dangerous or protected in a special manner. There is always some country in the world where it can be legally owned.

Pet Bobcat Legal Status In The US

Wild bobcats

Most states in the US have at least some sort of regulation regarding pet bobcats. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are prohibited but you might need a license.

While it’s a cakewalk to get the permit for zoos, shelters, educators and other institutions, it’s herculean for private persons.

Have in mind in some state you might need to show your experience and or knowledge about the species you want to own. Others will send someone to check if you have everything you would need to take proper care of. Especially safety aspects play an important role here.

High fences and double doors are needed in some cases. Even if that is not always the case, be prepared to make some adjustments to your home.

That said, some states don’t want to prove anything. But you should double-check important things in your own interest. I bet your neighbors aren’t happy if a bobcat is standing right in front of them in their own garden.

Sometimes escaped bobcats attack and kill other pets or livestock. Whether or not, it’s hard to tell for other people if the bobcat is wild or an escaped pet. Those adventures can end fatally for your bobcat when authorities decide to shoot it.

However, you should call your local department of agriculture to check if you can legally own a bobcat and what legal restrictions exist in your county or city. Even if ownership is legal on a state basis it might vary depending on your exact location.

States, where pet bobcats are illegal under all circumstances, are:

  • California
  • Connecticut,
  • Nebraska
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi,
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina,
  • Virginia
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Hawaii,
  • Maine

The list might not be complete.

Are Bobcats Domesticated?

Domesticated pet bobcat in enclosure

No, bobcats aren’t domesticated. They evolved from the European lynx and are a wild species of the United States. Apart from that, African serval cats are also closely related.

People often talk about domesticated bobcats and say that this or that individual is tame. The sources of their opinion are often pictures they saw on social media or videos on youtube.

Yes, a bobcat playing or cuddling with its owner can look like a regular cat. But many people don’t know the difference between domestication and taming.

A bobcat can be tamed very well. Especially when it was raised by humans from babyhood. They can even accept other pets and animals that would normally be prey as their family. But that doesn’t mean they are domesticated.

The process of domestication in dogs began appr. 10000 years ago. All those years breeders choose only the individuals with the behavior which met our needs most to breed the next generation. This process is known as selective breeding. Many many generations were necessary to evolve the dogs we own today.

Even if you find a bobcat at a breeder which belongs to the third or fourth generation in captivity this means nothing. Of course, the breeder will tell you something entirely different but do yourself a favor and do your research!

Often those young kittens are very handy and differentiate little from domesticated cats. But not later than the animals reach maturity after four or five years their behavior will change. And they will start to take on you.

Temperament And Behavior Of Pet Bobcats

The temperament of bobcats can be very playful and affectionate. Most of the time they behave similarly to the house cats we know. But that only most of the time.

For the rest, you have a wild and unpredictable animal at home. It can be just a minor thing that triggers aggressive behavior which makes predictions difficult.

You don’t deal with a lion here but there are definitely situations with bobcats that can turn into dangerous conflicts with your pet. Taking the food away while the animal is eating for example is never a good idea. Stealing favorite toys neither.

All this makes pet bobcats especially dangerous when small children belong to your family. Children act differently and still have to learn to deal with animals. They don’t know what’s right what’s wrong and harmonic playing can end in a terrible situation.

That said, there are also behaviors that aren’t dangerous but have a huge impact on your home.

Bobcats like to spray everything that they think belongs to them. Especially toys and other equipment or the place they sleep at. Carpets, furniture everything else you have in your house would get very messy. The urine of wild animals is strong smelling and you would have difficulties getting things clean again. 

Bobcats are loners and have quite large territories in which they like to roam. Be careful that your pet can’t escape as neighbors and authorities might not be amused.

Bobcats Need Special Food

There are definitely exotic pets like the anteater which need more specialized food than bobcats. But you would have to put more effort into the diet as it would be the case with a dog for example.

Additionally, some aspects of the diet aren’t fun for some people. Bobcats are strict carnivores that like to hunt. Ok, live feeding is not necessary in this case but you would have to deal with a lot of meat.

Whole rabbits are a good choice for example. But as bobcats need large amounts of food they would eat one rabbit a day. I hope your fridge is big enough for some storage. 

Another aspect is the costs of this kind of diet. Be prepared to spend between $5 and $10 a day on meat. This means anything between $1800 and $3650 is the yearly cost of feeding a bobcat. An amount that is definitely not in everyone’s budget.

Bobcats Need Much Space

It’s not a surprising fact, that most wild animals need a lot of space. Even if bobcats are not big compared to other felines like ligers, they still can reach the size of a large dog breed.

You will find sites that suggest a size of 4m length x 2m width x 2.5m height for a single bobcat. While this sounds already like a lot, I would say it’s the bare minimum and only suitable as a temporary enclosure.

Bobcats need to roam a lot and they need indoor housing as well as enough space outdoors. Only with a large garden that has an escape prove fence, you would be able to meet the needs of bobcats.

How Much Is A Pet Bobcat?

Bobcat kittens

It’s possible to find a bobcat breeder that sells kittens within the US. Often those breeders are tied to the fur industry and sell to private persons with a license as well.

The price for bobcat kittens that are for sale starts at $900 and can reach several thousand dollars. It depends mainly on the color of the cat babies and their character. 

However, have in mind that these cats aren’t domesticated either and their behavior will probably change when they get older.

That said, the costs of owning a pet bobcat don’t stop here. As I mentioned you have to calculate a few thousand per year on food, as well as for veterinary care.

Additionally, there are one-time costs for setting everything up and making adjustments to your house. 

What Else To Consider With Pet Bobcats?

Two bobcats in the snow

Some people think about declawing their pet big cat. This is just cruel and means much more than just nail clipping. Of course, the animal is much less dangerous after the operation but it will also lose important skills like the ability to climb.

You can compare the surgery to the amputation of the first bone of a human finger. This is just cruel and has nothing to with the love for animals.

Another thing that has to be mentioned is that a veterinarian that is willing to treat a bobcat is hard to find. There are definitely some that will take on your pet but be prepared to search a lot, especially if you live in a rural area.

Bobcats and other wild animals are most happy when they can live in their natural environment. A cat like a bobcat is meant to live for more than 20 years in captivity. This is a long commitment with many restrictions in the life of the owner.

Holidays and other normal activities are most likely not possible as long as you keep the pet. Many people realize this after some time and want to get rid of their feline. This is very sad as animals that are raised by and lived with humans for a longer period can’t be released into the wild anymore. 

Organizations like Big Cat Sanctuary are full of big cats that were abandoned by their former owners.

Alternative: American Bobtail Cats

If you have the feeling that a real bobcat isn’t the right choice for you but still want a pet that looks very similar I would suggest taking a look at American bobtail cats.

They look like bobcats but come with all the advantages of domestic cats. They are family-friendly, playful and make a good pet in general.

There are even rumors that this breed is a hybrid between a wild bobcat and a domestic house cat. However, even though these hybrids actually exist, it’s more likely that American bobtails were bred from house cats only.