What Do Bobcats Eat? (Mostly Meat, but They’re Not Choosy!)

The bob-tailed wildcats may just be almost twice the size of a domestic cat, but they are the most common felines in North America. They tend to roam very widely on the American continent and constantly change their habitats in search of food.

Bobcats can go for weeks without a successful hunt or any food. So when prey is available, they tend to adjust their preferences and eat whatever is most abundant at that specific time and location. 

Join Floofmania as we explore how prey and food selection change for these bobcats as they adapt to their ever-shifting environments. 

Are Bobcats Carnivores, Herbivores, or Omnivores?

Bobcats are hypercarnivores that prefer and depend on animal protein for survival. 

All cats of the Felidae family are obligate carnivores that get the energy they need from proteins and fats in their diet. For an obligate carnivore, at least 70% of their food intake must be meat. 

Furthermore, these animals can’t digest plants properly, and vegetation won’t provide the nutrients they require to survive. 

What Is The Bobcat’s Primary Food Source?

A bobcat typically prefers small mammals that weigh anywhere between 112 and 1212 pounds as its prey. First, it stalks an animal quietly and carefully, so it won’t see the cat coming.

It then patiently crouches to wait as its victim comes as close as 20 to 35 feet before it pounces on them as a surprise. Bobcats can also give their prey a little chase as they can run as fast as 30 miles per hour!

Take a look at how a bobcat hunt goes precisely like this as the bobcat hunts for his favorite prey, a rabbit:

Bobcats can even leap as high as 12 feet in the air to catch low-flying birds in just one jump.

Watch as a pocket gopher tests a bobcat’s unparalleled patience and how happy the bobcat appears as he gets his meal in the end:

Even though bobcats can be active during the day, they prefer to hunt during dusk and dawn and are, therefore, crepuscular. They can travel 2 to 7 miles at night to patrol their territories and search for nocturnal prey like mountain beavers

Other primary meal sources for bobcats include:

  • Cottontail rabbits
  • Snowshoe hares
  • Red squirrels 
  • Mice
  • Cotton rats
  • Groundhogs
  • Cats
  • Gophers 

Do Bobcats Sometimes Also Hunt Bigger Birds?

Yes, bobcats may try to take on bigger birds, but only if it’s the perfect opportunity, just like this one right here:

The owl was so busy scavenging the turkey that the bobcat successfully hunted, that it didn’t see the cunning bobcat lurking from behind. However, it seems that the owl got away in the end, but it doesn’t mean that the bobcat won’t try to look for its nest and its young hatchlings if given a chance.

Nevertheless, the bobcats’ natural predators are owls, eagles, and hawks. A bobcat may try to hunt them or their eggs, but they often have the odds on their side. Add to that the advantage of being able to fly to safety.

Do Bobcats Prey On Bigger Animals?

Yes, bobcats can prey on bigger animals – up to 8X more than their own weight, in fact!

As patient hunters, they first stalk their prey, then wait for the right moment when, for example, the much larger deer is vulnerable enough to pounce on, either while it’s lying down or is struggling to find its footing in deep snow, just like this young buck:

The bobcat then rushes toward the deer and targets its neck, throat, and skull areas. The cat needs to hold on, as the deer will try to dislodge its bite by kicking and possibly injuring the bobcat. 

If the bobcat succeeds, it can feed on the deer for up to 12 days. However, a wildcat can only eat about 3 pounds of meat a day, so it will need to drag and cover (cache) its prey in a safe place so it can return to it periodically. 

Bobcats can also target medium-sized prey like the fox, which is smaller than them. 

In addition, they are the natural predators of badgers, opossums, and raccoons. These animals are, however, aggressive and will put up a fight.

Do Bobcats Eat Fish And Seafood?

Yes, bobcats can eat fish and seafood even if they’re not on their usual menus. 

Bobcats are good swimmers and are no strangers to water. So when fish like salmon is abundant in the area, they grab the opportunity to hunt them.

A bobcat ambassador also shows his trout-fishing skills here:

They could also snatch and enjoy crustaceans like crayfish and shrimps fresh from the water.

Additionally, amphibians, like frogs or toads, would be an easy catch to these fast-moving bobcats, and that way they may keep their paws out of the cold waters. 

Will Bobcats Eat Reptiles?

Yes, bobcats will eat reptiles!

In 2018, residents in South Florida saw a bobcat carrying a giant green iguana– one of the largest lizards in America!

Experts have deemed the green iguanas an invasive species because they can damage sidewalks, seawalls, and infrastructure foundations as they dig burrows to live in. Thankfully, bobcats are contributing to controlling the large lizard population by by preying on them!

Furthermore, bobcats are also not afraid to take on snakes, especially rattlesnakes!

Both are ambush predators, with the rattlesnake carrying brain and tissue-damaging toxins in its venom. Bobcats aren’t immune to these effects but are fast enough to dodge a snake’s strikes:

In response, the bobcat’s claws are powerful and fast enough to deliver solid and disorienting blows to the snake’s head, eventually leading to the bobcat’s success in the video. And look how cute the bobcat rolls over and celebrates its win! (Though it was probably to mark its scent on the hunt) – but it’s still pretty adorable!

Are Insects On The Menu For The Bobcat?

Yes, bobcats can eat insects occasionally. 

Bobcats use their well-developed sense of smell and excellent ears and eyes with superb night vision to spot ants, grasshoppers, and beetles – including dragonflies:

These bugs are just like finger foods to these large bob-tailed cats, but they also provide some protein and nutrition to get them through the next hunt. 

Do Bobcats Eat Eggs?

Yes, bobcats also eat the eggs of their prey. 

