The small cat that a Florida man discovered this week wasn’t the baby cheetah he suspected it was.
But the man wasn’t wrong that it was a wild animal, according to Orlando authorities.
On Thursday, the man dropped off the kitten at fire station seven in Orlando, telling firefighters there at around 9 a.m. that “he found it in the area and didn’t know what to do,” fire department spokesperson Ashley Papagni wrote in an email to McClatchy.
“Seems to be happening quite often with pets at this location,” Papagni said.
Authorities started thinking about finding a home for the animal, which they thought was a kitten, according to the fire department.
Then crews began to Google “baby cheetah” — a search that revealed the cat was actually more similar to a bobcat than a cheetah or a house cat, Papagni said.
Firefighters called Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge and Education Center on Thursday night and sent some pictures of the young animal.
Then a manager from the refuge came over to the station and confirmed that the “baby cheetah” was a really a two-week-old female bobcat, the fire department said.
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge and Education Center said in a statement emailed to McClatchy that the refuge is raising the baby bobcat, with the “full intention” of releasing her back into the wild. The refuge said it takes in about 3,000 orphaned or injured native Florida animals every year — but usually just one or two bobcats, which are found across the state.
Rescuers at the refuge “will do everything they can” to keep the young bobcat from “imprinting on humans” by raising her alongside other bobcats, according to Back to Nature.
Photos the Orlando Fire Department shared with McClatchy show firefighters caring for the baby animal at the station, as well as the bobcat being fed with a syringe.
The refuge said that “if a citizen spots a displaced, injured, or orphaned wild bobcat, the first thing they should do is contact their local wildlife rehabilitation facility for advice to determine if the animal is in need of rescue.”