Domestic cat that looks like a bobcat?

There are two purebred domestic cats that look like a bobcat: American Bobtail and Pixie-bob. In addition to these two purebred cats which are designed through selective breeding to have a domesticated but slightly similar appearance to the American bobcat, you might see a random bred cat with a tabby coat and a very short tail who looks a bit like the American bobcat. Also, the tailless Manx will look similar if they have a tabby coat. Although the domestic cat is always going to be considerably smaller than the bobcat (see size comparison below)

Bobcat photograph by PD Ryan on Flickr

Bobcat photograph by PD Ryan on Flickr

Here is a size comparison. I have chosen a tabby Manx cat for the comparison.

Bobcat compared to the domestic cat

Bobcat compared to the domestic cat. The montage is by MikeB. The bobcat image is in the public domain. The Manx cat image is by Warren Photographic and published here with his permission.

Perhaps the two defining appearance characteristics of the American bobcat are its short tail and tabby coat. Both of these characteristics are present on the American bobtail and Pixie-bob. Although, you’ll see bobcats in a range of color morphs including black (melanistic) and all-white (albino). Both of these are rare.

Dr Desmond Morris, interestingly, in his book Cat World states that “it should not be confused with the wild species, the American bobcat”.

American Bobtail Cat

There are three stories about the origin of this breed of cat. I won’t go into detail but one of the stories claims that the breed is supposed to be the result of crosses between domestic cats and wild bobcats occurring in the late 1970s. Amy Shojai writing in 1992 remarked “Rose Estes has been breeding bobtails for fourteen years…According to Rose, wild bobcats interbreed most often with Siamese because the scent of the Siamese in season closely resembles the smell of the female bobcat”.

American Bobtail Cher

American Bobtail Cher. Photo: copyright Helmi Flick

I think the quote from Amy is more interesting than factual. The American bobtail is essentially a selectively bred creation from the cat fancy. The idea that the bobcat could have mated with a domestic cat is far-fetched. That said, other authors have supported the concept that bobcats have mated with domestic cats.

The American bobtail is a stocky, long-haired cat with an abbreviated tail. It has a double coat. The head is rounded and broad, the ears are wide and the eyes large. The classic American bobtail coat is tabby but breeders wanted to explore alternatives and these cats have coats that are dissimilar to that of the bobcat (see below).

American bobtail cat Leia

American bobtail cat Leia. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

Pixie-bob Cat

This rarer purebred domestic cat is meant to have a wild look replicating the wild bobcat but it has no wild cat genes. Cats of this breed have a tabby coat and the objective, as mentioned, is that the appearance should be that of the native American bobcat.

Pixie-bob cat

Pixie-bob cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

There was a trend in the middle of the 20th century, in the USA, beginning with the creation of the Bengal cat, for domestic cats with wild cat appearances. Some of these breeds are genuine wild cat hybrids but the Pixie-bob is not one of these cats.

This is a large cat, muscular and heavy boned. It stands higher on the back legs. The ears are lynx-tipped. The tabby pattern can be spots or rosettes and of course the tail should be short.

Below are some pages on the bobcat:

IUCN Red List don't know the total number of bobcats

How many bobcats are there in North America?

The short answer is that we are unsure. You will see some very variable answers from about one million in ...
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Bobcat scales 7-foot fence with ease and in a few seconds

Are bobcats good climbers?

Bobcats are good climbers as you might expect. They will climb a tree if and when pursued by dogs or ...
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Bobcat portrait by Dave Welling

Are bobcats solitary animals?

The answer to the question as to whether bobcats are solitary animals needs to be nuanced. Some websites bluntly say ...
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Picture of a bobcat - a selection

Picture of a bobcat – a selection

People like to see a picture of a bobcat. There are some good ones here. I have taken this opportunity ...
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Mexican bobcat

Mexican bobcat – subspecies or not?

The Mexican bobcat is still considered a subspecies of the bobcat but perhaps a better description is “potential subspecies” because ...
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Bobcat den in snowy rock pile

Do bobcats mark their territory? Yes, somewhat like domestic cats.

Yes, according to several sources. Bobcats have home ranges which are well-defined. They are not used by other cats of ...
Read More

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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4 Responses

  1. bill rion says:

    we miss scamp

  2. Bernice Davidson says:

    Thanks so much! Thought I might have seen a Bobcat walking down the sidewalk in front of my apartment last night, but thanks to your description and picture I now know it was a Pixie-Bob and I won’t be afraid to take my dog out after dark.

  3. Sharon L Smith says:

    I would like to see pictures of a hybrid habari with tiger or leopard genes. I read a story in the Chicago Sun-Times and they included a picture.

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