On a hot June day in a construction area near Goldthwaite, Texas, a man was excavating a site with a bulldozer and accidentally dug into a den containing a mother bobcat and her two kittens. The mother and one kitten were killed instantly while the second survived. The heartbroken man immediately scooped up the little kitten and wrapped him in a jacket to carry home. The poor little thing still had his eyes closed and umbilical cord attached.
Once home, his wife placed the little kitten alongside their pet Chihuahua who had just given birth, and the kitten started nursing. For the next few months, the kitten grew and developed a strong bond with the couple, their two small children, and their dogs. He was weaned onto dry dog food, slept in the bed with the children, and learned to use a litter box. For a while, all seemed to be happy in the household until the kitten started to show signs of illness. He wasn't putting on weight, developed severe diarrhea, and became lethargic.
Unfortunately, the vet the couple contacted for help would not treat the bobcat because he was not licensed to work with wildlife. Soon the couple found their way to me. I agreed to take in the bobcat, get him treatment, and prepare him for release back into the wild.
The little thing should have weighed around 10 lbs, but came in at 3 lbs. He was literally skin draped over bones. He was so weak that the only time he became active was to go to the litter box. I had a stool sample analyzed and learned that he had Giardia. Giardia is an intestinal parasite found on contaminated food, water, feces, and soil. The sick bobcat was immediately placed on a treatment program, and within 2 days, the diarrhea was gone.
The bobcat was so hungry for fresh meat that, when a package of chicken was placed on the kitchen counter, he tried to eat it, plastic and all. He ate almost an entire chicken the third day he was with me. As his appetite soared, so did his weight. Today he weighs in at a healthy 25 lbs and gaining.
I believe a wild animal should be cared for only until it can be released, and for that reason, I never name animals. My husband and I simply referred to him as kitty. It quickly became apparent how severely imprinted on humans he really was. He would not eat on his own or hunt for food; he cried when our small dog left the room; and he cried and showed signs of distress when placed in a large crate or pen until he was released. He was not happy unless he could be around my husband, myself, and our dog.
I realized that he would never be able to return to the wild, and he would not fare well if placed in a caged sanctuary situation. I decided that I would keep him and allow him to become part of our family unit and use him in my wildlife education programs. I had him neutered and provided him with cat trees, scratching posts, toys and everything a cat could want. We decided his permanent name would become Kitty.
Today Kitty is 2 years old and never did I think that, when
I first looked into his eyes and said, "Hello kitty," that he would be with me forever. He eats about $10-$15 a day in meat and grows stronger daily. He has daily outings on a harness and leash in our backyard yet runs for the door if he hears a dog bark, a loud noise, or a car drive by. Kitty is an integral part of our family now and my education program.
I strongly disapprove of having any wildlife as a pet. The longer the animal is with humans, the stronger the attraction, a condition called imprinting. If I had not planned to use Kitty in my educational program, I would have placed him in a sanctuary. A word of advice: If you are in possession of a wild animal, please turn the animal over immediately to a licensed rehabilitator who will work for its eventual release back into the wild without stress and complications. Wild animals belong in the wild.
by Tonie Harrison
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