Published: April 28, 2010
The three newborn bobcat kittens, orphaned in the woods of Alabama, had no chance of surviving without a mother.
Bobbi, a black and white housecat from Pinellas County, stepped in to that role.
Bobbi is nursing the 2-week-old wild kittens at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, guiding them through a critical period where the newborns need more exposure to felines than humans, the sanctuary's officials said.
"It's been amazing to see her taking them in as her own," Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin said of Bobbi.
The baby bobcats — two females named Midnight and Rain, plus a male, Storm — will be fed by Bobbi for up to four weeks, Big Cat Rescue president Jamie Veronica said.
The kittens were given those names because "we drove through a midnight rain storm to get them," Veronica said.
A hunter brought the kittens to a veterinary clinic in Alabama earlier this month, Baskin said. Vets said they think the hunter shot the kittens' mother. It is legal in many states, including Florida, to hunt bobcats for sport, Baskin said.
"He walked in with a shotgun in one hand and a bag of kittens in the other," she said.
The vets contacted Big Cat Rescue to take over the care of the animals. Workers at the sanctuary near Citrus Park then used social networking sites, asking if any animal rescue groups had female cats that could nurse the orphaned bobcats.
Suncoast Animal League in Pinellas answered the call and offered Bobbi, executive director Rick Chaboudy said.
Along with nursing the newborns, the housecat is also cleaning them and providing warmth, Veronica said. Bobbi's own kittens will teach the bobcats how to socialize with other felines and soon the trio will eventually be taught how to hunt live prey.
Baskin said they will be returned to the wild within a year to 18 months.
"I'm glad we have this opportunity to give them a second chance and let them do the things that bobcats do," Veronica said.
Although the trio may be cuddly now, they become cunning predators when they mature, Baskin said.
"They are one of the most wicked, deadly animals that you could ever come into contact with," she said. "They never get tamed."
Reporter Ray Reyes can be reached at (813) 259-7920.
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Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
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