Researchers from Texas found that majority of the bobcat diets they sampled were composed of bird eggs and a small percentage of these were determined to be quail eggs. These eggs are small in size and don’t have many calories but have tons of vitamins and minerals that the bobcats were probably looking forward to gaining!

Sea turtle eggs are also already part of a bobcat’s diet in Florida. But, most importantly, bobcats are heralded as heroes in the same ‘Sunshine State’ right now for one specific reason: 

Since 2000, the Florida Everglades have been experiencing a Burmese python epidemic. These constrictors can reach weights of up to 200 pounds by consuming most wildlife, including a bobcat’s prey and even the bobcat itself!

But not anymore today…

Bobcats have learned to fight back and have started consuming the eggs of these invasive pythons! In the video above, although the cat got most of the eggs while the mom was away, the bobcat fought back and hit the giant snake with its claws when the cat returned for another helping. 

These brave and clever bobcats are now part of the decades-long fight between ecologists and the invasive snake. With the bobcat’s help, they could pave the way to finally bringing back the natural balance in the area. 

Will Bobcats Eat Carrion?

Yes, bobcats will eat fresh or untainted carcasses left by other predators or other natural or man-made causes, such as animals getting hit by cars.

Bobcats know that eating carrion is a risk because of the number of toxins, bacteria, and diseases that they can get from it. 

On the other hand, it is also sometimes advantageous for the bobcat to consume this kind of food from time to time, because it avoids getting injured while hunting and provides immediate and easy calories to their bodies when prey is scarce, especially during winter.

As a matter of fact, researchers followed a female bobcat who feasted on pig carrions for seven days. She needed this extra energy boost as she was simultaneously caring for her kittens

Furthermore, here is a kitten taking advantage of a roadkill goose, himself, in order to satisfy his growing needs:

Do Bobcats Break In And Eat Poultry?

Yes, bobcats find it easier to hunt for poultry as human encroachment increases.

As highly adaptable mammals, bobcats are learning to adjust to humans and even visit urban settings from time to time. 

In fact, here’s a video of a bobcat crossing a park while carrying its successfully hunted goose home to enjoy:

Here’s another one where a bobcat expertly catches a duck while a flock of them tries to cross a road:

Turkeys are also not safe from being food sources for a bobcat.

In the two previous videos above, the bobcat had to rely on its agility and speed to hunt. The bobcat is also an excellent climber that can quickly move up and down a tree because of its sharp, retractable claws.

Furthermore, your farm or chicken coop may just be along a bobcat’s natural territory, and it views your poultry as prey in abundance. 

You’ll know if a bobcat has paid a visit to your chickens when the adult ones are missing, yet you can’t find other signs of disturbance. This cat will go for a quick hunt in your yard and immediately hurry off your property with its prey in its mouth.

Will Bobcats Go For Livestock?

Yes, bobcats are opportunistic hunters that will prey on livestock – but only if they’re small!

A bobcat only stands 1.8 feet from its shoulders, with an average weight of 13 to 30 pounds. Its size comes shy in competition to most farm animals, so it wouldn’t even think of trying to fight cattle such as a large cow.

Moreover, they prefer hunting smaller, defenseless livestock, especially the sick, old, and injured ones.

Goats, sheep, and pigs tend to be kept safe in enclosures. And a bobcat knows how to take advantage of this by silently and intelligently looking for holes into which it can fit itself. Once it does, a bobcat will corner and target a particular animal from the herd as they run for safety, which is the only defense mechanism these animals know. 

Sure, a goat may have its horns to defend itself, but it’s not likely that it would stand a chance against a bobcat. Furthermore, the bobcat would choose to target a hornless goat kid, a frail lamb, or a young piglet rather than a full-grown adult. 

Do Bobcats Sometimes Eat Berries, Fruit, Nuts, and Plants?

Yes, even though it is pretty uncommon for their diet as carnivores, bobcats can also munch on vegetation sometimes.

Bobcats are more likely to eat plants during summer and fall when most fruits, nuts, and vegetables like berries, acorns, pumpkins, beechnuts, and watermelons are ripe and abundant – including pineapples:

In addition, while most experts believe that bobcats indirectly ingest grass from the stomachs of their prey, these cats also naturally like to snack on greenery.

When bobcats eat grass, the vegetation can clean their digestive tracts by helping them expel any parasites, debris, or bones that might hurt or make them sick if not removed. 

Additionally, they can absorb trace nutrients from the grass, like folic acid, which helps both a growing kitten and an anemic bobcat adult to produce more red blood cells in their bodies. 

Fruits and vegetation are also good hydration alternatives when water sources such as ponds and lakes have dried up or become frozen during winter. 

Are Bobcats As Crazy About Catnip As Cats Are?

Yes, bobcats are just as crazy about catnip as your beloved pet cats! 

You can expect to see the same cute rolling over on their backs, chin and cheek rubbing on the plant, purring, and meowing reactions in these wildcats as they get exposed to the chemical compound. 

Just like Taz in this video:

Suppose you notice the bobcat or your housecat trying to chew the catnip. In that case, it only tries to press the catnip’s active ingredient, nepetalactone, against its palate to maximize the stimulant effect. 

Some hunters even take advantage of this hallucinogenic effect and use it to lure bobcats into their traps. 

Furthermore, a cat’s reaction to catnip is surprisingly hereditary, and about 25% of their kind, wild or domestic, won’t react nor show any interest in this famous herb. 

Nevertheless, the plant’s euphoric effect lasts only 5 to 15 minutes. So you better enjoy watching every second of a cat’s overall blissful demeanor until the magic wears off – preferably a safe few feet away if it’s a wild bobcat.

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