Bobcats are wildcats that look like cats with short, stubby tails and fur tufts on their ears and cheeks. They are about twice as large as the average cat. Bobcats also have longer back legs which give them a tilted forward look. They are closely related to lynxes and resemble them a lot.
Common domestic or feral cats are regularly mistaken for bobcats which themselves are mistaken for mountain lions or “panthers”.
The bobcat has a distinct look and it’s easy to tell the species apart from other animals. The only animals that closely resemble bobcats are lynxes.
They have distinguishing characteristics such as their “bobbed” tails, longer back legs, and dark coat markings.
In this article, we’ll learn how bobcats look and how to tell them apart from other animals, even ones that closely resemble them.
What Does a Bobcat Look Like?
Bobcats are medium-sized felines. They look like common cats but also have distinguishing characteristics, such as their tail and markings. Their back legs are slightly longer than their front ones. Bobcats also have tufts of fur on their ears and cheeks.
Bobcats are beautiful wildcats that roam across much of North America. They are frequently mistaken for other cats, including domestic cats, and mountain lions.
They have a unique look that helps tell them apart from other animals, including the following characteristics:
Bobcats are medium-sized mammals, about twice as large as common cats. Males are larger than females and individuals in the northern part of their range are bigger than those in the south.
This is the size of an average bobcat:
Although their average proportions aren’t impressive bobcats regularly get bigger. They frequently pass 40 inches in length and 30 pounds in weight.
The heaviest confirmed bobcat was a 51-pound male. There are unofficial reports of bobcats getting as heavy as 76 pounds, but these are likely fabricated.
Bobcats have average-sized ears for felines, that generally are black or darker in color. They also have tufts of fur on the tips of their ears. These tufts aren’t as prominent as the ones on lynx ears, but they are clearly visible even if they are shorter.
Bobcats, like other wild felines, also have ocelli on the back of their ears. Ocelli are markings that look like small black eyes. They give the impression that the animal is looking behind them, confusing predators.
Ocelli also help in communicating with kittens. They could also be a byproduct of pattern formation.
Bobcats have short and stubby tails. This “bobbed” tail is the reason they have the name “bobcat” in the first place. The length of the tail ranges from 3.5 to 7.9 inches depending partially on the size of the animal.
The tail is one of the characteristics of the bobcat that helps distinguish it from the lynx. While both bobcats and Canada lynxes have short tails, the lynxes’ are shorter.
The pattern on bobcats’ tails is also unique. The underside of the tail is either white or lightly colored, while they have stripes and a black tip on the top half.
Bobcats’ paws are similar in shape to cat paws. They are larger than cat paws though, measuring around two square inches on average.
They use their soft, padded paws to walk stealthily across the environment and catch their prey by surprise.
Bobcat tracks resemble other feline tracks. They walk on their toes, with their claws retracted. The tracks they leave show four toes and no claw marks.
Bobcat tracks are bigger than common cat tracks but smaller than lynx and mountain lion tracks.
Bobcats have thick coats of fur that protect them from the environment. Depending on the region and season their fur can be shorter or longer.
Their coats come in a variety of colors, from light gray to brown and reddish-brown.
The markings on a bobcat’s fur can help differentiate it from other animals in its habitat. They have black or dark markings that contrast well with their normal fur. Bobcats have face markings similar to those of a tabby cat, but darker and better defined.
On their legs, they have black bars or stripes. Their bodies are covered in spots and streaks. Their tail markings are unique.
Bobcats and their cousins (lynxes) have fewer teeth than common cat’s. Unlike cats that have 30 teeth, bobcats have only 28 teeth.
They have 28 teeth, made up of incisors, canines, premolars and molars. They use canines, to pierce and kill, and premolars to shear through meat.
Bobcats, despite their relatively small size, have strong and deadly bites. Their bite is stronger than that of lynxes, despite being smaller than them. They exert a force of up to 548 newtons.
Bobcats can have a variety of colors on their coats. Depending on region and season they can be anything from light gray to darker browns and reds. They use their colors, coupled with their markings to camouflage into their environments. There are also elusive, all-black, and all-white bobcats.
Bobcats have a large range across North America and a lot of color variety to match. They can be shades of grey, brown, or red depending on their environment.
Their colors are different from region to region and also change according to season.
Bobcats are gray or tan in barren rocky or desert habitats. They also have similar lighter colors in winter in snowy regions.
Brown and reddish fur colors are seen across their range, in forests, swamps, and plains.
They can also be melanistic, which makes them dark or completely black. This is a rare phenomenon, with only around 20 cases across their range.
There is also the possibility of an all-white bobcat, possibly a result of albinism or another mutation. There are many alleged sightings of white bobcats but no confirmed individuals.
Related article: Bobcat Colors
What Do Baby Bobcats Look Like?
Baby bobcats, or bobcat kittens, look like common cat kittens. They are bigger than cat kittens though. The best way to tell the difference between bobcat and cat kittens is to look for their distinct characteristics, like their tails, and their messier, wilder fur.
Baby bobcats closely resemble common cat kittens. Because of their resemblance, they are frequently taken by humans who confuse them with domestic kittens.
They are bigger though, with the distinct short and stubby tails that adults have. They have fur tufts on their ears and cheeks.
Besides their size and tails, they also have a wilder overall look compared to common cat kittens. Their fur appears messier and they have the darker face markings that adults have.
Their ears are also black with a white spot on the back, called ocelli. Some domestic cat breeds can also have ocelli but they are not as apparent.
What Animals Look Like Bobcats?
Bobcats are rather different from most animals they share territory with but are still confused with others. They are sometimes mistaken for mountain lions, although the short tails and small size are visible differences. Common cats and lynxes are often mistaken for bobcats too.
Bobcats are crepuscular or nocturnal animals, which means they are generally spotted in low-light conditions. Because of this, they are frequently mistaken for other animals.
People often mistake bobcats for mountain lions, though the difference between them is clear, even from a distance. Mountain lions are much larger and have long tails. They also lack the body markings that bobcats have.
Common cats are sometimes mistaken for bobcats. Bigger cat breeds like Maine coon and Pixie bob somewhat resemble bobcats and can have similar tabby patterns.
Cats are smaller than bobcats though, and even the ones with “bobbed” tails lack the unique tail markings of the bobcat.
Lynxes are the easiest to confuse with bobcats. The two species are closely related, being part of the same genus. Canada lynxes that share territory with bobcats are a little bigger and have subtler, or barely visible markings.
Lynx and bobcat tails are also different, as the tip is black all around. Lynxes also have much bigger paws, being closer in size to those of mountain lions. Lynxes’ back legs are larger than their front legs when compared to bobcats.
Bobcats resemble common cats, but they have a wilder aspect. Their tails are short and stubby, with unique markings. They are about twice the size of domestic cats, and their faces look wider thanks to fur tufts on their ears and cheeks. Their appearance varies according to region and season.
They are sometimes mistaken for other felines, like cats, mountain lions, and lynxes, but they are different enough from each of them.