International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Fishing Kittens

Fishing Cat c ISEC Canada

Fishing Cats Prionailurus viverrinus are one of the more unusual small cats found in Southeast Asia.

In contrast to the general rule that cats don’t like water, Fishing Cats are strongly associated with wetland areas. They are typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas.

Their claw sheaths are incomplete, which prevents the claws from being fully retracted, and there is partial webbing between the toes.  Powerful swimmers, these cats push themselves through the water with webbed hind feet. They have been observed wading and swimming in shallow water, hunting for a variety of  prey, including fish, frogs, snails and crustaceans.

There appears to have been a severe decline in the Fishing Cat population throughout much of its Asian range over the last decade. Over 45% of protected wetlands and 94% of globally significant wetlands in Southeast Asia are considered threatened.  Threats to wetlands include human settlement, draining for agriculture, pollution, wood-cutting and fishing. Clearance of coastal mangroves over the past decade has been rapid. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is likely to be a significant threat.

Fishermen have reported they’ve killed and eaten Fishing Cats which they say had taken fish from their nets, and skins have been found in illegal trade in India for many years.

In 2002, the IUCN Red Data List classed the Fishing Cat as Vulnerable. The latest listing, evaluated in 2008, lists these small wild cats as Endangered.

In captivity, there are less than 200 Fishing Cats recorded in the International Species Information System (Aug 2010).  One of the best places to see Fishing Cats in North America is the wonderful wild cat collection housed at The Cinncinnati Zoo. This video illustrates perfectly why these animals are called Fishing Cats!

Learn more about these elusive felines in the wilds of Thailand at the Fishing Cat Research & Conservation Project website.

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