By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane
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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Shannon Lane, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ed Rius
Melissa and Mick McAllister from Melissa, Texas have two pet bobcats, Gypsy and Monaco.
A bobcat is an elusive wild cat found in the forests, swamps and desserts of North America. They are roughly twice the size of a domestic cat and have large paws, tufted ears and a bobbed tail.
Melissa told Barcroft TV: “They're just like children. The father, they know they could rough house with and mom they want to cuddle - they can come to me. "
The cats do everything with the couple, eating, exercising and even sleeping in the same bed as them.
The McAllister’s first love of bobcats began when Mick found a bobcat kitten as a child.
He said: “When I was a kid I found a bobcat, wrestling around in some hay in a barn and I didn't know any better because I was a kid - so I scooped it up and took it inside and I showed my aunt and said 'I want to keep this and right away’.
“I talked her into allowing me to keep it and he was about three to four months old before it get hit by a car.
“It was very affectionate so I remembered that as a kid and thought if there is ever a point in time as an adult where we could try again with one, I really want to give it a shot."
The couple’s first bobcat was called Basil, however unfortunately the cat escaped from their garden and was never seen again.
Mick said: "Our first bobcat’s name was Basil and we got her when she was like literally a little bigger than a cell phone. We brought her home, raised her as a baby.
“One day Basil came up missing. She was so calm that we would let her out in the backyard. She would roam and chase birds and stuff like that, and then she would come to the backdoor just like a puppy would when she was done and ask to come in.
“One time she was out there in the weekend and a bad storm rolled in, and I think it just spooked her. She experienced something she never known possible and that was it, she was gone.
“We spent almost seven months looking for her."
To deal with the heartache of losing their beloved bobcat, the couple, who are both in the fitness industry, begun volunteering at a bobcat sanctuary.
Melissa said: “Well, in our efforts to try to find Basil we actually found a lady named Val. She owns a sanctuary.
“What we found was at the sanctuary she had near 60 bobcats. Some that were injured and some them were owner-surrendered. We decided that we really loved her and we loved other bobcats, so we started actually volunteering our time there."
It was here they fell in love with two rescue bobcats brought up in a domestic environment, desperate for a home.
“It got to the point when Val was like: “You know what? We have a couple of cats that were bred and they were brought into a home. They can never be re-released. And they would be much happier in a home than in a cage'.
"It was supposed to be just one. But we ended up having two.”
The couple happily welcomed Gypsy into their home in January 2018.
Two months later, they rescued another bobcat - Monaco - and despite some ups and downs, they have been a purr-fect family ever since.
Melissa said: “We brought Monaco in and Gypsy was petrified of Monaco. We actually make the joke that we think that Gypsy thinks she is a little pink bunny because she has no idea she is a bobcat, as soon as she saw Monaco she hid.
“Finally we decided what we needed to do was to make it so Gypsy couldn't hide. So they had to confront one another, and we have noticed that almost by the day they just get more and more friendly."
Bobcats rarely attack humans, but are classed as ‘dangerous exotic pets’ in the state of Texas, where it is legal for a person to own the wildcat ensuring they have the correct permits.
Melissa said: "I totally understand the controversy of people saying from the outside that we are taking these wild animals and pulling them from being wild.
“These bobcats can’t be released and so it is the choice of them living in a cage or living in a home where they were raised to begin with and so this is all that they know.
"They are very happy and they are very comfortable here so I am not a proponent of breeders. I really wish they wouldn't breed bobcats but there are certain circumstances where they have been bred and this is the best opportunity for them."
“When we got them they had been declawed. I think that with claws, which I believe are about an inch and a half, they would do a lot of damage to furniture and flooring.”
“And us,” Mick added. “I don’t think you could really enjoy the human-bobcat link with the claws because the faintest little swipe could cut you open."
The couple ensure the cat’s diets are kept as they would in the wild, and feed them raw meat daily.
Melissa said: “They eat a little bit different than the average cat. We can’t give cat food that’s actually really bad for them. So every month we prep big bags of raw meat.
“We always find chunks of bone all over the house that we have to clean up, under beds and stuff like that."
Despite being wild animals, the cats have become accustomed to using a very human item - the toilet.
Melissa said: “We came to find out that it’s actually innate in them because they are wild animals and they don't want their scent to be left because they like to stay elusive. They like to pee in streams and ponds and all that stuff.
“So in the house as soon as they find the toilet, that's their preferred place to go to the bathroom because it hides their scent which is so cool."
Even though the couple love their exotic pets, they don’t recommend owning a bobcat.
Mick said: "To own a bobcat you have to be an individual that's in a very rare circumstance meaning it’s best that you work from home.
"Understand that you can’t be very attached to things in your home. Not to say they are gonna trash it but it’s a wild animal so it may get scratches or things get knocked over because they get excited. They chase each other off you know throughout the house.
“You couldn't have a conventional job where you are gone eight or 10 hours a day. They would just go crazy. They need the interaction. Otherwise that wildness is gonna come out as they figure out how to entertain themselves."
Melissa added: “You have to know this is not a 10-year-old cat, this is gonna be 20 to 30 years. We gonna be cruising in our walkers, with our kids telling everybody, come and see there is a bobcat.”