He sleeps in the sun on the davenport in Linda and Denny Graves’ house, chases bouncy-balls around the house, plays with the couple’s three dogs and purrs like a freight train.
The 9-month-old bundle of fur is no ordinary housecat, however. He’s a 3-foot-long, 25-pound bobcat the couple adopted last November.
Life hasn’t been the same since.
“He bounces off the walls, off the furniture,” Linda Graves said. “He likes balls, or anything with a rattling noise; he’ll throw those up in the air to entertain himself. He likes to chew his stuffed animals. He chases bees and flies.”
The cat, named partly after Mitt Romney and for the size of his burly paws, can roam the house at will — not that an animal that size doesn’t get his way.
At dinner time — two pounds of raw chicken, turkey legs, chicken heart and liver — he’ll try to jump on the counter.
“The kitchen counter used to be safe,” Linda said with a laugh. “No place is safe anymore. I have to take the whole cutting board, his dish, the knives, into the bathroom and cut it up in there.”
They have to hide the toilet paper, or Mitt will tease it all from the roll. They have to keep the closet doors shut, or Mitt will help himself to his growing collection of Denny’s T-shirts.
Not that shutting doors will stop him; the Graves’ lynx rufus kitten has learned how to turn doorknobs and nudge his way through.
“Oh, no,” Linda said, her voice fading on the phone. “I should have closed the bedroom door. That makes about five T-shirts now. I’ve got to be more careful. Now he’s got a pile.”
And Mr. Mitt, as he’s often called, is not done growing yet.
The couple, both of whom love animals and have taken in raccoons, deer and foxes as pets or to rehabilitate injured critters, always wanted a bobcat. They got the chance last fall, and adopted Mitt from the Bitterroot Bobcat and Lynx cattery in Stevensville, Mont.
At eight weeks of age, the kitten wobbled around on short striped legs. He measured about 8 inches in length. Now those legs can launch him across a room and a good stretch can mean he hogs the whole couch.
He sports bright blue eyes, a short tail, little tufts on the ends of his ears and an endless supply of energy. When he reaches full size, the 7.5-pound kitten the Graves brought home could weigh up to 40 pounds. He might live to be 25 years old. When fully grown, he’ll eat at least two pounds of raw meat a day; as it is, Linda has to make trips to the market every other day.
He burns off all that energy romping with the family dogs.
“I think the cat thinks he’s a dog,” Linda said. “He’s right with them, chasing with them, jumping in the river, running; he thinks he’s a dog.”
The couple built an “apartment” for Mitt, upstairs in their house on the 2 acres in the wilderness they own along the Illinois River near Agness. The apartment has a door and window through which he can access an enclosed deck outside.
This summer, they’re building a large run with a pond in which Mitt can swim.
The couple has no worries when family — even grandchildren — come to visit, as bobcats are generally known to be docile, unlike their cougar cousins that can go from sedate to deadly in seconds.
“He’s enjoyable; so affectionate,” Linda said. “He’s so sweet and soft. He’s simply a joy.”
When the Graves go to town, it’s both a menagerie and family in the car. Shop owners are curious, but not bowled over with amazement like they were when Mitt was small. Mitt likes the dogs he meets at Woof’s Bakery in Gold Beach, Linda said.
“He’s just part of us,” she added. “We take good care of him, keep him safe ... keep the closet door shut. ... He’s just part of the family, part of our life. He’s just a joy. Next year, we might get another baby bobcat.”