My Tabby and Bobcat True Love Story Near Death and Humanity
Ecopsychology is based on a transpersonal and philosophical relationship with nature, highlighting beliefs and practices that promote and enhance ecological, personal, and community sustainability.
Lately there is a true story circulating in our community that links a bobcat facing certain death to human kindness and a deeper affinity to my domesticated cat and the roles of all animals in human psychology with rights to be protected and honored … just a simple precursor to humanity’s evolution with animals.
I’ve always felt an affectation for the wild bobcat, maybe, because it looks like my tabby cat with a bobbed tail due to a closed car door. Bobcats are about twice as big with distinctive fur and stubby tails. Like most cats they are territorial and largely solitary, although with some overlap in home ranges where their territorial boundaries are marked with claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. Even though my cat is spayed he still likes to spray nearby bushes with a satisfied grin.
I love the bobcat’s resemblance to my cat, Percy, sharing sharp teeth, pointed ears and the off-white color on the lips, chin, under the eyes and under belly. Its face is wider because of extended ruffs of hair beneath the ears with long common white whiskers. Its fur coat allows for excellent camouflage in various habitats from yellowish-brown, reddish-brown, grayish-brown or orange-brown with dark markings while Percy is more marbled with distinct target marking on his side.
Their noses are pink and their eyes are pale yellowish with dark pupils like black circles that can widen during night time to maximize light reception. They both have long legs good for climbing with sharp, retractable claws, keen hearing and vision and a good sense of smell.
Percy has a well-supplied comfortable home but the bobcat finds shelter in hollow logs, a rocky den, a cave, a low tree branch, a boulder or some other covered shelter that it likes to change on a daily basis.
It has to adapt to its various surroundings whether in the forest or as well as in the semidesert, swampland environments and even urban edges where he hunts alone travelling up to a 25 mile range. It is a carnivore preferring rabbits and hares as well as hunting insects, chickens, geese and other birds, small rodents, and even deer. It stalks its prey and then ambushes it with a short chase or pouncing just like I’ve seen Percy do when he has a rare inclination to hunt for mice in the hillside grass.
But I doubt if Percy could survive one night outside in the elements without yowling to be let in. Maybe it’s the bobcat’s adaptable survival skills that I admire the most. It has to avoid predators that include mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, owls, wolves, and humans for their skins. Bobcats can live to be 13–15 years old in the wild.
I have always wondered how bobcats survive in winter when a mere 6 inches of snow can restrict their movements and deprive them of their meals. When the snow piles high, long, hungry hours are spent confined to the shelter of caves or upturned stumps their senses keenly aware of the tip or balance of life and death between predator and prey.
What is amazing is that a bobcat is able to survive for long periods without food, but eats with great appetite when prey is abundant. During lean periods, it often preys on larger animals, which it can kill and return to feed on later.
The story begins as a regular inspection on a recent cold winter morning. Living in the mountains where railroads and trestle bridges are often the best transportation systems, it was important to maintain the tracks even in the heart of winter. One day a couple of linemen were checking the tracks when they came upon a small bobcat sitting within the gauge of the railway with his front haunches and paw frozen to the rail beside a duck’s carcass. It was evident that the wild cat had frozen to the cold steel rail because it was wet from pulling the duck from the river. The linemen knew a train was scheduled to pass by within half an hour.
All they could do was phone the office station for someone to bring a pail of hot water to save the bobcat from a terrible fate. It mattered to everyone in the same situation.
Shortly the boss arrived with warm water pouring it on the front leg to release it. But the bobcat snarled and remained agitated needing to protect his food. Who knows how long he had been starving. Instinctually, he knew he wasn’t ready to leave without a fight to face hunger again. Only a few loud yells, revving the truck engines and placing the duck near the rails where the cat could finish his breakfast, did he finally walk to safety… a few minutes shy of a passing freight train that would have ended his life.
Why did this wild animal evoke such physical and emotional reactions to its rescue? Because the evolution of our human genome is connected to nature that is integrated to our biology and psychological development. We recognize strength, resilience and survival against all odds. It makes us civilized and responsible to harbour and protect Nature’s citizens.
I wish I had a chance to stroke that bobcat while he was frozen to the train track. I wanted to give him a warm blanket, maybe some warm chicken. I knew he could never be my pet but I could love his independence, ingenuity and sheer will to survive.
All I could do was to hug Percy with similar genetics and look into his yellow eyes to possibly see a glint of fierce indomitable determination before domestication. It didn’t matter, the feelings of oxytocin and beta endorphins were profound enough for me.