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Wildlife Sanctuary Bobcat Undergoes Hip Surgery

LAKE ELMO, Minn. (WCCO) -- Locked in a cage, a bobcat named Tractor growled while waiting to be anesthetized.

"It's hard to communicate to him that this is better for the long haul," said Tammy Thies.  "Today he's not appreciating all this attention."

Thies is the director of the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn. She brought Tractor to the Cedar Pet Clinic in Lake Elmo on Thursday for hip surgery.

One of Tractor's keepers could tell the 13-year-old bobcat was slowing down.

"He's not in a lot of pain yet," said Thies. "But after bringing him to the vet, the radiograph showed that there was severe arthritis."

Vet techs shaved Tractor's thick coat to prepare him for surgery. Dr. Steve Levine explained that he and colleague Dr. Lara Rasmussen won't fix the bobcat's hips. Instead, they planned to scrape off tiny sensory nerve fibers off the bone. It's called hip denervation.

"You do it, they feel better right away and they can do whatever they want," said Levine. "That's why it's an ideal procedure for this cat."

Levine's group, Veterinary Surgical Specialists, has been doing surgery for a couple years -- not on bobcats, but on dogs.

"Like with exactly these types of hips," said Levine, as he gestured toward the bobcat's hips. "They're really better. We're not curing the problem. We're just making it so that we're getting rid of the pain. They're still gonna have the arthritic hips; they just don't feel it."

Both the Cedar Pet Clinic and Veterinary Surgical Specialists donated their services.

"The Wildcat Sanctuary is a fantastic organization," said Levine. "And we truly believe in what they do. We're willing every time to do whatever we can to help them."

There are 120 wildcats at the sanctuary.

"Tigers, lions, cougars, servals and bobcats, lynx," said Thies. "Any wildcat that people try to keep as a pet."

Tractor was bought as a pet.

According to Thies, the bobcat got his name when his owner told her father, "I got a bobcat."

The father's response was, "Why do you need a tractor?"

Around age three, Tractor started spraying throughout his Burnsville home and acting aggressively toward visitors. That's when his owner turned him over to sanctuary staff.

Thanks to Thursday's surgery, Tractor should be moving smoothly for years to come.

Paula Engelking, Producer
Contact Paula

WCCO-TV's Liz Collin Reports

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