Unlike many wild cats the bobcat has a short tail, reflecting its preference for life on the ground rather than climbing trees.
They are especially common in the south-eastern United States, where there is a population of more than one million. Bobcats survive in a range of habitats including forests, mountains and brush – in fact, anywhere that has plenty of hidden spaces, such as hollow trees, thickets and crevices, in which the cats can make a den.
Bobcats are highly adaptable, a fact reflected by the varied terrain in which they are found. This can be arid countryside or swampland, remote areas or the fringes of cities.
Bobcat fur varies from brown to tan. In the past, bobcats were widely hunted for their pelts. Although it is still legal to hunt bobcats in some parts of their range, hunting is strictly controlled. Bobcats are solitary animals and most active at night, especially around dawn and dusk. They are good climbers. Using their exceptional vision, hearing and sense of smell to locate prey in the gloom. Rabbits and hares are favoured prey, but squirrels, chipmunks, rodents and birds are also eaten. In winter, when other prey is scarce, bobcats may hunt deer.
Bobcats defend a territory, the size of which depends on the amount of food available in the area. Each cat marks the boundaries of its territory with urine, faeces and oils secreted from an anal gland. A male will control a large territory that overlaps the smaller territories of several females, but he will only interact with them during the mating season, when these normally quiet cats may vocalize with yowling and hissing.
Their appearance is equally variable, with 12 different races being recognized through their wide range.
Bobcats get their name from their short tails, which are generally only about one-fifth of the animal's overall body length. Bobcats have hairy tufts on their ears, and sideburn-like tufts the side of the head, which extend from the base of the ears to the jowl.
Distribution: Distribution extends from southern Canada down through much of the USA, apart from the central northeastern region, into Baja California and most of Mexico.
Habitat: Forest, semi-desert, mountains and brushland.
Weight: 7 – 14 kg (15 – 31 lb); males are heavier.
Length: 70 – 120 cm (28 – 47 in), including tail; about 38 cm (15 in) tall.
Food: Carnivorous, hunting a variety of prey, but especially rabbits; also rodents, small deer, large ground birds and reptiles.
Maturity: 1 – 2 years.
Gestation Period: 63 – 70 days
Breeding: Average 2 – 4, but can be up to 6; weaning occurs at around 60 days.
Lifespan: Up to 16 years; double this in captivity.
The tail can measure just 10 cm (4 in) long and has a white underside.
The hind legs are longer than the front legs, which explains this cat’s characteristic bobbing gait.
Background colour can vary from greyish-brown to tan; the spotted patterning is highly individual.
The ears are tall and pointed, with small black tufts of hair at the tips.
Scratching in this way sharpens the bobcat’s claws and leaves a visual indicator of its presence, reinforced by its scent.