Today I had the great experience of being able to watch a bobcat at Pelican Hill golf course. My husband told me that he had seen a bobcat run across the cart path last month when he was playing, and how cool he thought that was. We weren’t expecting to see one during our round, but the course was pretty empty, and when we walked up to the 16th tee box on the North course, we saw something on the green.
At first we weren’t sure what the animal was, but we have range finding golf binoculars, and were able to get a look at the bobcat that was about 140 yards away. It was hard to tell how large the bobcat was, but he looked pretty big-maybe about 3 feet long. He didn’t seem to mind that we were watching him.
The most interesting part of observing the bobcat was how similarly he played to a normal domestic housecat. He was leaping and running in circles. We saw him throw something up in the air and then bat it around. We think this was a baby rabbit. He was having a good old time tossing the little animal around and then knocking it around the green. The next thing we saw was him rolling on his back and stretching for several minutes. He was really enjoying himself. Finally he jumped in the sand trap next to the green and darted around.
We watched him for a few more minutes, got in our cart, turned on my cell phone video camera, and drove up to the green. Unfortunately he dashed into the bushes before we could record anything close enough to be recognizable. We saw paw prints in the sand but that was about all. It didn’t look like he’d been using the sand trap as a litter box. There was no trace of the rabbit.
I did a little research on bobcats and found out that they are most active the few hours around dawn and dusk. It was getting close to sunset when we saw the bobcat. Bobcats are very territorial and do a lot of spraying to mark their territory. Males don’t let other males in their territory but do allow females. I didn’t smell any strange urine odors around the green, but those areas do get watered frequently. Rabbits can be their favorite food and there are always a lot of rabbits around local golf courses. No wonder the bobcat was hanging around.
Although my housecats don’t go out and hunt, the way they play with little fur mice is almost identical to what I saw with the bobcat. They will run around, flick the toy in the air, bat it around, and then pick it up in their mouths. After they are finished playing, they stretch out and roll on their backs. Play behavior is instinctual in both domestic and wild cats.
Some owners think their cat is being aggressive or bothersome when he jumps and attacks things, including owner hands and feet. The cat is just doing what is normal and an owner’s job is to redirect this play behavior to more appropriate outlets. Don’t let the cat bite, scratch, or attack you. Get toys that you can throw, things on strings, or stuffed animals or socks that the cat can jump on and bite. Cats need to go through the simulated hunts to satisfy their instincts.
A lot of unwanted behavior problems of housecats arise from behaviors that are actually normal behaviors of all cats—hunting, spraying, nocturnal activity, and scratching. Instinctually cats want to do all of these things so it is important to create a home environment where your cat is not stressed and does not feel like he has to mark his territory with spraying or scratching. He also needs a way to release his hunting and play behaviors. Bored or stressed housecats are the ones that typically behave in ways their owners want to change. Boredom comes from a lack of stimulation—no interactive play with humans or other animals, nothing to watch out the window, and no toys that the cat is self motivated to play with. Stress comes from many things such as too many cats in a home, cats that don’t get along, lack of owner attention, and outside animals that come around the house.
There is a great website created by the College of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University that is all about enriching the lives of indoor cats: http://www.vet.ohio-state.edu/indoorcat.htm. It is worth a look if you want to help your cat enjoy his life.
The bobcat that I observed was neither stressed nor bored. He was just doing what came naturally to him. If your housecat exhibits a behavior that you don’t want in your home, get professional advice about how to redirect the behavior at an early stage, when there is a higher likelihood that it can be changed.
Written by Dr. Wexler-Mitchell of The Cat Care Clinic in Orange, CA
Copyright © 2011 The Cat Care Clinic