Domestic South Carolina cat nurses orphaned bobcats
COLUMBIA, S.C. — In just a few months, three baby bobcats found in South Carolina could be a danger to a tabby named Zoe. But these days, the fuzzy felines are just members of the family for the nursing mother. The bobcats, orphaned after the abandoned house they were living under in Newberry County was demolished, are being nursed by Zoe at Carolina Wildlife Care near the Saluda River a few miles northwest of downtown Columbia.
The nursing is expected to last about four weeks and is intended to give the bobcats a feline on which to imprint, said Joanna Weitzel, executive director of the wildlife rescue group. "It's important they get that nurturing and care from a species similar to their own."
After five weeks, though, their razor-sharp teeth and claws could hurt Zoe and Zoe's kittens -- an orange tabby and a calico that now dwarf the three bobcats in their kennel. The bobcats are expected to grow over the coming months to the size of dogs -- about 22 inches tall and average 18 to 22 pounds -- while their adoptive siblings will likely max out around 10 pounds.
Once the bobcats are weaned, they will be put in a specially built habitat. The goal is to minimize their contact with humans.
"If they lose their natural fear of humans, it's almost like a death sentence," Weitzel said.
The habitat alone will cost about $2,000, not including the year's supply of live rodents the three will need to learn how to hunt and kill. Carolina Wildlife is hoping to raise enough money to provide the care the bobcats will need for up to 18 months when they should be ready to return to the wild.
The animals are being checked out by a veterinarian at nearby Riverbanks Zoo.
RELATED INTERSPECIES ANIMAL FAMILIES:
Stray Florida cat becomes foster mother for rescued bobcat kittens
Your morning adorable: Dog adopts lion cub in Hungarian zoo
-- Page Ivey, Associated Press
Top photo: A litter of bobcats rest alongside Zoe and her kittens. Credit: Brett Flashnick / Associated Press
Bottom photo: The bobcats next to Zoe's orange-tabby kitten. Credit: Brett Flashnick / Associated Press