Monday July 16, 2012 8:23 pm, I have collapsed on the couch after eating the remains from my lunch, and am thinking that it would be great to go to bed early. A week or more in a row of being up until 11:30 or so and then having to be at the sanctuary for early morning surgeries and enrichment, and I am just worn out. Several days in a row of working in the rain and ruining my contacts had caused me to leave them out all day and try to deal with glasses. I just want to put ice on my eyes and fall asleep. Then the phone rings. A Gibsonton woman tells me that her tenants trapped a bobcat who was killing their chickens on Sunday. She says the cat was fine when they caught it, but now she thinks it has a broken leg or broken ribs because it can’t sit up any more. I ask her to take the cat to an emergency vet and have them call me for payment, but she says she has to work tomorrow. It’s obvious that she isn’t going to get the bobcat to a vet tonight, so I ask for her address and ask her to email me a photo of the bobcat, explaining that we don’t pick up tailess domestic cats. TeeGray and her sister, the Manx kittens, were the result of the caller not having a smart phone.
8:34 pm Turns out the lady had taken a photo the day before and she sent it to me. So I was on my way to get the rescue gear and head down to Gibsonton, which was about 40 minutes south of Tampa. I called Gale and asked her to move Calvin out of the squeeze cage because at this time of night I probably would end up at Blue Pearl with vets who are more experienced with pets than bobcats. She gathered the 66 lb squeeze cage, welder’s gloves, blankets, fluids and supplies so that all I had to do was grab a couple nets and load it all into the van. Gale offered to go, but I figured this was an easy one; the cat’s in a cage. What could go wrong?
9:45 pm In a drizzling rain, which I thought had ended, or I wouldn’t have taken the van with the leaking roof, I arrive at the end of a dark, narrow dirt road and am wondering if I am ever going to get this bus turned around down there. Tonight was the caller’s birthday and it appears the bobcat was to be the guest of honor but someone must have thought better about the fact that the poor thing could barely move, other than uncontrollably shaking. A couple of men flag me down when they see the Big Cat Rescue wrap on the van and I pull into a driveway full of yapping dogs. I really fear dogs. I was attacked as a child and just never got over it and now I have to step out into a sea of barking, jumping dogs to get to the bobcat who they have in a open wire crate up on a golf cart. The van blocks the only light from the house, so I can barely even see the crate.
I tell them that I’ll bring the crate back the next day, but they tell me it isn’t their crate and they can’t let it go. “Great” I think to myself, as I resolve that I’m going to have to transfer a very mad bobcat from one cage to another, in the dark and in the middle of all this craziness.
One guys says, “I just reach in there and pull him out.” There is a toddler running around, sticking his hands in the cage and his face up against the wire and the kid just can’t shut up. I tell both the man and the mother of the child that the cat could be rabid and ask them to send the toddler inside because I can’t even think straight with him yapping away as persistently as the dogs, which have now worked themselves up into a frenzy. The mother chides the child once, but otherwise ignores the danger. I try putting the crate up to the squeeze cage and covering the squeeze cage so that the bobcat can escape all of this chaos, but she isn’t budging. I try lifting her with the pole end of the nets to slide her into the squeeze but she has become dead weight. You know how your cat does that in your lap when you need to get up? All liquid cat and three times as heavy?
The same man says, “I’lll just dump the crate into your cage” and I tell him that if she has a broken leg or broken ribs that the fall from about 4 feet could really do some damage. I try to get her in the net but there is so much hay and it is so dark I just can’t get it over and around her. The men dump the crate over on its side and the bobcat then falls into the net and the man pulls the net out and puts it up to the door of the squeeze cage. I show the other man how to drop the door on the squeeze cage while I use the welder’s gloves to push her out of the net and into the squeeze cage, because she isn’t going. I can’t see which end is which in the dark and hear one guy yell, “That’s his face right next to you!” but I don’t feel the chomp of bobcat teeth, so I feel pretty lucky to have gotten her in without a bite. I hurriedly shove her back feet and tail in to keep the dogs from biting her.
