The menacing growls emanating from the transport carrier let WildCare Medical Staff know that the Bobcat inside wasn't a sickly patient that would be easy to handle.
Nat Smith, Staff RVT donned heavy Kevlar gloves specifically designed for handling animals, and Cindy Dicke, Assistant Director of Animal Care prepared a sedative injection on a veterinary injection pole.
They very carefully maneuvered the cat within her carrier so she could be injected in her rump, a challenging process with a snarling wildcat! They then left her alone for 15 minutes to allow the sedative to take effect.
The Bobcat had been seen regularly over the past year at the Del Valle Regional Park in the East Bay, raiding the dumpster where fishermen cleaned their catch.
She wasn't exactly making a pest of herself, but people knew she lived under a nearby trailer, and she was unusually visible for a Bobcat. These felines are normally very secretive and shy.
Local residents noted that the cat had strangely short and folded ears, one cloudy eye and looked thin, so they contacted authorities to capture and treat her, and she was brought to WildCare.
When the Bobcat arrived at our Wildlife Hospital she was fully alert and showing her displeasure at her captivity with a series of low growls, punctuated by snarls whenever the carrier moved.
To examine her, Medical Staff needed to sedate her. A carefully orchestrated jab with a syringe on the end of a veterinary injection pole made her sleepy enough to allow her to be moved to the examination table.
Once she was on the exam table, Medical Staff got to work. Because an adult Bobcat is a very high-stress patient, Medical Staff performs a thorough exam and provides as many treatments as possible during the initial intake to start the animal on the road back to health. This minimizes our interactions with the cat in the days to come, which reduces stress and improves medical outcomes.
During the Bobcat's intake exam, Nat and Cindy drew blood, did a full physical exam to check for injuries, provided subcutaneous fluids, injected vitamins and gave her medications to treat for mites, ticks and other parasites. They also gave the Bobcat an anti-inflammatory pain medication to keep her comfortable.
We knew that the Bobcat was approximately one year old. She is a first-year cat that had probably struggled to find her own territory and, after getting injured, ended up in close proximity with people. During the intake examination, her teeth and overall physical condition confirmed her young age.
But this cat was covered with ticks and mites, and the condition of her left eye and her ears was cause for concern.
In fact, her ears, which appeared strangely shortened and folded, were heavily infested with ear mites, which are incredibly itchy and uncomfortable. Medical Staff hypothesized that the strange whorls and folds in her ears may have been the result of constant scratching on her part, similar to the "cauliflower ear" that boxers sometimes get from repeated trauma to the side of the head.
The Bobcat's left eye was also cause for concern. It was very cloudy, which indicated injury with the possibility of ulceration. It could have been this eye injury inhibiting the cat's ability to hunt that led to weakness, a heavy parasite load and the need to scrounge food in a dumpster.
While she was sedated, Medical Staff gently cleaned the cat's filthy ears, and then, after first applying a numbing agent to prevent stinging, used a fluorescent dye and an ophthalmoscope to check her damaged eye.
The quantity of ulcerations on the corneal surface meant that this cat definitely needed to see the veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Rebecca Burwell so an appointment was made for later in the week.
In the meantime, this Bobcat will be kept in quiet caging in the Wildlife Hospital. She will be given eye drops and regular doses of anti-inflammatory medication, and we'll make sure she has lots of good food. She will also receive doses of Vitamin K, in case she was exposed to rodenticide after eating a rat or mouse that had eaten rat poison. Because she came from a populated area, and we know she was hanging out near a dumpster (a common place for poison bait boxes) it is highly likely she did indeed come in contact with poisoned rodents.
This treatment, along with the other medical care she'll receive at WildCare will hopefully give this cat a second chance at life in the wild.
Follow Alison Hermance on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wildcare