Prionailurus planiceps

flat-headed cat

Prionailurus planiceps

flat-headed cat

This is a very interesting kitty because in a way it got back from the dead. In 1985, it was considered dead, but it was found in 1995. However, this is not the only interesting thing that is associated with this tiny creature.


The flat-headed cat’s name perfectly reflects a characteristic that catches the eye. Its head is also quite large compared to a small mouth and round ears. It is also known as the little Malayan red cat. A short tail and tiny ears are a symptom of the kitty’s adaptation to the aquatic environment. Thanks to tiny ears its silhouette is more streamlined, and the short tail is a small ballast during immersion.

The flat-headed cat has markings on the chest, paws and mouth, and the rest of the body is covered with a self-coloured coat. Markings have the form of black stripes and white spots, and the body is reddish-grey. This kitty has short legs and long torso as well as round, closely set eyes. Their size and location ensure stereoscopic vision that helps them find fish when submerged in water. Claws do not rub against the ground, even though they are visible. The web hidden between them makes the flat-headed cat an excellent swimmer and an aquatic hunter. The record holder swam 25 meters (82 feet) of the water reservoir, fully submerged. Partially unretracted claws are also a great help for this kitty from a Mother Nature to move around wetlands such as mud. Long and sharp fangs are turned towards the throat, which makes it very difficult for prey to escape.


After a fruitful hunt, the flat-headed cat carries its prey a few meters from the place where it caught it. This makes the most sense in the case of distancing the fish from the water, because even if it slips away, it wouldn’t be able to survive on the ground. However, fish, amphibians and reptiles are only half of the cat’s diet. The most interesting aspect about those cats is that, in addition to meat, they also eat fruit and other plants. These clever kittens can smell sweet potatoes growing underground and dig them up. They like sweet potatoes just as much as fruit.

Flat-headed cats also have a funny habit of washing food and other objects. They do not move far from water reservoirs because they lead a half-aquatic life, so they can afford the luxury of eating clean fruit for supper. They will not be attracted to a muddy mouse running on the ground, but wet, flowing to the opposite shore of the water reservoir – definitely. Flat-headed cats jump on a prey with snarling and kill them by bite to the nape. They also toss the animal between every bite.

Those cats are also unique in terms of marking the area. They create patterns on the ground, walking in a contorted position and marking the earth with urine. What’s very special of this species is that females also mark their territory in the same way.
Kitties call their mother in a way that can be compared to the vibration made by pulling a thumb along the teeth of a comb.


The flat-headed cat can be found in Sumatra, Borneo and the Malay peninsula near rainforests. However, it does not have an easy life despite its skills. The greatest threat to this cat is human greed. It has fewer and fewer areas where it can live and hunt. Malaysia is increasingly absorbing more and more terrains for palm plantations, which brings more and more profits to residents.

Another serious threat is the pollution of waters in which this cat’s victims live. Fish are being poisoned by industrialists who get rid of waste by throwing it into the water.

The flat-headed cat is endangered and its population is decreasing. Save Wild Cats Foundation intends to protect this kitty from re-extinction, which without our help, this time may be irreversible. The flat-headed cat is one of the two priorities of the foundation.

We are looking for organizations and private breeders who take care of at least one of the two priorities of the foundation: marbled cat or flat-headed cat. Please contact us if you have any information about where to find representatives of these species, so that we can acquire genetic material from them. In this way, you will help us locate cats that will become heroes of their genre.

Source of the picture:

Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz

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