Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Lodge Had Two Bobcats In A Large Cage

I have ta' warn ya', there's a photo of a dead rabbit in this one.

That's Roberta. Look at how she has her ear twisted back to the side. She's angry! I had just had to lightly squirt her with a garden hose to herd her over to that side of the cage, so I could clean the other side for her and Bobby. There was a small, sliding wooden door between the two sides of the cage, which was lowered or raised by a chain on a pulley.

I had placed my camera up against the chain link fencing of the cage in order to take the three photos in this article. I was not in the cage with the Bobcats.

Had I ever gotten into the cage with them, I'd have the scars to prove it. To prove how stupid I was for getting into the Bobcats' cage with them.

Katahdin Lodge had two Bobcats in the cage, one male and one female--Bobby and Roberta. The cage sat out in the Lodge's front yard--I mean dooryard. To Mainers it's called a doorya'd. Whenever people were near the cage at night, and all during daylight, the female stayed in that dog house style box she is seen in up there in the photo, which was built up off of the floor of the cage.

The two cats did not mate. I think that I remember my Aunt Martha and Uncle Finley telling people that Bobcats do not mate in captivity.

But when Bobcat mating season came around, the male cat did make loud, scrowwing, guttural, really far-out sounding mating calls.

It was always late at night, when he sang his high-pitched, extremely potent Bobcat Lovesick Blues. I would get out of bed and go open the door to listen to him. Fin and Marty told me that when Bobby was singing the Blues, it was really neat to listen to, but it was not the full fledged mating calls of a totally wild cat out in the woods at night. A Maine Guide friend of theirs once told them that he had heard a Bobcat, up in a tree near him, making mating calls out in the woods one time at night. The guide swore that he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand straight up.

I believe him. Because what I heard from the caged male Bobcat was truly wild and powerful sounding. And if that was not the Full Monty, then the mating calls of a Bobcat who was out there living free in the wild can definitely make a person's hair stand on end.

My good buddy Bobby.

I hunted and killed Snowshoe Hares for the caged Bobcats, so that they could have some natural food. The guts of a rabbit have lots of good, fresh vitamins and other nutrients that the cats didn't get from store bought food. Rabbit fur helps to clean parasites out of the cat's digestive system. At least that's what my Uncle Finley said. And it sounds right to me.

I had to climb into the wooden floored cage and scrub out the cat scat, about twice a month or so. The cage had two sections, with a door between them that was closed with the cats on one side and me in the other side, down on my hands and knees just a scrubbing away. It was only fair to the cats to clean up their living quarters for them. That task never really bothered me at all.

I used to hand feed strips of leftover, cooked roast beef to the male Bobcat. That was just as much a treat for any onlookers as it was for Bobby. I only hand fed the Bobcat when some of our paying guests, or some tourists from campgrounds or other lodges or some local Maine folks were out there checking out the Bobcats. Maine residents driving by on Rural Route 11 out front would sometimes stop to show their kids the Bobcats.

When I walked up to the cage to hand feed Bobby some beef strips, he would calmly, coolly sit on the wooden floor of the cage, while appearing to completely, comfortably ignore the world around him.

The floor sat about a foot and a half off the ground.

You can't see it in these photos, but the entire cage was wrapped with chain link fence, and it had a solid wooden roof.

When hand feeding Bobby the strips of beef, I would stand two arm's lengths away from the cage, while holding my arm halfway out away from my body and dangling a four to six inch strip of beef from my between my thumb and index finger. Oh, and that was one of my arm's lengths plus one of Bobby's. Then I slowly extended my arm in towards the cage, while moving the dangling meat in towards the comfortably sitting, cool, calm, collected Bobby; as soon as the meat was eggsactley' close enough for Bobby to reach it, he went for it. He jumped up, crammed his right front leg as far out into the air as he could possibly stretch it, out through one of the multitude of openings in the cage's fencing, and he swiped the meat strip out of my hand. As he did, I let go of the meat.

Bobby made those moves like he was greased lightning.

What I never did with the meat strips was to test the speed of my hand-eye coordination against his by yanking the meat back as soon as Bobby leaped up off the floor. And I never tried to hold onto it either.

Several times, I was asked by onlookers if I had ever tried do those things. I always told them that there was no way a human could beat that Bobcat's speed and agility. And had I tried to tightly hold onto the meat, the cat would have fought me with a few quick, deep claw cuts to my bare hand. Plus, if I had ever tried making either of those stupid mistakes, but had actually kept the meat from Bobby, it would have been teasing the cat, would have been mean to the caged animal.

Bobby could have easily grabbed my bare hand, instead of the beef strip. Anytime he wanted to. He could have easily reached his paw up a few inches higher and sunk his claws into my hand to pull it in closer where he could grab hold of the meat even easier. He'd have done it so fast I couldn't have ever beaten his speed.

He and I were good buddies. I didn't tease or torment him by offering food, then whisking it away or holding onto it when he went for it. And he only sank his sharp, powerful claws into the beef, not my hand.

It was awesome to see that cat move so fast that the human eyes carefully watching Bobby and I barely saw him move at all. He was just a light brown blur through the air. First he was a bored looking cat just sitting on the floor of his cage; then he was a flash of light brown lightning with his front right paw sticking out of his cage as far as it could possibly reach; then he was sitting back on the floor of the cage enjoying his tasty snack. It was a neat little, entertaining show we had created together.

I don't know how much Bobby enjoyed all that, but it always made my day a better one.

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