Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Felidae
Oriental: Fishing cats are found from India through Indochina, Indonesia, and Java.
Fishing cats are 38 to 41 cm tall and can be from 96 to 120 cm long. The larger males weigh between 10 and 12 kg, and females weigh 5 to 7 kg. They have powerful, stocky bodies and short legs, giving the fishing cat a civet-like appearance. P. viverrinus have big, broad heads, and with tails that are less than half of the head and body length, are considered to have short tails compared to other cat species. Their pelts are olive gray with rows of parallel solid black spots that often form stripes along the spine. The underside of the pelt is whitish and spotted. The face of this species is marked by dark lines running from the forehead to the neck.
I. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE
II. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
- Oriental: Fishing cats are found from India through Indochina, Indonesia, and Java.
III. FOOD HABITS
- Mass: 5 to 12 kg.
- Fishing cats are 38 to 41 cm tall and can be from 96 to 120 cm long. The larger males weigh between 10 and 12 kg, and females weigh 5 to 7 kg. They have powerful, stocky bodies and short legs, giving the fishing cat a civet-like appearance. P. viverrinus have big, broad heads, and with tails that are less than half of the head and body length, are considered to have short tails compared to other cat species. Their pelts are olive gray with rows of parallel solid black spots that often form stripes along the spine. The underside of the pelt is whitish and spotted. The face of this species is marked by dark lines running from the forehead to the neck. They possess layered fur. The shortest layer of hair is so dense that water can't penetrate; a great adaptation for life in the water. Fishing cats have short, round ears that have black backsides and prominent white spots in the middle. Unlike many felid species, the claws cannot be fully retracted because the claw sheaths are not complete. P. viverrinus was once characterized by its webbed feet, but it has been found that the webbing on fishing cat feet isn't much more developed than that of a bobcat.
- Fishing cats are appropriately named, since fish are the bulk of their diet. However, P. viverrinus takes other aquatic prey as well. They consume crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, and snakes. Mammals such as rodents, civets, young chital fawns, wild pigs, and domestic animals such as goats, dogs, calves, and poultry are also taken by fishing cats. Birds are less often eaten. There are reports of these cats submerging themselves entirely and taking waterfowl from below. They have also been observed scavenging on carcasses.
- Fishing cats are believed to be polyestrous. Peak mating activity occurs within January and February, but has also been observed in June. Reproduction is initiated when females vocalize to attract males. Kittens are usually born in March through May after a gestation period of 63 to 70 days. Litter sizes range from 1 to 4 kittens with an average of 2 offspring. Newborn P. viverrinus normally weigh around 170 grams. They gain an average of 11 grams per day, with adult size reached at 8 to 9 months. Their eyes open by the 16th day, and meat is taken around the 53rd day. They are weaned between 4 to 6 months, and are independent at approximately 10 months. Fishing cats are expected to live for about 12 years in captivity.
- Sexual Maturity: 8 to 9 years
- Iteroparous; seasonal breeding; sexual; internal
- Females initiate mating by calling to males.
- Young are born helpless and are cared for by the female in a shelter. Females care for the young until they reach approximately 10 months of age, when the offspring become independent. There are unconfirmed reports that male fishing cats may help in care of the young in this otherwise solitary species.
- Fishing cats hunt on land and in the water and are excellent swimmers. They will dive and swim after fish as well as scoop them out of the water with their paws. Other than their hunting and feeding tendencies, very little is known of fishing cat behavior. They are believed to be solitary, but there have been some unconfirmed reports of males helping with the care and supervision of the young.
VII. ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE FOR HUMANS
- Fishing cats are found in a variety of aquatic and wetland habitats including heavily vegetated spaces along streams and rivers, floodplains, oxbow lakes, marshy thickets, mangrove swamps, tidal creeks,reed beds, and deltas. They are not common around small, fast-moving water. Fishing cats have been recorded up to elevations of 1,525 m. They are widely distributed among various habitats, but populations are highly localized. Their construct dens in dense shrubs, reeds, hollow trees, rocky crevices, or in other secluded places.
- Tropical; forest; marsh, swamp, bog; riparian, brackish water
Fishing cats are sometimes killed for food in some areas of their range. They are also killed for their skins, but less frequently than other cats. Fishing cats have high educational and exhibitory value because of their unique aquatic tendencies.
Fishing cats have been known to take domestic goats, calves, dogs, and poultry. However, these are not their principal prey.
IX. OTHER COMMENTS
- Population Status:
- Global: Category 2
- Regional: Category 2
- Protection Status
- CITES Appendix II
- National Legislation: Protected over most of its range.
- Hunting regulated: Laos
- No legal protection: Bhutan, Malaysia, Vietnam
- No information: Cambodia
- The greatest threat facing this species is destruction of wetlands. A survey showed that more than half of Asian wetlands are under credible of threat and disappearing. Some of the major reasons for the destruction of the habitat of P. viverrinus include settlement, drainage for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, woodcutting and fishing. In order to preserve a sustainable wild fishing cat population, their habitat must be preserved and hunting of this animal must be regulated.
- Status: IUCN — Data Deficient, U.S. MBTA — 1, CITES — Appendix II
- Fishing cats can be found at 65 institutions worldwide. In the year 2000 there were 15 births and 18 deaths of captive fishing cats.
- In captivity, these cats have an average longevity of 12 years. Wild lifespans are unknown.
- This species has not been reported to have predators.