The Fishing Cat is a relatively small feline that lives in isolated pockets of southern Asia. As their name suggests, fish are their favorite prey.
These cats are skilled hunters that are not afraid to get their paws wet. They are capable of swimming long distances and pulling their prey right out of the water. Read on to learn about the Fishing Cat.
Description of the Fishing Cat
Fishing Cats have short legs, short tails, and stocky bodies. Males are larger and heavier than females. These cats range in size from 10 to 35 lbs. and measure between 25 and 34 in. long. They usually have light grey-tan fur with dark markings and white bellies.
Their coats are coarse and covered with a number of spots and stripes. They have spots on their sides and backs, and stripes that run from their faces, over the tops of their heads, and down their necks.
Interesting Facts About the Fishing Cat
When most people think of a cat, they don’t picture a water-loving animal. While Fishing Cats definitely aren’t the only feline that likes to swim, they are the only one famous for it! Learn what makes these cats so unique below.
- Catty Cousins – Researchers place Fishing Cats in the taxonomic genus Prionailurus. This makes leopard cats, rusty-spotted cats, and flat-headed cats their closest relatives. All members of this genus live in southern Asia and the surrounding islands.
- Wetland Wasteland – Cats that like to eat fish thrive in wetland habitats, and these are no exception to this rule. Sadly, humans are destroying wetland habitats throughout Asia. People destroy the wetlands to create more room for farms or towns, and nearby towns and farms pollute the wetlands that remain.
- Fish Fight – Unfortunately, humans also compete with these cats for food. Humans deplete local fish populations, and even kill Fishing Cats because they see them as competition. This interaction intensifies when people farming fish catch the cats eating their profits.
- Population Protection – Thankfully, researchers are working hard to conserve the remaining wetland habitats that these cats live in. One primary conservation effort is the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. In this convention, multiple countries come together to protect wetland habitats.
Habitat of the Fishing Cat
As discussed above, these felines utilize wetlands, marshes, swamps, and other watery habitats. Because fish and other aquatic animals make up a large portion of their diet, they must live in regions with plenty of water to catch prey in.
They also live in riparian areas near rivers, lakes, and streams. However, they prefer regions with dense forest or vegetation for them to hide in. These cats live anywhere from sea level to elevations up to 7,000 ft. or more.
Distribution of the Fishing Cat
This species lives across many different regions in southern Asia, but large distances of inhospitable habitat separate and fragment their populations.
Small pockets of Fishing Cats live throughout various regions or India, particularly along the northeast coast, as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia.
Diet of the Fishing Cat
You shouldn’t be too surprised when we tell you that Fishing Cats eat fish! They are carnivores, but because the vast majority of their diet consists of fish and aquatic animals, researchers classify them as piscivores.
Outside of fish, they also eat crayfish, crabs, and frogs. When their preferred prey is scarce, these cats will also hunt rodents, birds, snakes, rabbits, and carrion.
The this cat’s primary hunting strategy is wading through shallow water to find fish or invertebrates. They use their sensitive paws to feel for and snag prey. If their target escapes, these cats can even dive underwater and swim after their prey to catch it in their mouths!
Fishing Cat and Human Interaction
Humans and Fishing Cats don’t see eye to eye. People pose a serious danger to the survival of this species, and the IUCN lists it as Vulnerable. Populations are declining, and they’ve been declining for over a decade.
Humans destroy wetland habitats, pollute waterways, and purposefully kill the cats for competing with them for fish. As the human population continues to grow we will see more pollution, more farming, and more deforestation.
Humans have not domesticated Fishing Cats in any way.
Does the Fishing Cat Make a Good Pet
No, these cats do not make good pets. They are wild cats with sharp teeth and claws, and they are more than capable of defending themselves from threats. Domestic cats are much more appropriate companions.
Fishing Cat Care
Zoos are an important part of the conservation of this species. Cats in breeding programs ensure that we have a population should the wild cats continue declining. Individuals in zoos also give researchers the ability to study these felines up close and help protect their wild counterparts.
Fishing Cats in zoos live in large enclosures with plenty of space to exercise. More importantly, zoos give them a variety of hiding places like bushes, shrubs, tall grasses, and even artificial caves or logs. No home for these cats would be complete without its own water feature, including running water and fish to hunt!
Behavior of the Fishing Cat
This species is solitary outside of the breeding season. They live alone, and spend their nights quietly foraging in the shallow waters of their territory. Females have smaller territories than males, and the male’s territories usually border several different females. As breeding season arrives, the females use scent marking on the edges of their territory to attract a potential mate.
Reproduction of the Fishing Cat
While researchers have observed some behavior of wild Fishing Cats, we simply don’t know very much about their reproduction in the wild. Animals in zoos provide most of the information available about this species’ breeding habits.
After mating, females have a gestation period of approximately two months. Most litters contain two kittens, but up to four is not unusual.
Like many felines, the kittens are born blind and helpless. It takes about 2 weeks for their eyes to open, and about 2 months for them to start eating meat. By the time they are 6 months old their mother weans them off her milk. However, the kittens remain with their mother until they are about 10 months old.