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guide to understanding bobcats After posting our articles on Keeping Pets Safe from Coyotes, we began to get questions about living with other species of urban wildlife, so we're taking some time to discuss ways we can all live peacefully together. 

As we discussed before, most predators are opportunistic and omnivorous - this means that like humans, coyotes and bobcats and other predators can survive on just about anything as long itis easy to access with a minimum amount of danger to the animal. This includes birds, reptiles, and yes - your small dog or cat. 

We bring you the ultimate guide to humanely keep a bobcat from your yard. 

Understanding the Bobcat

Bobcats are quiet, shy and reclusive – usually seen by themselves or a female with kittens.  

Taxonomists may appear to be as random with their species assignements as artists are with their colors. Bobcats and Lynx are nearly identical - they both have short tails, long tufted ears and honestly, the main difference is that the bobcat is much smaller than a lynx. However, they have completely different species assignment (each is their own species). Their listing in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (how we might view the "cat family tree" would list them as:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Suborder: Feliformia
  • Family: Felidae
  • Subfamily: Felinae
  • Genus: Lynx   There are four different species belonging to this group -- three of which share the family name: the Eurasian lynx, the Spanish (Iberian) lynx and the Canadian lynx. The fourth member (and most common cat in North America) is the bobcat.
  • Species: L.Rufus  Under ths category, there are another 13 sub-species of bobcats that have been identified in North America.   

Why We Shouldn't Destroy Wildlife

There are thousands of ecological studies that prove predatory wildlife (which includes bobcats, cougars, wolves, coyotes and more) exist for a reason: to maintain a balance in nature. 

Bobcats, for instance, eat a lot of mice, squirrels, rats, rabbits and more. Without predators who keep these populations in check, we would quickly be overrun by mice and rats. This can result in everything from massive failure to rampant disease. When we start changing the natural order of things, we create a slew of problems that humans are not prepared to handle. Anything we introduce as a pesticide works its way up the food chain until it's in our food supply, and eventually in our bodies. So poisoning nusiance animals of any species is not only immoral, it's dangerous to our own existance. 

Occasionally, a bobcat will eat a domestic chicken from a backyard or a cat or a small dog. That's unfortunate and devastating on many levels, but we must understand that bobcats provide an incredibly valuable service to humans and unless you want to kill and eat your own mice, kill millions of snakes or destroy billions of rabbits and birds, it's best to learn how to live with predators.  

How to Live with Bobcats

Bobcats have been increasingly discovered in urban areas. It happens - fires and increased human activity are draining natural water sources, we're hunting more frequently - which impacts a predators food sources. So animals are being driven into the cities in search of water and food. Like any human driven from their home, they'll do what they need to do to survive. If that means eating pet food that's been left out, they'll eat it. If they have simpler access to a small dog, they'll do that too. A feral or domestic cat wanders by? They will eat without a second thought - learn more about The Reasoning for Indoor Cats.

Bobcats do not eat children or humans. We're larger than them, and we're more of a threat than a reward. If you were to be attacked, it would likely be from a rabid bobcat. And yes, that can happen (and is another important reason to vaccinate your pets). 

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How to Protect Pets from Bobcats

There are many things you can do to keep pets safe - this includes dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and just about anything that is similar in size to a bobcat. Here are some ways you can keep bobcats out of your yard, away from your property and out of your chicken coop: 

Natural Deterrents: Urine from other species can be beneficial in repelling bobcats and other animals. Simply sprinkle or spray on ground. Choose from bear urine, bobcat urine and more. 

Install Motion-Activated Lights: Like coyotes, bobcats are diurnal (most active at dusk and dawn).  They are most likely to visit your yard in the night - so a light that turns on automatically will help to turn them away. You should always have these types of lights around your home anyway, as it's also great protection from any humans with evil intentions.  Place these lights facing outwards from your home, your barn, your chicken coop and any other place you want to keep your home safe. 

Install Motion-activated deterrents: There are alsso a number of motion-activated deterrents that won't disturb the sleep of you or your pets. These include ultrasonic repellents and water repellents

Hang Old CDs from Trees: In addition to lights, try hanging old CDs from trees around your home. These can help increase the impact of lights by catching the light and reflecting it around. 