10:04 pm She starts an awful coughing, sneezing fit but there is so much noise I can’t tell if she is gagging on her own blood or if she is having the same reaction I am to all of the hay. I can’t get out of there fast enough. As I pull out onto U.S. 41 I call Blue Pearl and tell them what I know about the bobcat and start the trek back to Tampa. I listen carefully for any sounds from her but can’t hear anything over the engine roar.
10:35 pm I call Blue Pearl again and ask the to have a rolling gurney outside for her and they do. Once inside though it is apparent that tonight’s staff doesn’t have much, if any, experience with bobcats. I texted Dr. Wynn and Jamie Veronica to find out the weight of the squeeze cage so we can determine the bobcat’s weight. Jamie advises that they should check for Panleukopenia as that has been going around a lot lately. The bobcat was sedated, but never went fully to sleep. I don’t have any photos from the vet visit because I was too busy trying to hold her still between X-rays, a physical exam and blood draws, while she kicked and squirmed and tried to howl, but mostly just made a pathetic muffled cry. Thankfully she wasn’t real snappy because she has some gorgeous teeth.
12:45 and they’ve done all they can do for her. No broken bones, no positive blood results. Dr. Kate Moran says she appears to have been fighting something for a long time and is just at the end of her reserves. She gives her a long lasting antibiotic injection and 200 cc of fluids while I hold her wrapped in warm blankets from the dryer. Another vet shows me something on her X-rays, in her colon, that may just be bones, but could be metal, so we will have to watch for that. They send me back to Big Cat Rescue with directions to keep her as warm as possible.
1:07 am I get back to the sanctuary, but don’t want to wake anyone, so I wrestle the 81 pounds of bobcat in steel cage to the floor of the hospital. I grabbed one of those huge heating blankets and since the bobcat is still pretty groggy, opt to just wrap her up in it for a while.
I sit with her that way until 2:30 am when she finally feels warm enough to pull her head out from under the blanket. Not wanting her to eat an electrical device, I pull it out and shove it up under the floor of the squeeze cage to radiate heat up and cover her with regular blankets. Fearing some spread of infection via her coughing/ sneezing I cover the whole cage in blankets. I leave a chick on a plate for her, but really doubt she is going to feel good enough to eat it. Before leaving I send Dr. Wynn, Jamie, Gale and Jennifer all that I know about her and leave her X-rays on the counter.
The next day Blue Pearl sent her reports over for Dr. Wynn who will be checking on her today.
The Florida Wildlife Commission has taken the position that we are not allowed to post photos, videos or webcams of rehab bobcats outside of our volunteer force while a bobcat is going through rehabilitation. We have asked what we need to do to have the FWC reconsider their interpretation of the rule that rehab wildlife shall not be exhibited. There are a lot of places who post photos, videos, webcams and even have live exhibition of native Florida wildlife including major zoos, aquariums and rescue centers, but the FWC has told us we are not allowed to share photos, videos or webcams of our current rehab animals with you.
You can help us make a case before the Florida Wildlife Commissioners that this rule was implemented before the invention of webcams and non invasive ways to monitor rehabilitating wildlife by gathering evidence that this rule is not being enforced against anyone other that Big Cat Rescue who speaks out against private ownership and hunting of wild cats. Send your links, photos and videos to MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org. The only evidence that will be helpful are native Florida wildlife who are undergoing rehabilitation for release back to the wild.
Sad Update: July 18, 2012 11:56 am
The poor little bobcat we brought in from Gibsonton died just now. We had been keeping her wrapped in blankets over a heating pad, but she just couldn’t keep her body temp up. She was getting fluids to keep her hydrated, but she was just too far gone. At least she spent her final hours warm, dry and safe from harm. Thank you for all of your loving thoughts and prayers.