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How Do Bobcat Families Live?

Bobcat families are a lot like those of domestic cats. Males and females are not lifelong partners; they only stay together long enough for courtship and mating, and both males and females may have more than one mate. Males do not help raise the young.

Bobcats are solitary animals, and they each have their own home territory. A male’s territory can overlap with one or more females’ territories, but female territories never overlap. Bobcats mark their territories with urine or feces deposits to let other bobcats know that they should stay away. They also mark their territories by scratching on trees and stumps—bobcat claw marks can be seen 2 to 3 feet above the ground.

What Is Their Life Cycle?

The bobcat’s mating season is late winter. Gestation is 62 days, and kittens are born in the spring (females have one litter per year). Litters can contain 1 to 4 kittens, but the average litter size is 2. Females may use the same den sites for several years in a row, and they prepare them by scraping dried grass, leaves, moss, and other soft vegetation into the den. At birth the kittens are blind and helpless but have already developed a thick coat of spotted fur; their eyes open at about nine days old. At one month the kittens begin to eat some solid food and move outside of the den; they are weaned from their mother’s milk at about two months and they learn to hunt at about five months.

When they are between 8 and 11 months old they have to leave their mother’s territory and go out on their own. Females reach sexual maturity at about 1 year of age, but they don’t usually produce their first litter until they are 2 years old. Males do not mate until their second year. Bobcats can live up to 12 years in the wild, but they usually survive 3 to 4 years. They can survive as long as 25 years in captivity.

How Much Energy Do They Use?

Bobcats are crepuscular or bimodal—they are in motion the most during dawn and dusk. At night they spend much time moving, resting for 2- or 3-hour periods at a time. Because of all this movement, bobcats expend a lot of energy. It is believed that males expend a minimum of 1121 kilocalories of energy over a 24-hour period and that females expend 738 kilocalories. They travel as far as 6 miles a day. A bobcat’s territory must have enough prey living in it to create fuel for all this energy.

A Wild Bobcat’s Typical Day

3PM-5PM: Foraging for food in a small area
5PM-9PM: Long distance movement across its territory
9PM to 11PM: Resting and foraging
11PM-1AM: Long distance movement
1AM-3AM: Rest
3AM-9AM: Long distance movement and foraging
9AM-3PM: Rest

For more information, see the References and Further Reading page.