Bobcat Kittens Growing Up Timescale and Details

In North America some people search for bobcat kittens to adopt and treat as domestic cat companions. This page is about bobcat kittens in the wild, from conception to independence.

Sadly, a lot of the studies about bobcat reproduction comes from the study of dead bobcats! Yes, sounds horrible but true. These are females that died in traps. Traps set by people in the fur trade. It is still considered acceptable to “harvest” bobcats. Sorry to go on but the word “harvest” is horrible too.

Bobcat kittens with mother – Photo by J. N. Stuart. The picture above is by a camera trap, taken in Bosque del Apache NWR. The project team was Matt Farley, Jennifer Miyashiro, and J.N. Stuart. I like the picture for the fact that it is natural and real. It shows mother with two kittens, as far as I can tell.

Oestrous

Bobcats are polyestrous (they have several oestrous cycles during a single breeding season). Studies on killed bobcats indicated that females go through three oestrous cycles in a season. They are, it is thought, spontaneous ovulators.

Period/Age/SeasonEvent
9 – 12 months of ageEarliest time at which the female bobcat is sexually mature
44 daysAverage oestrous (estrus) cycle
5 – 10 daysFemale receptive
1.5 years of  ageEarliest age at which the male is capable of breeding
February – AprilPeak breeding season for bobcat and it tends to occur earlier in warmer ranges.

Pregnancy rates depend in part upon the age of the female, the prey density (the amount of food that is available) and the bobcat density.

ResultEvent/cat
Lower pregnancy ratesYearlings and two year old bobcats
Fewer females breedLow prey density
Fewer females breedHigher bobcat density

Bobcat kitten – Photo by dbarronoss.

Courtship – Mating – Copulation

Between courting there was little interaction between males and females as observed in captivity. However, female bobcats in heat (estrus) show behaviour that includes the following which are from observations of captive bobcats:

  • more pacing
  • affectionate actions
  • squirming
  • wriggling
  • stretching
  • rolling
  • increase in urination
  • high levels of rubbing of head and shoulders on objects
  • rubbing cheek to cheek with male
  • presenting the lordosis position (presenting mating position to the male)

The female then adopts a coital position (the next stage is copulation). As is the case for cats generally, both domestic and wild, the male then sinks his teeth into the scruff of the female’s neck and mounts the female. Copulation is brief and afterwards  he retreats and washes. After a rest they re-start. This may happen from one to about sixteen times in one day. See Cats Mating.

Thereafter the timetable is as follows:

Event/TimeDuration/data etc.
Pregnancy (gestation)About 63 days
Average litter size2.5 to 3.9 to a max of 6
Shortly before birthFemale selects hidden site to give birth – for example: rocks, cave hollow tree.
Birth weight128 – 800 grams but normally within the range 280 – 340 grams
Bobcat kittens begin to see3 – 11 days after birth. Fur is mottled. They gain about 10 grams per day.
Bobcat kittens weanedby 7th or 8th week
Kittens accompany mother on hunts3 –5 months of age
Kittens become independentbetween 7 and 12 months of age
Females reach sexual maturity18 – 24 months of age
Female reaches adult size2.5 years old
Male reaches adult size3.5 years of age
Bobcats lifespan – captivityRecorded 25 – 32 years of age
Bobcat lifespan – wildRecorded 23 years (the highest recorded). 10 – 17 years appears to be the norm.

Mothers can struggle to feed young if the prey base is inadequate (for example small rodents being the only source). Before reaching full adult size bobcats search for their home range. The time spent finding a suitable site varies with population density, territory size and dispersal of resident bobcats.

Sometimes bobcats can travel long distances to find a home range – 182 km being  a recorded maximum for a male, while normally it is in the order of 20 – 40 km. Males travel further than females.

From Bobcat Kittens to Wild Cat Species

Source: Wild Cats Of The World, Flickr

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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