Animal Info - Fishing Cat

(Other Names: Bagh Dasha, Blacan, Bun Biral, Chat PÍcheur, Chat Viverrin, Fischkatze, Fiskarkatt, Gato Pescador, Gogor, Handun Diviya, Khupya Bagh, Koddi Pulli, Kola Diviya, Kucing Akar, Kucing Bakau, Kucing Leuweung, Kyaung ta Nga, Macan Batu, Mach Bagral, Mach Billi, Maew Pla, Mecho Bagh, Mecho Biral, Meong Congkok, Sua Hay)

Prionailurus viverrinus

Status: Vulnerable


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Fishing Cat #1 (6 Kb JPEG) (Tiger Terr.); Fishing Cat #2 (15 Kb JPEG) (AZA Felid TAG); Fishing Cat #3 (17 Kb JPEG) (Fauves du Monde); Fishing Cat #4 (swimming) (29 Kb JPEG) (Arkive)Fishing Cat #5 (with fish) (72 Kb JPEG) (Arkive), Fishing Cat #6 (two kittens) (72 Kb JPEG) (Arkive) 

The fishing cat is about twice the size of a large house cat, with a head and body length of about 70 cm (28"). Males weigh as much as 16 kg (35 lb). Its short, coarse fur is mouse gray or olive brown and covered with small black spots. The underside of the body is white, and there are two dark "collars" on the throat.  On its face, back, and neck the spots merge into short streaks or lines. The short tail is marked with 5 or 6 black rings and a black tip. 

The fishing cat is strongly associated with wetlands. It is typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas. It has been recorded at elevations up to 1800 m (5900') in the Indian Himalayas. 

Fish are the most frequent prey of the fishing cat. Other prey include crabs, frogs, rats, civets, fawns, calves, snakes, lizards and birds. The fishing cat is a nocturnal hunter. It is very much at home in the water. It is a strong swimmer, even in deep water, and it can swim long distances. The fishing cat appears to be a solitary hunter, but otherwise there is little information on its social organization or mating behavior in the wild. 

The fishing cat has a limited and discontinuous distribution in Asia. It is very rare in the Indus Valley of Pakistan, and there may be scattered populations in coastal areas of Kerala in southwest India and Sri Lanka. Its main distribution is in the Himalayan foothill region of India and Nepal, and then south through Bangladesh, Myanmar, and northern Thailand to Vietnam. It is also found in Sumatra and Java, Indonesia.

Wetland destruction is the primary threat faced by the fishing cat. Causes of this destruction include human settlement, draining for agriculture, construction of aquaculture facilities, and wood-cutting. In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the recent past has been rapid in tropical Asia. High use of pesticides in rice fields and fishponds results in adverse impacts, since the harmful chemical residues can enter aquatic food chains and affect top predators such as the fishing cat. Destructive fishing practices have also greatly reduced the fishing cat's main prey base. Finally, the fishing cat is hunted because it is considered edible and its skin is still valued by the fur trade. 


Tidbits

*** Cat Tidbit #11: The backs of the fishing cat's ears are black with small white central spots. White spots or bars are found on the back of the ears in many other cat species. Their function is unknown, although one suggestion is that the ear spots, along with the white on the underside of the tail tip of some species, serve as "follow me" signals to the kittens, which may be especially important in low-light conditions. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) (See Cat Tidbit #12.)

*** The fishing cat, with its stocky, powerful build and short legs, was given the second part of its scientific name, "viverrinus," on account of its rather "viverrine" or civet-like appearance (Nowell & Jackson 1996).

*** Although webbed feet have often been noted as a characteristic of the fishing cat, the webbing beneath its toes is not much more developed than that of a bobcat (Nowell & Jackson 1996).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

[The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature; also called the World Conservation Union) is the world’s largest conservation organization. Its members include countries, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  The IUCN determines the worldwide status of threatened animals and publishes the status in its Red List.]

