Can bobcats mate with domestic cats to produce offspring?

The question arises because there was a time in the late 1970s in America when a theory was circulating that the domestic cat breed, the American Bobtail, was a result of a mating between an American bobcat and a domestic cat. This would have been a wildcat hybrid. There are still people who enquire about bobcats mating with domestic cats. Hence this article.

That theory was embellished by a breeder, Rose Estes who had been breeding American Bobtail cats for 14 years. According to her, wild bobcats interbreed most often with Siamese because the scent of the Siamese in season closely resembles the smell of the female bobcat (‘The Incomparable Cat’). That information is reproduced in Sarah Hartwell’s respected website

Can a domestic cat mate with a domestic cat and produce offspring?
Can a domestic cat mate with a domestic cat and produce offspring? Image: MikeB
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Sarah Hartwell writes that “Bobcats can and do mate with the domestic cat and there have been anecdotal reports of offspring (all pre-dating DNA testing), but none of the modern bobtailed breeds contains bobcat genes.”

Critically, however, Sarah Hartwell goes on to state that “In vitro experiments found that bobcat sperm appears unable to fertilise domestic cat ova. Female cats mate several times, and with different males, so any offspring would have been sired by a domestic cat stud and not by the bobcat”.

I think her answer is the nearest we will get to a definitive one in response to the question in the title. In other words, bobcats can mate i.e., perform the sex act with domestic cats but there won’t be any offspring. It’s a kind of halfway house which is why the title refers to “mating” and “produce offspring”.

To add some more information on this topic for the sake of completeness, Desmond Morris PhD, the renown British zoologist and author, writes in his book CAT WORLD A FELINE ENCYCLOPAEDIA, “There is evidence of a successful mating between a male bobcat and a domestic cat at Sandy Creek, Texas during 1949. The offspring were observed by several persons in the area.”

That quote and statement comes from Stanley Young in a detailed study of the ‘wild bobtail’ published in 1958. He also mentions a similar incident that occurred in 1954 in South Dakota.

On that occasion, a black female domestic cat mated with a wild male bobcat and in early June produced seven kittens. Three of the litter siblings “had bobtails, large feet, tufted ears and were light grey in colour with a speckling of black dots on the stomach, legs and sides”.

He goes on to write that the ears were larger, hard and stiff. There were tufts on top of them about a quarter of an inch in length. They lived until 27 June 1954. There were killed by domestic tomcat her reported.

Morris refers to this in his book and says that it is impossible to tell whether “these hybrid kittens would have been fertile or sterile when they became mature”. He admits that Mr Young’s report supports the writings of Rose Estes.

Another author, Liza Black, writing about the American Bobtail in 1954, confirmed what appears to have been Mr young’s statement. She said: “Many other reports exist of this type of cat being produced”.

All this happened before DNA testing and Morris is unconvinced as am I. I think people wanted there to be a successful mating and this was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Matings between wild cats and domestic cats are often successful such as between the serval and domestic cat to produce the F1 Savannah and between Asiatic leopard cats and domestic cat to produce the F1 Bengal cat. But apparently, it’s not feasible between American bobcats and domestic cats according to Sarah Hartwell and at the moment there is no hard evidence that there have been successful matings to produce offspring.

Please comment if you know better 😊👍. I would be pleased to hear from you.

Below are some articles on the bobcat.

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