The title to this article is a question asked by web surfers and it needs to be read carefully because ‘mating’ means a sexual encounter. It does not necessarily mean the creation of bobcat x domestic cat hybrids. This is important for the reasons explained below. But I will say that the bobcat will mate with domestic cats1. Also it is worth stating that some wild cats can and do mate with domestic cats to produce offspring: the serval is the best known (Savannah cat), also the Asiatic leopard cat (Bengal cat), fishing cat (Bagral) and the caracal (see more). There is one established cat breed, the Pixie-bob which some claim to be a bobcat hybrid but genetic testing does not support this.
The best source material for an answer to this well asked question must be Sarah Hartwell’s website messybeast.com. She is a genetics expert. This subject must come down to scientific rather than anecdotal evidence at the end of the day. Only through hard science can we know that such a hybrid cat can and does exist. And at present there is no hard evidence that it does.
There is a tendency amongst cat fanciers to hype up the kittens in their possession. Calling a bobtailed tabby cat with a wild character and appearance an American bobcat hybrid is quite convenient as it generates a lot of interest. However when you read Sarah’s extensive article on bobcat x domestic cat hybrids the overriding conclusion is that, at present, there is no genetic evidence that this exotic cat has or does exist. I’ll go over a couple of examples.
A book on the bobcat published in 1958 and written by Stanley Young described two examples of the bobcat x domestic cat hybrid, one in 1949 and the other in 1954. The 1954 kittens had features of the bobcat such as tufted ears and speckled dots on the belly. Sarah debunks the claim that they were wild cat hybrids because she states: “4 of the alleged hybrid kittens were black….as solid black is a recessive trait not found in bobcats, these kittens had to have been wholly domestic and not hybrids”. Note: black bobcats do exists but these are melanistic bobcats, a genetic mutation.
Another example of a claimed bobcat, domestic cat hybrid came from CATS Magazine in April 1960. The cat was described as part bobcat living in California. There are also references to kittens sired by the alleged wild hybrid.
The photos of this cat show what appears to be a classic tabby cat with a short tail. Sarah says that there are several reasons why the cat was a bobtailed domestic cat and not a wild cat hybrid. Firstly she says that the classic tabby coat is caused by a recessive gene. This means both parents would need to be classic tabby cats. This is turn means the parents were domestic cats. Secondly she states ‘a male offspring sired kittens”. This would have been impossible if the cat was a domestic cat x bobcat hybrid as they are infertile. Once again we have science trumping appearance and desire (that the cat is exotic and not a commonplace tabby cat).
There are several stories of bobcat x domestic cat hybrids. As recently as 2011, Rex Trulove claimed that the domestic cat could mate with a bobcat to produce hybrid offspring. He chose to ignore the observed bobcat to domestic cat matings in captivity without producing offspring. Oregon Fish and Wildlife refer to ‘alleged’ hybrids based on appearance. It is foolhardy to claim a cat is a wild cat hybrid on appearance alone.
However in defence of the hybrid claims and regarding genetic evidence, there isn’t a genetic test which proves the presence of wildcat genes. Genetic tests establish the ‘two known parents’ of a cat.
However, a further point worth mentioning is that if the bobcat was mating with feral and outside domestic cats in America there would have been a gradual erosion of the purebred American bobcat leading to large numbers of hybrids which would have altered their appearance as is the case with the Scottish wildcat breeding with Scottish feral and stray cats.
The current conclusion is that bobcats mate with domestic cats but do create bobcat/domestic cat kittens.
Note 1: source Sarah Hartwell. If you’d like to read more, please see her page on the subject.