International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Jump or Swim

One of the things I find most fascinating about cats is that, while all members of the family have the same basic platform, you can see adaptations and variations among the individual species. To illustrate this, let’s compare the serval and the fishing cat.

The Long Arm of the Serval (close up)Both are roughly the same size–the serval weighs between 7 and 18 Kg; the fishing cat, 5 to 16 Kg. They’re both around 60 cm long. They can easily be described as “medium sized cats,” but they clearly have different body types. They are also both nocturnal hunters.

The serval is a slender cat, with long legs and big ears. The ears allow them to hear their prey in the grasslands of Africa. The ears can rotate independent of each other.

Relative to body size, they have the longest legs of any species of cat. These legs allow them to reach down in burrows after rodents (as cat ambassador Cleo demonstrates). However, what servals most put their legs to use for is jumping. They can leap up to three-and-a-half meters in the air. Some have even pulled birds out of the sky.
Jumping Jambo!

To look at a fishing cat next to a serval, you’d see a stockier cat, with darker fur. The inner layer of their fur is dense, forming a waterproof layer.
San Diego Fishing Cat in the Bushes (cropped)
Fishing cats are not jumpers, so they do not have the long legs. Unlike the serval (and, well, most any other cat), they are swimmers. Where the serval has a fairly short tail, the fishing cat has a long one, acting as a rudder. They have webbed feet to help move through the water. Fishing cats have semi-retractable claws (like a cheetah) that are curved like fishhooks to help, well, cat fish.
Getting Ready... (croppped)
These are just a few examples of how different cats adapt to their environment. You can see many others, from the fur on the bottom of a sand cat’s foot to the mane of a lion.


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