Vaccinate Your Pets: Not vaccinating your pet is putting them and you in danger. Pets can transmit and receive dangerous diseases from one another. This includes zoonotic diseases (like rabies), parasites (like ticks, fleas and worms), as well as species-specific diseases that can be transfered to and from specific wildlife (like feline panleukopenia and canine distemper).

Have a Nighttime Potty Area: If you do let your dogs outside alone at night, consider having a "nighttime potty enclosure" that your dogs can use. The most effective way to do this is to install a fully enclosed kennel along a wall of your home and place a doggy door in the wall or door. This way, you know your dog is safe and they can access the outdoors at their convenience. Take a look at how we installed ours in a patio glass door - it's a great way to install a pet door without demolishing walls: Installing a Pet Door for Summer.

Keep Cats Indoors: Not keeping cats indoors is one of the biggest mistakes pet owners still make these days. Don't worry - your cats will get used to it. There was a time when I allowed all of my cats indoor/outdoor access. It took a lot of time and patience to get these cats used to be indoors but now they are healthy, happy and safe. Consider installing a fully enclosed kennel (like this one) to give them outdoor access so you don't feel guilty and your cats don't feel trapped. 

Always Walk Your Dg on a Leash: Keeping your dog on leash is not only safer for your pet, it's safer for you. When walking, try to avoid bushy areas, isolated trails, or abandoned properties (good advice when dealing with any predator). Don't let your pets interact with wildlife - bobcats are much smarter than you think.. Here are some complet guides on walking your pet safely and protecting them from wildlife: 

Clean Your Yard: Keep brush piles and garbage to a minimum. These provide excellent places for wildlife to live and they will hunt from these locations. Remove fruit from trees as soon as it ripens and pick up all fallen fruit around trees - bobcats will eat fruit and the rotting fruit will also attract rats and other prey that bobcats love to eat.

Bring Chickens and Other Fowl In for Night: When considering getting chickens or ducks, a well-built and carefully designed, fully-enclosed chicken coop that will keep most wildlife from accessing your prized poultry. 

Install Proper Fencing: When installing a fence, remember that bobcats are tremendous jumpers. It's unlikely that you'll be able to build a fence tall enough to keep them out, but you can make your home less of a target. Just like locks on your front door help to keep burglars away, a good fence system will help an opportunistic hunter move on to a different target.  To be even partially effective, fencing must be at least six feet high with footers extending 6-12 inches below ground level.  One effective thiing you can do to a fence is add inverted fencing along the top - angle at the top facing outward at 45 degrees, and 16 inches in width. You can also use a system like coyote rollers to keep wildlife out. 

Don't Feed Wildlife: Leaving food out is the best way to attract predators to your doorstep as you are inadvertently asking wildlife to join your world. Leaving seed out for birds attracts birds, which also attracts predators. Leaving food out for squirrels does the same. Just be aware of the consequences if you do feed animals outdoors. 

Secure Your Trash: This is just good common sense and it will go a long way to stopping nighttime predators from targeting your home.  

What to Do if You See A Bobcat

The most important thing to remember is that you're dealing with a predator, and the thing that predators fear are other predators. That doesn't mean shooting or killing a bobcat, it means you have to be recognized as a fellow predator. 

These are not your everyday kitties, so don't try to pet one if you see a kitten lying in your yard. If you see a bobcat (with or without kittens), you want to make yourself appear as large as possible. Spray water on them if you have any, make noise (clap or yell to scare away). Healthy bobcats will not attack unless they're cornered or threatened. Back away slowly, do not run.

If a bobcat does attack, get out of the area however you can. If you see a bobcat wobbling as they walk, acting erratically, or appearing to be condused, it's likely they are rabid or injured. Call your local wildlife department or fire department to report the animal.

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Author: stacymantle
About the Author

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a few dogs, several cats, and a very understanding husband. She is a regular contributor to Pet Age Magazine, Catster, Animal Behavior College, and of course, PetsWeekly. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. She is also the author of a bestselling urban fantasy/thriller, Shepherd's Moon; a humor book entitled, Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One), and a line of Educational Activity Books for children.

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