impulse decissions and other human vices
One of the hardest parts of our job is counter balancing the impulse reaction in humans to nurture the things that they find.
Yesterday, we received a call on a bobkitten near corpus cristi that was found on the side of a road. Instantly, I was hopeful that it was Nadia’s age. Her social compass directs her strong bonding instinct towards others of her own species, and she needs the influences of some adoptive siblings very badly! Eagerly, I got the information from our director, and contacted the wonderful people who found him (yes, it’s a “him”, but I will get to that part of my story in just a minute <3).
I asked them the basic info we needed to coordinate his pickup. While we were working out the details, she mentioned that there was another individual in the next town over, and she too had found a bobcat kitten. She gave me her name and number, and asked that I talk to her because this individual was planning to talk to her husband about “keeping it for as long as they could”. I called, and left a brief message, and shortly called back. Unfortunately, I ended up having to leave another voicemail. Brokenheartedly, I began preparing a triage kit in the case we were going to pick up another critical like Nadia. I was hoping the lady with kitten #2 would contact me back, but during the 12 hour round trip journey, I never got a response.
The wonderful people who found Marley had already been talking to our director, and they followed her advice to the letter! They did all of the things rehabbers dream that people would do when they find an animal! Marley is in nearly perfect shape, and the thing I am most excited about? Can you guess???? He is the perfect age for Nadia!!!!! Thanks to these wonderful, sharp, heroic people, Marley has an excellent start in our rehab program. It will make his stay here at the ranch easier on us, but most importantly, it will make his stay in our program easier on him.
One of the ideals we constantly stress here at the wildlife center is that we never ever attempt to take the wild out of the animal. Even though some of the animals that find refuge here at NBRR will never be released, the animals we work with are, and always will be wild. Keeping that in mind, during our very long journey to the small town to meet Marley for the first time, I found myself broken-hearted over the 2nd kitten. I always think how unfair it is that Quincey in all his goofy, light-hearted, live life to the fullest attitude will never know the life he was always meant to lead, and though I have never laid eyes on this second kitten, I find myself discovering the same sadness for this little one.
I admit, bobkittens are the most adorable little creatures, and the thrill and awe of holding this tiny creature in your hands, like so many other experiences with these animals, is indescribable. The impulse to nurture and lavish it with love and attention is commanding. I can understand the pull and appeal of wanting to keep one of these fuzzy little balls of adorableness, but I cannot understand the selfishness associated with it.
When you make the decision to bring a pet into your home, usually, you plan for it. You pick out the food you want to feed it, the crate it will sleep in, where it will potty, where it will stay, where you will feed it, and how you will train it. If it is a pet that is outside the normal scope of what people keep as companion animals, you spend your time researching it’s housing, dietary, and habitat needs. All before you add this new member to your family. By happening across this random bobkitten, and just deciding to keep it because it is so fuzzy and cute, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.
Bobcats in captivity are a 30+ year commitment. That alone hopefully would help some people rethink ownership of one. Lets imagine that you, my dear reader, have found a baby bobcat, and you are now faced with the decision to keep the baby, or do the right thing and contact a wildlife rehabilitator. Wild caught babies may already be carrying zoonotic diseases (this means they can SHARE them with you!), or may just be very sick, or exposed to something that is about to make them sick (stress of sudden captivity after becoming orphaned often causes them to come down with something). Do you know what to do if the kitten is sick? Do you know what to feed it, how to house it, how often to feed it?
How do you deal with it as it grows? How much space will it need? Do you have the financial resources to raise a predator? That means building him a LARGE enclosure that will keep him in (sturdy means expensive!), paying for food, and lets face it, meat is the most expensive grocery item most of us buy. Can you pay for 70+ pounds of meat a week? Especially keeping in mind that as kittens, they eat a lot more. Since it is a raw diet, and you are feeding a growing kitty, supplements are going to be indispensable. Calcium, vitamins, and minerals are all essential, and all must be given in the correct amounts. But lets back up for a moment. In this scenario, we are imagining that you have gotten your hands on a kitten around Marley’s age. That means he/she will still be on formula. Can you afford the proper formula for your kitten?
Even the multi-species (read: incorrect for any species, and can lead to malnutrition and death of certain species) formulas available at the pet store are very expensive, but in order to provide the proper nutrients and protein/fat balance to promote proper growth and development, a species specific formula is absolutely required. A good species specific formula will run you about $13.00 for a single pound. Trust me, a pound of formula does not a kitten raise.
If money is not an issue for you, and you still want to raise this little fuzzy baby, the next thing to consider is how to get it to eat. Marley is old enough that he is already accustom to mother’s milk. He had no desire to eat the formula we offered him. It takes an experienced hand to get the kitten to make the switch from momma to surrogate after he has had such a long time to bond with her. Even without that time with momma, it is difficult to teach the baby how to nurse, or to accept formula that is not momma’s milk. You must have the proper nipple and bottle combined with experienced technique to get the baby to nurse without aspirating (inhaling the formula into it’s lungs). If the baby aspirates, and treatment is not immediate, the baby is at very high risk of death from pneumonia.
Could you handle the heartbreak of loosing this tiny creature that you have taken on complete responsibility for? Many of these babies die a slow, painful, and most of all, completely unnecessary death because of the selfish decision of a person who has found it to attempt raising it on their own. Even if they raise the poor lonely baby past this stage, they have almost certainly ruined the poor little one who at this point not only has no social skills as far as bobcats are concerned, it lacks hunting skills, and on top of all of this, turns to people for comfort, and therefore, for its own safety and life, can never be released.
These animals are WILD. They are not engineered like our family pets to be perfect additions to our homes. They have special dietary and emotional needs. You cannot force them to fit into your home like a dog or a cat. YOU are the one who must compromise to meet their needs. Many times, by the time these guys are six to eight months old, we get calls that the family would like to relinquish the animal to us because they no longer know how to handle them.
These guys are the most unfortunate of all. You do not experience any adverse effects, but the cat certainly does. If he is released, fearless of people, aggressive when he doesn’t get his way, he will be killed as soon as he comes in contact with another human. He will be left unable to bond with other bobcats due to lack of socialization, if sent to sanctuary, wrenched from the only family he has ever known once his behaviors become an unpredictable mystery, and the very worst part of all of this is the fact that this once proud, once WILD animal will be resigned to live out the rest of his very long life in a cage. legalities of owning one of these creatures is a whole-nother issue.
Please, if you or someone you know has found a baby bobcat and is considering keeping it, remember Quincey. How fair is it for a cat of sound mind and body to be forced to live his life in a box? Allow this bobcat the freedom to fulfill the desires of his wild spirit. Set him up for success on the wings of NBRR. Let us teach him to be wild again, and to fulfill the purpose he was destined for.