I am pleased to say that my excellent reference book, Wild Cats Of The World, provides useful information on this topic.
The age of bobcats has been reliable estimated by counting ‘annuli’ in the teeth of harvested bobcats (bobcats killed for their fur). ‘Annuli’ are the growth rings in the teeth.
Matson’s laboratory, between 1978 and 1992, sectioned the teeth of 90,000 bobcats. The oldest cat, killed in Mexico in 1986, was 23-years-of-age. In bobcat populations in California and Idaho where they were not hunted they lived longer but as at 2002 there was not a lot of information on bobcat lifespans in non-hunted populations.
In general, even in bobcat populations that are killed for their fur adults appear to live relatively long lives compared to other wild cat species, living up to 17-years-of-age.
In captivity there are records of bobcats living to 23 and even 32-years-of-age. Comment: the impression is that bobcats have longer lifespans than domestic cats.
- Annuli information: G. Matson and J Matson 1993 Progress Report no. 13 Matson’s Laboratory, Milltown, Montana.
- More older bobcats in non-hunted populations: S.T. Knick 1990 Ecology of bobcats relative to exploitation and a prey decline in southeastern Idaho.
- Long lives in harvested populations: L.B. Fox and J.S. Fox 1982 in Population characteristics and food habits of bobcats in West Virginia. Proceedings of the annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
- Captivity lifespans: T.D. Carter 1955 Remarkable age attained by a bobcat and M.L. Jones 1977 Record keeping and longevity of felids in captivity.