Over the past few weeks Peace River Wildlife Center has been treating a juvenile bobcat. He came in with severe dermatitis secondary to notoedric mange (a skin infection due to a parasitic mite infestation.) The causative agent, Notoedric cati, is a mite that lives on the skin of cats and is similar to the sarcoptic mange mites that can infest dogs and man, causing scabies. Mite species are host-specific, each has their own particular mammal on which they can complete their life cycle, but every mite can hop onto and bite any species.
When a mite burrows into the skin and feeds it causes an intense itching reaction. Constant scratching at the skin can cause hair or fur loss and abrasions to the skin. Bacterial infections can set in once the skin has been compromised. If the skin infection goes untreated long enough, the individual can become septic or systemically ill as the infection spreads to the bloodstream. Most individuals exposed to mites do not end up being quite so sick. Our little kitten patient probably had a compromised immune system to begin with. It is possible that he was separated from his mother or that she had been killed just as he was getting to the age of independence. He is an older juvenile and should be capable of taking care of himself now that he is healthy again, but being on his own at such a tender age may have started a cascade of consequences for him. Now that he is parasite free, well hydrated and a healthy weight, he will be released and should fare well on his own.
The bobcat is at home in swamps, forests and urban neighborhoods from Canada to Central America. It will usually den in a hollow tree or rock cropping. While the female’s range is approximately five square miles, the male’s range is 15-30 miles, and he may mate with several females with whom his territory overlaps and can sire numerous litters in the same year. In Florida the bobcat breeds from August to March. After a 60 day gestation period, two or three kittens are born. They are weaned in approximately two months as mom teaches them how to become efficient hunters, but the young often remain with the mother until autumn of the birth year. They will eat rodents, birds and carrion and have the ability to swim and climb trees to facilitate hunting, which usually occurs after dark, but it is not uncommon to see a bobcat out during the day.
The average life span of the bobcat is 14 years. The adult can be two feet tall and three feet long and is often mistaken for a young Florida panther. The male can weigh up to 35 pounds and the female closer to 15-20 pounds, considerably smaller than the panther. The reddish brown fur of a bobcat is mottled with dark spots and he has a white belly. He has a fringe of fur around the edges of his face and white spots on the backs of his ears. The “bobbed” tail can be as short as one inch and as long as seven, and will have a black tip, which is markedly different than the panther’s long sleek tail at any age.
Our impatient patient will be taken back to the general area from which he was rescued in case his mother and sibling(s) are still there. He was rather docile upon admission, but has gotten quite feisty now that he is feeling better. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have such a snarly patient since it bodes well for his ability to take care of himself once released. Release back into the wild is always our primary goal for every patient admitted to PRWC and thanks to our generous supporters we are able to do just that for over 40% of the 2,000 patients we admit each year.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM