Fishing Cat

(Prionailurus viverrinus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in wetlands, dense forests, and tidal creek areas throughout south and Southeast Asia.

Size: 15-26 pounds; 2-3 feet long. Males are larger than females.

Wild Diet: Fish, crustaceans, snails, and frogs. If far from water, they may feed on snakes, birds, calves, goats, wild pigs, poultry, and dogs.

Predators: Possibly tigers and leopards, though this has not been documented.

Lifespan: 10-12 years

Reproduction: Asian fishing cats are sexually mature at about a year old and generally mate from January-February. They are polygamous. Females initiate mating by vocalizing to attract a male. Kittens are born between March and May, in litters of up to 4. Kittens weigh about 6 ounces at birth, open their eyes within 2 weeks, start eating meat within 2 months, and follow their mothers for up to 10 months.

Behavior: Fishing cats are solitary in the wild and thought to be nocturnal. To catch fish, they tap the water’s surface with a paw, wait for a fish to investigate, and then scoop the fish from the water with their paws. They may also dive into the water, sometimes from a tree, to grab fish with their mouths.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Endangered

Fishing cats are protected throughout much of their range, but not in Bhutan, Vietnam or Malaysia. Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to their survival, as wetlands are threatened by settlement, pollution, wood cutting, over-hunting and agricultural development.

Did you know?

  • Their partially webbed front paws help them wade and swim in shallow waters.
  • In zoos, fishing cats have been observed carrying dry meat to the water to play with it before eating it.