Bobcats are a species of wild cat found naturally in many states throughout the country. They are generally classified as "exotic" pets and are subject to state laws. Whether you can keep a bobcat as a pet depends on where you live. In some cases, it is not the state but the county or city that actually decides what is permissible.
Language of the Law
Contact the agency in your state that handles wildlife law and ask what the policy is in relation to bobcat ownership. The law is exceedingly clear in some instances, but in others, state law on this issue can be ambiguous. In the same state, ownership may be fine for furring but not for private ownership. In another, it may be legal for science but not for exhibition. In other states, the law refers to native-born species but not to bobcats specifically. Do your homework, no matter how sure you are that you have read the law correctly.
States Where Bobcat Ownership is Legal
Owning bobcats for private purposes or as a pet is legal in several states. For example, in Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin bobcat ownership is freely permitted. In other states, you'll need a permit, registration or both. These states include Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. Other states expressly ban private ownership. You may be permitted to keep bobcats you've had for a long time, however, so do check the laws in your state.
Breeding, Exhibition and Science
Most states allow bobcat ownership for exhibition or zoological or conservation efforts if you have the proper licensing, registration or permits. Other states allow for non-specified commercial activity. While you can infer that this means furring, the laws do not actually expressly state this. For example, Colorado says "commercial only." Professional grounds for ownership – commercial, exhibition, conservation, scientific – exist in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico and South Dakota, as well as in most of the states that outlaw private ownership. West Virginia restricts ownership to scientific purposes only. Both Texas and North Carolina outsource regulation to individual counties, so you must investigate that level of authority.
Permits Required for Furring
If you are considering owning bobcats for furring purposes only, then a few states allow for legal breeding. Again, this practice often needs to be accompanied by official permits. Even if your state allows fur breeding, that does not necessarily mean that it allows you to legally import bobcats into the state. Furring-legal states include, but are not limited to, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. To check whether furring falls under your state's legal guidelines, contact your state department of environmental protection or wildlife conservation.
Currently, five states have no laws on keeping bob cats as pets: Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Other states either ban all "exotic" pets or allow the keeping of bobcats with specific permits.