Bobcat No. 1 came from Iowa where he was rescued from a barn fire at only 2 weeks old. When he was found, he had a scorched belly, paws, mouth and eye, and a rehabber worked nearly two years to heal his wounds, hoping she would eventually be able to release him back into the wild.

Bobcat No. 2 came from the Midwest where a family found him in the wild, took him into their home and tried to domesticate him. He eventually bit someone, so they turned him over to the state's Fish and Game division.

Neither bobcat could be released into the wild, but both have new homes at The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota. They're just starting to make each other's acquaintance on the other side of a fence and hopefully will soon be introduced, says sanctuary director Tammy Thies. If all goes well, they'll become companions at the 40-acre sanctuary, along with about 110 other rescued cats.

New names for new beginnings

Copper and Archer rescued bobcats The newly named Copper (left) and Archer (right) after just a few weeks at the sanctuary. (Photo: The Wildcat Sanctuary)

The sanctuary held a naming contest for the duo, asking people to contribute strong names — not "Bob" or "Bobby" which are common suggestions for bobcats and no pirate-themed ideas for the cat with the eye injury. "We want a name that doesn’t point out his disability because he has a lot of strengths," Thies says.

Fortunately, the eye injury is healing and has revealed a beautiful copper-colored eye underneath to match his coat prompting the bobcat's new name...Copper. The other rambunctious cat has been named Archer because, says the sanctuary, "he's as fast as a moving arrow!"

Why the bobcats can't return to the wild

Copper is unreleasable, says Thies, for several reasons. "He imprinted on people and was fostered with domestic cats and has a serious eye injury." A game warden wanted to euthanize him, but he ended up at the sanctuary instead.

Archer spent quite some time as a family pet. "He walks up to you and purrs," says Thies. "He's too imprinted. The first thing he does is want to see people." A rehabber worked with him for three months but knew he wasn't releasable because he was too attached on people.

"That's the sad part when people bring in wildlife and allow them to imprint, they have a really low success rate of ever being rereleased," Thies says. "We really encourage people that if you don't have the expertise that you call someone that does they they have a good chance to be released back into the wild."

Volunteers from the Wildcat Sanctuary drove more than 2,000 miles in two days to pick up the two cats, who are now undergoing quarantine and medical exams. They were neutered and microchipped and soon will be officially introduced.

Two cats, two personalities

Iowa rescued bobcat Copper arrives at the sanctuary from the Midwest. (Photo: The Wildcat Sanctuary)

Their personalities are wildly dissimilar, says Thies, describing Copper as "calm, cool and collected" and "very mature for his age." He doesn't get upset, sizes up the situation, and calmly surveys everything around him.

Archer, on the other hand is the other side of the spectrum, she says. "He's bebopping, running, exploring every perch, every rock, every log in his enclosure," Thies says. "He doesn’t sit still for a second. He's trying to friend the bobcat from Iowa. If it's up to him, they're already best friends. He's just waiting for the other bobcat to agree."

Because the bobcats are both adolescents, Thies believes the pair has a good chance of acclimating to each other. If they don't hit it off, there are several other bobcats in the sanctuary about the same age.

"They have to be in captivity; we want to make it the most happy they can in a captive environment. We can't replicate the wild. We try to allow them to be wild at heart."

Exploring their wild side

The duo will be out of quarantine after 30 days and should be out exploring a much larger habitat soon.

"We want them to kind of explore their wild side. We talk to them, give them enrichment, feed them but we don’t put them in our lap and cuddle them," Thies says. "Our thing is we love that they come up and say hello but we don’t want them to be pining for human attention."

Here's a video Archer playing while he's in quarantine:

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.