A glimps into the world of wildlife rehabilitation…the world through a rehabber's eyes.

Intellegence in the eyes of a cat

Young Quincey is our newest long-term bobcat. We had high hopes that he would wild up, and leave us, though bitter-sweet it would be. Alas, it was not meant to be. The damage had been done. The dozens of inexperienced hands that touched this cat ruined him for return to his world. Now, Quincey must live out his days as a captive in ours.

As a kitten, Quincey and his brother Rinehart contracted panleukopenia. This disease, very similar to parvo in dogs, has a very high death rate in those animals that contract it. It affects the growing cells in the intestinal lining (which is why puppies and kittens are more readily affected by the virus), and treatment must be very aggressive if the animal is to survive. Quincey pulled through. despite our best efforts, we were not able to save his brother.

Quincey has always seemed to have extra G.I. issues. I do not know if this has something to do with his battle against panleuk or not. Anyway, Quincey is again under treatment. This time for hook worms. Yesterday, we fed before we medicated him. Normally, we simply slip the meds into their diet for the day, unfortunately, we neglected that step in diet prep. There is nothing in the world like scruffing an angry bobcat, and squirting a syringe full of meds down his throat…

The worst part is the enthusiasm with which he greeted us when we entered his enclosure. It made me feel really bad! His attitude did a complete 180. From kid in a candy shop glee, to dang it we are going to the doctor angry in a split second. From previous experience, I know Quincey may hold a grudge for weeks. Hoover is still mad at Jade and me for netting and flea spraying him over a month ago. One of our confiscation kitties was angry for two and a half months after his people came to visit him. One of my favorite kitties who is normally such a love, and a clown, is being a brat right now because he is not getting the amount of enrichment time he thinks he deserves.

Quincey is one of the most exuberant, happy, care-free kitties at the ranch, and one thing I have learned from working face to face with these absolutely amazing, intelligent, incredible creatures that you just don’t read in books, is that they are unbelievably emotionally charged animals.

For those of you who don’t believe that animals have the ability or capacity to experience or express emotions, you can just stop reading now, and we can agree to disagree. Because until you have spent the same countless hours that I have in the cages with these animals, you do not get to make that judgement.

Unless you have spent day after day face to face with these animals, studying and learning from them like I have, I will have a very hard time conveying to you through my feeble words, the depth of their emotions and the astounding level of self-awareness they possess.

One thing that my mentor taught me when I started on this amazing journey with these cats, is that she could not teach me what I needed to know. The only ones who could teach me were the wild ones.  At first, I was kind of frustrated by this statement, and thought well, how on earth am I going to learn what she knows if she doesn’t tell me? It took me a while to understand the truth in that statement. I made it my mission to learn what they had to teach. I sat in those pens for as long as I could steal away from my work at the ranch. Hour after hour, day after day, I sat, and I observed, interacting only if they so desired and allowed it.

The longer I work with the bobcats, the truer her words become. The same goes for me sharing with you what I have so far. To really get what I am trying to convey, I fear you would have to experience it first hand. There is so little information available on the bobcat, and even less of it is accurate. The clinical texts so prevalent on the internet, give no actual insight into the true nature of the animal.

The fear that is instilled from this lack of information makes my attempt at revealing the hidden beauties of this animal that fly in the face of the stigma associated with a predator more difficult. People feel that predators must be cruel, evil, dangerous animals that couldn’t possibly be good or beneficial in any way. It took me a long time to figure out why people had an easier time accepting the mischievousness of a raccoon and conveniently forgetting their destructive aggressive side, yet couldn’t help but vilify animals viewed as predators like coyotes and bobcats.

I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that raccoons have a diet more similar to humans. They are omnivorous, and they also have opposable thumbs and therefore, have built in relatable features that make it easier to view them in a more favorable light. I suppose no one has ever really stopped and thought about it, but as someone who works with both of these species on a regular basis, I must state that the intelligence possessed by a bobcat rivals that of a raccoon.

So then why are people’s perceptions of the bobcat so negative? Everyone is so certain that these animals are so bad, evil, aggressive, dangerous, vicious, etc, yet no one truly knows anything about them. The work that we are doing here at WCCR is honest, accurate, and scientifically relevant. We are one of the true authorities on bobcats, and it is our hope that instead of willfully fearing these animals for no other reason than that is what they have always been taught, that people will begin to pay attention to the research we are doing here, and integrate the knowledge that we are presenting into their perception of the bobcat, and give this amazing, elusive, and misunderstood animal a chance.


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