Queso – a tough rehabbing case!
Did we spell it wrong? No, Cheeze was originally a “Q” in the alphabet, so he was initially named “Queso”. He was such a unique cat and his name just didn’t fit him. He was so funny and such a ham, that the name “Cheese” seemed to fit him better and it eventually evolved to “Cheeze”.
Cheeze has a sad, but certainly not uncommon story. He came to us from another rehabilitator in the Houston area. This particular rehabber, athough very talented with a multitude of wild species, and who has a stellar reputation received Cheeze as a single kit. She did not know we existed and did not know how incredibly hard it is to raise bobcats to be returned to the wild.
Almost any rehabber who has made this mistake will only make it once. Cheeze grew up somewhere between imprinted and having wild instinct. She handled him just enough for him to like being around humans, but not enough to make him “handle-able”. Not having any previous experience with this species, and with no access to anyone who truly specializes in working with bobcats, this rehabber made the all too common mistake of releasing Cheeze WAY before he was ready. At just six months of age, Cheeze just did not have the emotional fortitude or experience to survive on his own.
Bobcats, in the wild, stay with their mothers until they are at least 10 months of age. When they go through rehabilitation, a rehabber must commit to care for these animals for a minimum of one year, because until then, they are emotionally just little kittens. They do not know how to care for themselves, but more importantly, they do not have the emotional capability to do much more than chase and play with anything that moves. Learning that it must hunt and kill things to survive does not occur to them until they are at least a year of age.
This rehabber felt they were doing the right thing. Not knowing of anyone else in the United States that works with this species, the rehabber decide to release Cheeze on their private property. He stuck around. Played outside, ran to find people when he saw them, and ultimately, when he could not feed himself, turned his frustration, hunger, and aggression towards people. People had always been his food providers. He could not understand why they were not bringing him the things he needed to survive.
We agreed to take Cheeze in, knowing that he had severe behavioral issues, and knowing that there was a good chance of injury to one of our many skilled handlers, however, we understood that it was no flaw of his that prompted his aggressive behavior. He was acting the way he had been “programmed” to act, and for that, we could not fault him. What we have learned about bobcats is that when imprinted, they want to please, they just don’t always know how.
Cheese was one of our toughest cases. He was highly food aggressive and would startle easily. All trust for humans was gone. However, since bobcats have an intrinsic desire to want to please, Cheeze set about trying to build trust, and after several years of love and dedication, he is a happy, healthy, respectful young man who has just been put on to our adoption list and is scheduled to go to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. in mid-January.
It is our greatest joy to know that an animal as beautiful as Cheeze will live a long and happy life being an ambassador to the world in one of the finest educational facilities in our country!