Take a look at this kitten. This is a 100% domestic cat… not a bobcat, and not a hybrid!
We were disappointed in some of the responses to Arwen the bobcat, who was brought to us by a well-meaning woman who had mistaken her for a domestic kitten. Several people called her names like “stupid” and “idiot” for the honest mistake. One person even called her a narcissist, like she had done this on purpose. Rude! It was an accident by someone trying to save a kitten’s life, not an act of cruelty!
The fact is that cases of mistaken identity happen with some frequency, because many domestic kittens DO look like bobcats, and because many young bobkittens can look nearly indistinguishable from house cats.
Knowing how to save kittens— and how to save wildlife— is important so these accidents don’t continue happening. So how can you tell what’s what?
One of the best identifiers for a true bobcat is its tail, which usually contains three vertebrae. (You don’t have to count them, but it’s a little longer than a “stumpy” bobtail housecat and a lot shorter than a typical cat.)
A bobcat’s tail will have a black tip on the outward-facing side, but will be solid white on the underside.
Bobcat kittens are usually much larger for their age than house cat kittens, though this can get murky in our area, where bobcats are fairly small.
Actual bobcat kittens always have spots. These may be faint freckle-like spots, leopard-like rosettes, or bold polka dots, but they will always be present in some form. Spots on house cats are rare.
Young bobcats do NOT always have tufted ears, so do not depend on this as an identifier.
Still not sure what you’ve got? Please call a wildlife rehabilitator promptly. It’s important to identify the animal in your care quickly so it can either be reunited with its mother or brought to an appropriate rescue.
There’s a plus side to the existence of bobcat lookalike house cats! If you’re a fan of the idea of having a bobcat as a pet, you can check your local shelter and likely find a house cat who’s exactly what you want! Rescuing a lookalike is much kinder, cheaper, and more ethical than trying to raise a bobcat as a pet.