Bobcat Grooming & Cleanliness

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are medium-sized cats that can be distinguished by their bobbed tails and the unique pattern of their thick fur. They have black streaks and spots on their greyish-tan-colored coat which is a great way to camouflage their appearance in the wild. They can be found in forests and deserts in Southern Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Even in the wild, hygiene is very important. Housecats are known for keeping themselves clean, but does that apply to their bobcat relatives as well? How do these furry fellas groom and clean their bodies? A little hint is that they like licking their bodies.

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Are Bobcats Generally Clean Animals?

We can say that bobcats are generally clean animals. Even though they walk on dirt all day and sometimes get all kinds of nasty stuff on their fur, they clean and groom their bodies quite often.

Keeping clean is a trait that’s common for all felines and bobcats are no exception. They are very hygienic and take cleanliness seriously. They must have received lessons in bobcat school about the importance of hygiene!

However, the answer to this question also depends on your standard of cleanliness. If you think that having a nice smell means that an animal is clean, then the bobcat may not be. These fellas practice scent marking with their urine and feces. So, the smell of their poop and pee may follow them wherever.

Fact: Scent marking is done by bobcats to find a mate and mark their territories.

How Do Bobcats Groom Themselves?

Bobcats lick their bodies to groom themselves. Like housecats, lions, and other felines, bobcats use their tongues to lick all reachable spots on their bodies and wet their paws to scratch the areas they can’t reach with their tongues. (Which are surprisingly few!). 

They will sit or lie down in one spot and then start licking all the parts of their bodies they can reach. Using their powerful tongues, bobcats lick these parts of their bodies nice and clean:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Sides
  • Groin
  • Legs
  • Paws 

Of course, their tongues cannot reach their face and neck. But this is not a problem for the bobcat. They clean these parts of their bodies by licking their forepaws first and then brushing or scratching them on parts they cannot reach with their tongues. 

The saliva they put on their paw is used to clean the hard-to-reach areas. Very clever, right?

Why Are Bobcats’ Tongues Especially Good For Grooming?

Bobcat tongues have a unique feature found on their surface. If you look at their tongues, you will notice that it has a rough appearance and if you try looking at them through a powerful scanner, you can see that there are numerous spines on the surface. These are called filiform papillae

These spines on the bobcat’s tongue are almost like little fishing hooks pointing backward. These act as little brush bristles, effectively pulling out loose hair and dirt and keeping bobcat fur untangled while also efficiently transferring saliva to the bobcat’s fur. 

I’ve you’ve ever had your pet cat try to groom you by licking your hand, you’ve probably noticed that their tongues feel extremely rough and not soft at all as you might expect. What you’re feeling here are these backward-facing spines.

The papillae on their tongue are also flexible. When the feline uses its tongue to lick its fur, the spines rotate which is a good help in untangling knots.

Bobcat fur is thick and fluffy. Not to mention, they grow thicker coats during the winter! So, having a smooth and flat-surfaced tongue will not do much help with getting rid of dirt and matted fur. 

But with their tongue’s rough texture and flexible papillae, the bobcat can reach deep into its fur and skin for proper grooming.

Fact: The curved tip of the papillae on the cat’s tongue also helps them drink water through surface tension.

Do Bobcats Get Hairballs?

Bobcats do get hairballs! Believe it or not, all cat species, big or small, sometimes have to cough up hair after grooming.

Fur cannot be digested. The bobcat’s digestive system is not capable of processing hair which means that it just gets stuck there and will need to be expelled in one way or another.

Like other felines, bobcats groom their fur by licking. Because their tongues are filled with papillae that can act like tiny hooks, chances are that the loose fur they get from their bodies gets into their mouths and then into their stomachs.

When too much fur gets into their system, the bobcat will throw up or expel the hairball in some way. If you have seen a cat in your house or neighborhood throw up a hairball, the process is similar to that. It’s completely natural and happens quite often with all kinds of felines, but it’s not a nice thing to see or hear for a cat owner.

Do Bobcats Bathe In Water?

In the wild, bobcats do not normally bathe in water. Not liking getting wet runs in the cat family.  Although they are good swimmers, water baths are not their thing. As mentioned, they use their special tongues instead to clean their bodies.

How Often And For How Long Do Bobcats Groom Themselves?

Grooming is one of the activities that bobcats spend most of their time on. They usually do this before resting or sleeping or after doing other bobcat activities like hunting.

They can spend up to 25 percent of their time awake licking their bodies. Do they not get tired from licking their bodies for such a long period? Apparently not!

Do Bobcats Groom Each Other?

Yes! But not all bobcats groom each other because they are territorial and live independently. The only time that bobcats live together is when a mother bobcat is rearing her litter. 

It is common for a mother bobcat to lick her kittens. It is the mother bobcat’s responsibility to take care of the young who stays with her for about 10 months. 

The father bobcat does not help with this. He leaves after the mating season, even before the kittens are born to find another mate. This means he does not participate in this family grooming activity at all.

How Do Bobcat Moms Groom Their Kittens?

Bobcat moms groom their kittens in the same way they groom themselves, by licking their bodies. However, the parts that the kitten can reach easily by itself are usually not groomed by the mother. Instead, they usually only lick the face, ears, neck, back, and chest of the kitten. 

The other parts like the legs and paws are left to the kitten for grooming. Independance starts early among bobcats!

Why Is Grooming Important For Bobcats?

Grooming helps bobcats have healthy bodies. Living in the wild exposes them to dirt, insects, and parasites which can cause diseases and this behavior aids in avoiding these. When a bobcat keeps its fur clean and tidy, it also helps the animal to stay warm much better than dirty, entangled fur would.

One of the most common problems wild animals like bobcats encounter is tick infestation. Having ticks on your body is very itchy. Moreover, some ticks even carry diseases like Cytauxzoon felis or commonly known as bobcat fever.

Grooming also helps in removing matted fur. Letting their fur become entangled can be very uncomfortable for the bobcat. If it becomes worse, it can tug on their skin and cause wounds that may lead to infection, or the bobcat might have difficulty staying warm.

This behavior also helps the bobcat regulate its body temperature. As mentioned before, saliva is transferred to their fur while the bobcat licks its body. As the saliva on their fur evaporates, their body also cools down. This is a very important mechanism, especially during the summer.

Grooming not only keeps their fur nice and fluffy. It also keeps them healthy and happy.

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