Prionailurus viverrinus

fishing cat

Prionailurus viverrinus

fishing cat

Cat angler closely associated with water, feeding mainly on aquatic prey. A medium-sized cat with a unique appearance and interesting hunting techniques. Fishing cats are the only ones among felids that can giggle like the characteristic representatives of canids – hyenas.


The fishing cat has a broad head and a contrastingly narrow muzzle. It is brown or grey with black dots, and there are black stripes on its forehead. It has small eyes and ears, and a fairly wide, pink nose. Eyes have shades of yellow and green, and round pupils.

It has muscular build, which goes along with short legs, on which claws are visible. Among them are well-developed webs, thanks to which those cats are great swimmers.
Fur is also perfectly adapted to the customs of the fishing cat. Two layers of hair ensure that cool water does not freeze the cat. The first dense layer of fur does not allow water to the skin, and only on the next layer masking colours appear.

A short tail of about one-third of the body, wrapped in black rings, and black ears with a white spot, complete the look.


Fishing cats can be found only in Asia, among others in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand or Java. They live in wetlands, near lakes and in very wet mangrove and riparian forests.
It chooses areas with a lot of water, because its favourite prey is fish and other aquatic animals. Smaller species from the Felidae family are at risk in the presence of the fishing cat, just as other small mammals. This spotted cat can also attack a dog or a calf and it is considered dangerous for a child’s life.

When there is an opportunity, the fishing cat can eat carrion or hunt a worm or a rodent. Its prosperity, however, depends entirely on the proximity of water reservoirs.
The fishing cat hunts for water creatures, in a very similar way to a human. It sits on the shore and patiently waits for a fish, but instead of a rod it uses a paw with sharp claws. Thanks to the whiskers, it senses the vibrations of the water and assesses the distance it has to reach with their paw or muzzle to catch their reward.

Unlike a fisherman, it has such a strong motivation that it is able to dive in to catch the longed-for dinner.

Fishing cats are similar to people also in that they can walk on two legs! It’s true that it’s only under water, but it’s an amazing feat. By pushing back from the ground with their rear paws, they catch fish with the front paws.

Fishing cats sometimes also consider themselves crocodiles. When they notice a waterfowl, they can swim to it underwater and attack it from below.

The fishing cat does not like to share the hunting territory, so it lives alone and hunts mainly at night. For other cats to know what invisible line they should not cross, the fishing cat brushes against tree trunks, scratches them and spray with urine, leaving traces of smell. The male covers several female homes within its area.

To minimize contacts with representatives of their own species, fishing cats have a specific mating season, lasting only two months. Between January and February they meet to expand the species numbers and after that each of them goes their separate ways.

The fishing cat’s pregnancy lasts for about two months, and another ten has to be devoted to raise the young. The parental obligation for a female therefore lasts for a full year, while the male enjoys loneliness. Kitties have closed eyes for the first two weeks, and only after a month they are able to walk alone. Two months after birth, they swim and start to eat meat.

Despite all these very distinctive features, the fishing cat population may be overstated, as people often confuse them with the popular in Asia mainland leopard cat.


The fishing cat faces many threats especially related to the environment that it likes. People manage wetlands, river banks and lakes, and the fishing cat does not like being around people.
Man is also a competitive angler. Harvesting fish on a large scale contributes to the reduction of food resources available to these wild cats.

Water is very often poisoned by factories or individual people, which massively kills animals living in and around the water.

People also often hunt fishing cats directly, poisoning them and catching them in traps. Man uses the fishing cats’ fur to create clothing and kills in retaliation for destroying fishing nets and attacking domestic and farm animals. Fishing cats’ meat is also considered a delicacy and has great value on the local market.

The fishing cat is vulnerable to extinction and its population is decreasing very fast.

Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz

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