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FishingCat - Prionailurus viverrinus

By: C.M.Shorter

The Fishing Cat, although much smaller, has something in common with the great Tigers - they LOVE WATER!! You can see the Tiger's love for water first-hand in our Educational DVD - PowerCats Locked & Loaded. This medium sized cat is found living near marsh thickets and mangrove swamps throughout Indochina and Java. The Fishing Cat is an aquatic feeder very much at home under cover of the dense vegetation areas of the rivers and streams throughout its territory. Our Fishing Cat felines could be an Olympic Gold Medal winner in Freestyle Competition - their claim to fame is that they are the best swimmers of all cats!

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Fishing Cat
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The Fishing Cat has unique physical features well adapted for surviving in a wetland environment. They are powerful swimmers with a double layer of fur and webbed rear feet and partially webbed front feet with exceptionally long toes & claws which they use like fishing hooks to snag a meal much like the American River Otter. Fishing Cats are difficult to observe in the wild but have been seen hanging over rivers and streams hovering on tree branches or rock formations ready and waiting to take a fish as "catch of the day". They are excellent divers and even hunt with their head completely submerged.
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Fishing Cats claws resemble those of the Cheetah, as neither cat's claws have full sheaths so they are partially visible even when retracted. The elongated claws help them hold onto slippery aquatic prey like fish, frogs, toads, snails and crustaceans. Fishing Cats usually hunt by the light of day and also make small birds, mammals, snakes and domestic livestock part of their diet when available. Native to Southeast Asia ranging through Indochina, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java they blend into the wetland rainforest habitat with a coat of olive brown color and rows of parallel spots that sometimes merge to form stripes. Face markings are distinguished - two pure white longitudinal stripes extending across the forehead running to the inner corner of their eyes. Fishing Cats are stout bodied, with a broad head and a short tail ringed in black and ending in a black tip.

First described by scientists in 1833, this cat was given the species name "viverrina" because its slim line body contour with spot and striped pattern was so similar to that of the civet which occupies the same territory. Unfortunately, their wetland territory is disappearing at an alarming rate with over 50% destruction of their Asian range under threat of human encroachment and development. Both animals share the dismal fate of being considered "food items" throughout much of their range and pelts taken by poachers are found in Asian markets. They are also trapped or eliminated for taking domestic livestock which also places them in danger. Although considered somewhat common throughout their range from India to Southeast Asia, factual field studies are lacking.

The Fishing Cat was only recently added to the SSP Species Survival Plan Program in an effort to coordinate captive breeding efforts to preserve this endangered species. Protection is offered to the Fishing Cat over most of its range with the exception of Bhutan, Malaysia and Vietnam and they are protected from trade being placed on CITES Appendix II and listed by IUCN - World Conservation Union as and Lower Risk/Near Threatened.

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Scientific Name: Prionailurus viverrinus
Common Name(s): Fishing Cat
Range: Southwest Asia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java
Average Weight: 6 - 12 kg (13 - 26 lbs)
Length: 38 - 40 cm (15 - 16")
Diet: Carnivorous. Fish! Frogs, toads, crustaceans, snails, small birds, reptiles, snakes and domestic livestock.
Gestation Period: 65 - 72 Days
Cub Maturity: 6 - 8 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 4 Kittens. (2-3 Kittens average per litter)
Lifespan: 10 - 12 years. Recorded to have lived up to 12 years in captivity.
Predators: Man. Largest single threat is significant loss of habitat.
Social Structure: Solitary. Polyestrous year round. Wild males known to help rear young.
Territory Size: 34 - 51 km (20-30 miles)
Conservation Status: CITES Appendix II. IUCN listed as Lower Risk/Near Threatened. SSP Captive Breeding Program.

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