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Flat-Headed Cat - Prionailurus planiceps

By: C.M.Shorter

The Flat Headed Cat is a very dark reddish brown and most unusual with a long narrow head and flattened forehead. So named for their flat head they are just slightly larger in body than our domestic felines measuring just up to 2 ft in length. They occupy much of the same territory as the Fishing Cat ranging also throughout Southeast Asia living deep in the forest scrub close to rivers and tidal basins. Flat Headed cats are well suited to take up residence in the Palm Oil Plantations of Malaysia thriving in the thick jungle wetland environment also preying on abundant rodents species.

Flat Headed Cat
Flat Headed Cat
Like the Fishing Cat, the Flat Headed cat has an elongated body with markings in appearance that gives them strong resemblance to the civet which is not a cat, but a member of the Viverridae family. This semi-aquatic carnivore has long narrow jaws with sharp teeth, pointing backward and inward which is an adaptation for them to catch and hold onto wet slippery prey such as fish and frogs. The Flat Headed cat paws also have some webbing between digits. This brings us to another physical characteristic they share with both the Fishing Cat and the Cheetah, and Geoffrey's Cat found in the Americas in that their claws are not fully retractable and can be seen at all times.
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Fishing cats are well adapted to a life of piscivory (fish-eating) with its well developed anterior molars and its feet are actually more webbed than those of the Fishing Cat! Flat Headed cats have paws that are long and narrow, similar to the Bornean Bay Cat and have been observed fishing along riverbanks. Ears are unusually small and rounded with large, close set eyes to provide maximum binocular vision for this nocturnal and crepuscular hunter. These cats have thick, soft fur reddish brown in color, lighter undersides with the tops of their head a darker shade of red. Facial marking are white streaks along the sides of the nose and they have a very short tail usually only 25-30% of the body length. Flat Headed cats are one of the smallest of our Wild Cats with average weight being only 3 to 5 lbs although well adapted for life in its tropical rainforest home bordering streams and rivers. Its prey consists mainly of fish and various aquatic mammals, as well as birds and small rodents. Very obscure, little is really known about the Flat Headed cats lives in the wild. Rarely observed in the wild, data to establish density of population is not sufficient but it is considered Endangered throughout most of its range and has been listed since 1975 on CITES Appendix I.

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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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