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The Major Characteristics of a Bobcat

| Updated September 26, 2017

The name 'bobcat' is short for bob-tailed cat which describes one of its major characteristics – a short, bobbed tail. Bobcats (Felis rufus) are the most common wild cat in the United States with an estimated 1 million animals surviving in the wild. In some areas the Bobcat is still hunted for its fur.


Bobcats are medium-sized wild cats with males weighing between 11 and 68 lbs. and females between 9 and 33 lbs. Bobcats range between 18 and 23 inches tall at the shoulder and up to 31 inches long from nose to tail. The fur of the bobcat comes in varying shades of brown, gray and white, with spots and stripes of black on the legs. The fur is thick and slightly fluffy with a ruff of fur around the face. The ears of the bobcat are black with a contrasting white spot on the back and black tufts on the ear tip, similar to those of its cousin the Canada Lynx.

Range and Habitat

The bobcat once occurred through all the North American continent but its range has shrunk to fall almost entirely within the United States alone. Bobcats are adaptable animals and can be found in a variety of habitats including deciduous woodland, coniferous woodland, semi desert and swamps. The cats prefer areas of cover and are not found in the treeless prairie lands of Canada.


Large male bobcats are capable of taking prey much larger than themselves, such as white-tailed deer, but females and young cats prefer smaller prey. The bobcat hunts a wide variety of animals and insects including rabbits, rodents, shrimps and crayfish, birds, bats and snakes . Bobcats will eat vegetable matter such as grass and have even been recorded taking fruit from plantations.


Bobcats are primarily a diurnal (day-living) species, but those living close to human habitation have become more nocturnal (night-living) to avoid hunters. A solitary species, the female bobcats have a home territory between 1 and 37 square miles. Male bobcats have no set territory and will roam over many hundreds of miles in search of food and females.


Male bobcats play no part in raising the kittens. Female bobcats have a gestation period of 50 to 70 days, after which they give birth to up to six kittens in a secluded den. The kittens are blind for the first nine days of life and will suckle from their mother for two months. They will stay with their mother, learning how to hunt and look after themselves, for roughly a year before leaving to find their own territory.