A pet for the average person?
The bottom line is that for a cat to be domesticated it has to behave in a way which gives pleasure and companionship to the average caretaker; a regular person. The bobcat can’t do this. Therefore in response to the question: “can bobcats be domesticated?” the answer is regrettably, no.
‘Domesticated’ means being a pet and being a pet means an animal kept for companionship or pleasure. There are videos of bobcats acting like pets. The person with the bobcat is getting a lot of pleasure from the relationship. For these people it is difficult to deny that their bobcat is an animal companion and that they give pleasure to the owner. But these are unusual individuals. They are the exception.
In this video the bobcat is obsessed with licking the woman’s hand. Perhaps there is something on the palm of her hand. You can see that the cat is getting a little bit too rough.
Domesticated bobcats have nearly always been raised from newborns by people in their homes. They are socalized to the human environment. That gives the bobcat the best chance to be domesticated.
But you’ll have to be a certain sort of person who derives pleasure and companionship from a bobcat in your home. Despite being ‘domesticated’ these are medium-sized wild cats. They are strong and athletic. They have big claws and strong jaws. In play they can hurt you or a member of the family. That fact alone would be a barrier to deriving pleasure from having a bobcat around the home. It is a bit scary and unsatisfactory. Domestic cats are a whisker away from the wild. Bobcats are less than a whisker away from the wild! It won’t take much to push the wild button which won’t be pleasurable in the home.
It is sad to say but the dangerous element of keeping medium-sized wild cats as pets leads to declawing the cat (domesticated servals are usually declawed). That makes them less dangerous but it is also (1) an admission that the cat is unsuitable as a pet and (2) cruel. If you have to be cruel to your companion animal to live with him/her there is something wrong with the arrangement.
Then there is spraying urine around the place. There are stories of servals causing mayhem in the home with urine spraying. I have not heard the same for bobcats but I am sure it happens. I have not heard much about domesticated bobcats because it is comparatively rare compared to servals for instance.
As a bobcat owner you’ll need an outside enclosure. It’ll have to be good and expensive. You can’t let bobcats roam freely around the neighbourhood! That too is another barrier to describing the bobcat as a pet. Some people won’t mind this but they’ll be very few in number.
Then there is the need to get a permit or license to keep the animal; another barrier to describing the animal as a true pet.
Some wild cats have ‘nice’ characters from the human standpoint. That makes them best suited to being domesticated. The cheetah and snow leopard are two such cats. I believe that the bobcat character is not unsuited to being a companion animal but it is not as nice as the other two cats mentioned.
It is always best to leave the wild cats alone. Live and let live. Give them space and habitat and please stop trapping and skinning this beautiful cat. Those times should be long over.