SAN ANTONIO - With big blue eyes and stubby tails, two kittens taken in by a San Antonio family looked adorable until the fiery seven-week-old felines ripped apart formula bottles and repeatedly bit the hands that were trying to feed them.
The family, whose name has not been released, told authorities they thought the kittens were the rare and prized domestic breed of Bengal cats.
But the tiny felines were actually wild bobcats that were surrendered to a shelter this week, and officials said on Thursday the family was under investigation for possibly violating Texas wildlife laws.
"Bengal kittens look like house cats. They do not look like wild cats," San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) spokeswoman Lisa Norwood said on Thursday, adding the two species are rarely confused for the other.
The family initially told ACS workers that they discovered the cubs abandoned in an alleyway. Later, they confessed that the kittens were found by a relative in a nearby rural county and then brought to San Antonio, according to Norwood.
If the family that took in the kittens knew the animals were bobcats, they could face charges for the illegal disturbance of wild animals, authorities said.Photo: Reuters
The search is on for the cubs' mother because if she cannot be found, the pair may never be able to return to the wild.
The cubs are being handled with minimum contact so they do not lose their healthy fear of humans, which aids their survival by keeping them away from populated areas, said Lynn Cuny, founder of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, which is housing the animals in a rural area north of San Antonio.
"In raising young ones like this, who should have never been taken from their mother, we have to work very hard to make sure they remain wild," Cuny said.
"Human beings are not their friends, we're their enemies," she said.
If the cubs cannot be reunited with their mother, they will remain for a year at the rescue centre's 212-acre (85.8-hectare) sanctuary and then be released into a protected habitat, she said.
"The best advice is for people to leave wild animals alone, especially babies, because their parents are almost always nearby," Cuny said.
"Anytime you take a baby wild animal in, you've made their situation worse."