Are bobcats friendly to humans?

Potentially, bobcats could be friendly to humans and the video on this page supports this. In the video we see a young bobcat on a golf course who wants to play with some golf balls thrown towards him. The golfers are nearby. The bobcat is understandably nervous of their presence. He behaves like a feral domestic cat. By this I mean an unsocialised domestic cat. But the bobcat distinctly hints at a willingness to interact with the people.

Bobcat. Image by milesz from Pixabay
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This encourages me to believe that bobcats could be friendly to humans if they were socialised to humans just as domestic cats are socialised to humans during the first seven weeks of life. I don’t see a lot of difference between this bobcat’s behaviour and that of a young, unsocialised domestic cat. This is why I would say that the bobcat’s character is predisposed to being friendly to people. But please read on as there are problems with this thought.

But bobcats aren’t the only wild cat species with this characteristic. Cheetahs and caracals are known to get on with people because they have been trained to hunt with people over millennia. The phrase “that would put the cat among the pigeons” comes from caracals being released among birds on hunting trips. And it is well known that the cheetah is predisposed to working with people as they have been used on hunting trips with people for hundreds of years. The point I’m making is that it shouldn’t surprise people if the bobcat can be friendly to humans. It’s just a question of training and socialisation.

This is the issue. You don’t really want to socialise bobcats to be friendly to humans. If you start to do this you end up with a conservation problem as has occurred with the cheetah, which is endangered partly because cubs are stolen from their mothers to become pets in the Middle East. People don’t know how to curb their self-indulgences in the interests of wild life conservation.

Please note that sometimes videos like the one above stop working overtime but this is out of my control and if it has happened I apologise.

You do see tame bobcats and lynx in videos on YouTube and elsewhere. They behave like large domestic cats, purring when stroked and so on only they are not quite the same. The bobcat and lynx are in the same family of cats. The concerning point is that the person or persons who asked the question in the title might be thinking about having a bobcat as a pet. Why else would they asked the question?

I just don’t think it’s a good idea to domesticate or try and domesticate wild cat species today. We have the domestic cat which is a domesticated Near Eastern wildcat (North African wildcat). That’s enough. It is not a time in terms of wildlife conservation to domesticate another cat species. Let’s leave them alone to their own devices in their own habitat where they can behave entirely naturally. They can never behave naturally living in a human home and there are inherent problems with domesticating small and medium-sized wild cats.

Canada lynx with huge paws
Tame Canada lynx with huge paws. Photo: in in public domain.

Another wild cat species predisposed to domestication is the serval. There are a lot of pet servals in America but my understanding of this relationship is that it does not work very well if at all. There are also a lot of escaped servals from homes after which they often killed and there are a lot of abandon servals which have been declawed who live their lives in cages at rescue centers of some kind or another. It’s not a great look.

The domestic cat has been around for 10,000 years. If the bobcat had been domesticated for 10,000 years they would behave like the current domestic cat but if you tried to domesticate a bobcat they would be friendly but they would also have their inherent wild cat traits and spray urine on the walls of your home and be quite difficult to handle. It wouldn’t be a good relationship unless you are a person who doesn’t mind that sort of slightly stressed or unnatural relationship.

My conclusion is that bobcats can be friendly to humans but that doesn’t mean humans should exploit that characteristic. I speak as an animal advocate. People will have different ideas to mine. I respect them but I know I am right!

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