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Difference between domestic kittens and bobcat kittens

There is a bit of concern over the difference between normal domestic kittens, the offspring of a house cat, and bobcat kittens because in America it is possible to bump into bobcat kittens and mistake them for ordinary kittens. It can happen as evidenced by a story two years ago from Texas. Three people suffered minor injuries when they mistook two bobcat kittens for the domestic variety. They found them in an alley in San Antonio and brought them into the house where they were bitten and scratched as they tried to feed them with milk for domestic kittens.

Domestic kitten versus bobcat kitten in appearance. Montage by PoC based in pictures in the public domain.

Eventually they realised what they had got and the little wild cats were taken to Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas. It is a sad story for the fact that, innocently, the kittens were taken from their mother who was somewhere in the vicinity finding food when the kittens were taken.

The differences – tabby kitten versus bobcat kitten

We should treat this challenge with common sense. Although there is less difference between bobcat kittens and normal kittens than between adults, and also it is possible to make a mistake, there are distinct differences. There is only one possible domestic kitten that might be confused with a bobcat kitten and that is the kitten with a spotted of mackerel tabby coat.

Appearance

Firstly bobcats have shortened tails hence their name. And the appearance of the tail is distinct. Shortened tails are seen in domestic cats too but it’s relatively rare. There are purebred bobtailed cats such as the American Bobtail (inspired by the bobcat) but when you compare their refined appearance to the wild appearance of bobcat kittens the difference is stark. See the picture:

Bobcat kitten. Picture in public domain and annotated by PoC.

So the first obvious point is the tail. Also, as shown in the photo, bobcats have ocelli on the rear side of their ear flaps. And their legs are more robust looking. Further kittens or cubs of any medium sized wild cat are going to look wild. Their faces shout it out as is clear from the photo at the top of the page. And although bobcat facial markings are those of a tabby cat, the dark lines are more pronounced. There is a higher contrast. Sure, the Bengal cat has a high contrast tabby coat too but the Bengal is very glossy and refined in comparison.

A bobcat kitten’s coat is quite distinct compared to that of a domestic kitten. It is better made for camouflage. The fur is soft but the pattern is rough and natural. Bobcat kittens have a underlying fierce appearance as do all wild cat kittens. They look a little mean rather than cute. That’s not to say they don’t look cute too.

Behavior and sounds

As to behavior, they may well be aggressive and hate to be handled because they are totally unsocialised. Handling them might be like handling a feral kitten on steroids, I suspect. The sounds that baby wild cats make can be similar but can also be markedly different. There is a hard edge to them and some of the sounds are alien to domestic cats. I hope this helps.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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