Fishing cat facts for kids

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Fishing Cat
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Prionailurus
Species: Prionailurus viverrinus

The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. Fishing cats are the largest of the Prionailurus cats. They are about twice the size of a domestic cat and have a stocky, muscular build with medium to short legs.

In 2008, the IUCN classified the fishing cat as Endangered. They live in wetland habitats, which are increasingly being settled, degraded and converted. Over the last decade, the fishing cat population throughout much of its Asian range declined severely.

Like its closest relative, the leopard cat, the fishing cat lives along rivers, streams and mangrove swamps. It is well adapted to this habitat, being an eager and skilled swimmer. Its feet are partly webbed, and it does catch fish.

Characteristics

Fishing-Cat
A fishing cat at the San Diego Zoo. Note the ocelli on the backs of the cat's ears.

The fishing cat is the largest of the Prionailurus cats. Its coarse fur is olive-grey to ashy-grey with darker stripes on the shoulder and roundish or oval-shaped spots on the flanks and sides. The short and rounded ears are set low on the head, and the back of the ears have a white spot. Two stripes are on the cheeks, and four stripes run from above the eyes between the ears to the shoulder. The underside is white, and around the throat are two rows of spots. The tail is short, less than half the length of head and body, spotted at the base and with a few black rings at the end. It is about twice the size of a domestic cat and stocky and muscular with medium to short legs. Its face is elongated. Its head-to-body length typically ranges from 57 to 78 cm (22 to 31 in), with a tail of 20 to 30 cm (7.9 to 11.8 in). It weighs from 5 to 16 kg (11 to 35 lb). The underside fur is longer and often overlaid with spots.

Its paws are less completely webbed than those of the leopard cat, and the claws are incompletely sheathed so that they protrude slightly when retracted. Webbed feet have often been noted as a characteristic of the fishing cat, but the webbing beneath the toes is not much more developed than that of a bobcat.

Distribution and habitat

Prionailurus viverrinus 03
Fishing cat photographed in Nepal

The fishing cat is broadly but discontinuously distributed in Asia, and is primarily found in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills in India and Nepal, in eastern India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There are no confirmed records from Peninsular Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos.

In India, the presence of fishing cats has been documented in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, in Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, outside protected areas in West Bengal, in and around Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary, in Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining reserve forests in Andhra Pradesh.

Populations have also been documented along the coast in Thailand. Fishing cats were the least detected cats with only six photos obtained altogether in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park and Thale Noi Non-Hunting Area. In March 2003, a single fishing cat was photographed by a camera trap in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, northern Cambodia. In 2008, a fishing cat kitten was found in Botum-Sakor National Park, southwest Cambodia. In 2015, fishing cats were also recorded in a coastal wetland in Cambodia.

In 2012, a fishing cat was recorded in Sindh Province, Pakistan.

Reports in Bangladeshi newspapers indicate that fishing cats live in all divisions of Bangladesh but are severely threatened; villagers killed at least 30 fishing cats between January 2010 and March 2013.

The island of Java constitutes the southern limit of fishing cat range, but by the 1990s fishing cats were scarce and apparently restricted to tidal forests with sandy or muddy shores, older mangrove stands, and abandoned mangrove plantation areas with fishponds.

Fishing cats are strongly associated with wetlands, typically inhabit swamps and marshy areas, around oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and in mangrove forests; they seem less abundant around smaller, fast-moving watercourses. Most records are from lowland areas. Although fishing cats are widely distributed through a variety of habitat types including both evergreen and tropical dry forest, their occurrence tends to be highly localized.

Ecology and behavior

Fishing Cat Pessac zoo
Fishing cat searching for prey near water

Fishing cats are thought to be primarily nocturnal. Adult males and females without dependent young are solitary animals. They are very much at home in the water and can swim long distances, even under water. Females have been reported to range over areas of 4 to 6 km2 (1.5 to 2.3 sq mi), while males range over 16 to 22 km2 (6.2 to 8.5 sq mi). Adults have been observed to make a "chuckling" sound.

Fishing cats have been observed while hunting along the edges of watercourses, grabbing prey from the water, and sometimes diving into the water to catch prey further from the banks. Their main prey is fish; scat collected in India's Keoladeo National Park revealed that fish comprises approximately three-quarters of their diet, with the remainder consisting of birds, insects, and small rodents. Molluscs, reptiles including snakes, amphibians and carrion of domestic cattle supplement their diet.

They mark their territory using cheek-rubbing, head rubbing, chin rubbing, neck rubbing and urine-spraying to leave scent marks. They also sharpen their claws and display flehmen behavior.


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