Fishing Cat

Prionailurus viverrinus

Quick Bio for Fishing Cats:

Status: Endangered
have from 1-4 kittens, usually 2
Weight: 6-12 kg
Diet: Carnivore, Piscivore

Physical description of Fishing Cats

Bigger than most other small cats, the fishing cat can be up to 75 cm long with another 30 cm for the tail. Weighing up to 12 kg, the male is quite a bit bigger than females. Females can be half the size. It is quite a solid-looking cat with relatively short legs and tail.

The fur is brown, with some darker spots which are generally aligned like stripes. The tail is ringed, and the face also has camouflage markings. Stripes from the eyes over the head and from the cheeks to the shoulders make for a very distinctive marking system.

Distribution and habitat of Fishing Cats

From Sri Lanka to Java, through India and the Malay Peninsula, the Fishing Cat has quite a large range. However, its range is rather fragmented, and fishing cats are only found in a few smaller regions of this tropical region.

As one can imagine, the fishing cat likes wetlands. While it is capable of fishing in rivers, the cat prefers marshy areas and slower-moving waters. They can be found in forests near rivers and in the reeds and tall grasses that border larger bodies of water.

In some areas, the cats have been found at up to 2000 m, living in the mountains of Sri Lanka and the foothills of the Himalayas. They also inhabit the tidal areas of large river deltas.

Fishing Cat behavior

Fishing cats get their name from their favorite method of hunting. However, fish isn’t their exclusive diet. It does appear they might eat grasses as well. However, if it isn’t fish, small mammals would be the preference.

There are two styles of fishing for these cats. One is quite simply reaching in and grabbing the fish from the edge of the water. The other is pouncing on the fish in the shallows.

What do Fishing Cats eat?

Fishing cats are omnivores. They have been observed eating pretty much anything. However, more recent studies examining the scat of multiple cats have suggested that the primary diet is fish and predominately so. Given that humans tend to avoid wetlands and prefer solid ground, it is probably easier to see a fishing cat eating something else, and therefore, early reports pointed towards a more varied diet.

Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) at the water's edge. Is it pondering its one reflection or looking for a fish to pounce on.
Licensed from Shutterstock
Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) at the water’s edge. Is it pondering its one reflection or looking for a fish to pounce on.

Mating and Parental care of Fishing Cats

Kittens are born after a gestation period of two months. There can be up to 4 kittens in a litter, but more often 1 or 2. Like most kittens, they are born blind and are active after 2-3 weeks. The young are weaned at about four months and then need another 4 to 5 months to become independent.

As with all cats before independence, they go through a period of training from their mother, to teach them to hunt and survive in the wild. It is not known whether the father contributes care or not – it appears they sometimes do so in captivity.

Impact of Fishing Cats on the human economy

Being a larger cat, there is some negative impact on the human economy from fishing cats. They have been known to fish in aquaculture areas, and despite being piscivores, they also prey on some smaller livestock like poultry.

Conservation status and human impact on Fishing Cats

Like all cats, the biggest threat is habitat destruction. While deforestation is a major and well-known problem worldwide, wetland destruction is even more destructive to a region’s biodiversity. The fishing cats’ habitat has been very much reduced over the last few years. Breaking up of habitats, land reclamation and, importantly, waterway pollution are all damaging to the wetlands the fishing cat depends on.

There is some indication that the fishing cat is poached as well as being hunted for its imagined value in medicine.

Fishing Cat in French, German, Spanish ...

Latin Name
Prionailurus viverrinus
French Names
Chat Pêcheur
German Names
Fischkatze
Spanish Names
Gato Pescador
Swahili Names
Paka-mvuvi

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