How Do Bobcats Climb Cactus?

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An image that went viral from the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a super cute one, if it didn’t look so painful. A small bobcat can be seen pearing out from the arm of a Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea).

A bobcat sits nestle on the arm of a Saguaro cactus.  Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  NPS photo, public domain.
A bobcat sits nestle on the arm of a Saguaro cactus. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. NPS photo, public domain.

The prickly spines that run vertical along the cactus are extremely sharp and can grow up to three inches (7 centimeters) long. As sharp and strong as steel needles, these spines have been known to puncture unlucky Bighorn sheep that collide with the tall cactus.

So how and why do bobcats climb saguaro and get away injury free?

Why Do Bobcats Climb Cactus?

The main reason that bobcats climb cactus is to run away from predators. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are a medium-sized cat that is native to North America. Bobcats can be found in a range of habitats that stretch from southern Canada to Oaxaca, Mexico.

Bobcat, Badlands National Park.  Photo: Teri Stoia, NPS, public domain.
Bobcat, Badlands National Park. Photo: Teri Stoia, NPS, public domain.

A Safe Spot to Hide from Predators

The bobcat has several predators, notably mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, owls, wolves, alligators, and humans. Saguaros are tall, tree-like cacti that can grow multiple arms from the main trunk. The height and natural perch offered by the cactus offers a safe place to flee from potential predators.

A photographer was able to capture a bobcat that fled up to the very top of a Saguaro cactus to flee from a mountain lion in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. The mountain lion had chased the bobcat across a road before the bobcat climbed up to the top of the cactus.

Others have reported similar sightings:

A Safe Place to Rest

The height of Saguaro cacti also offers the bobcat a place to rest. Similar to why bobcats climb trees, climbing Saguaro in desert locations gives the wild cat a place to rest without worrying about predators and other dangers. The height of the cactus also provides the bobcat with a good lookout station.

Bobcat Up A Saguaro.
Bobcat Up A Saguaro. Photo: NPS

Why Don’t Bobcats Get Injured Climbing Cacti?

Bobcats are very adept climbers. They also have very thick foot pads that protect them from the sharp spines of a Saguaro cactus. The combination of being proficient climbers with their clawed and thickly padded paws allows the bobcat to climb these cacti without any injuries.

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