  • 1994: Insufficiently Known
  • 1996: Lower Risk/near threatened
  • 2002 - 2005: Vulnerable (Criteria: C2a(i)) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2005) 

Countries Where the Fishing Cat Is Currently Found:

2005: Occurs in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia (Java, Sumatra), Laos, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia), Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam (IUCN 2005).

Taxonomy:

Recent genetic analyses have lead to the proposal that all modern cats can be placed into eight lineages which originated between 6.2 - 10.8 million years ago. The fishing cat is placed in the "leopard cat lineage," which diverged from its ancestors as a separate lineage 6.2 million years ago. The leopard cat lineage also includes the pallas cat, the flat-headed cat, the leopard cat, and the rusty-spotted cat. (Johnson et al. 2006)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The fishing cat has a limited and discontinuous distribution in Asia. One major portion of its distribution is found in the Himalayan foothill region of India and Nepal. Also in India, the fishing cat is found in the valleys of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, along the upper part of the east coast and possibly in coastal areas of Kerala in southwest India, although it may have disappeared from this region. Recently a fishing cat was found dead 40 km (25 mi) southeast from Nagpur, in central India, an area outside its known range. There also may or may not be scattered populations in Sri Lanka. In Pakistan it is considered very rare and fast disappearing. It is mainly found along the lower reaches of the Indus River, although a few stragglers penetrate the northeast of the country along the Ravi and Sutlej Rivers. (Nowell & Jackson 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Wildl. Prot. Soc. India 2005)

From the Indian subcontinent, the second major portion of the fishing cat's distribution ranges through Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand, to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. There are two records of fishing cats from Peninsular Malaysia, but the origin of these specimens is not clear. If it does occur in Peninsular Malaysia, it does so at an extremely low density. There is no record of the fishing cat from China, but it might be found in Guangxi Province or Yunnan Province near the border with Vietnam. The fishing cat is also found in Sumatra and Java, Indonesia. In Java, the fishing cat appears to be restricted to small numbers in isolated coastal wetlands: there were no records during recent surveys further inland than 15 km (9 mi) and it must be considered extremely rare. (Humphrey & Bain 1990Nowell & Jackson 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Kawanishi & Sunquist 2003)

Distribution Map #1 (46 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Spec. Gr.) 
Distribution Map #2 (83 Kb GIF) (AZA Felid TAG) 

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Wetland destruction is the primary threat faced by the fishing cat. Causes of this destruction include human settlement, draining for agriculture, construction of aquaculture facilities, and wood-cutting In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the recent past has been rapid in tropical Asia. High use of pesticides in rice fields and fishponds results in adverse impacts, since the harmful chemical residues can enter aquatic food chains and affect top predators such as the fishing cat. Destructive fishing practices have also greatly reduced the fishing cat's main prey base. Finally, the fishing cat is hunted because it is considered edible and its skin is still valued by the fur trade. (Melisch et al. 1996, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Bambaradeniya & Amarasinghe 2001, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Arkive 2006)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The head and body length of the fishing cat is: Female: 65 - 74 cm (avg 67 cm) (25.6 - 29" (avg 26.4")) (n = 5); Male: 66 - 78 cm (avg 72 cm) (26 - 31" (avg 28")) (n = 7). The fishing cat weighs: Female: 5 - 7 kg (avg 6 kg) (11 - 15lb (avg 13 lb)) (n = 2); Male: 14 - 16 kg (avg 15 kg) (31 - 35 lb (avg 33 lb)) (n = 2). (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Habitat:

The fishing cat is strongly associated with wetlands. It is typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas. It has been recorded at elevations up to 1800 m (5900') in the Indian Himalayas, where it frequents dense vegetation near rivers and streams. Some studies show that the fishing cat's distribution seems highly correlated with vegetation cover and that most sightings of this cat are of animals sitting next to moving water. However, results of the only radio-tracking study up to 2003, in the terai grasslands of southern Nepal, indicated that the fishing cat spent most of its time in dense tall and short grasslands, sometimes well away from water. (Humphrey & Bain 1990, Melisch et al. 1996, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Choudhury 2003)

The fishing cat is found in the Himalaya, Indo-Burma, Sundaland and Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005).  

Age to Maturity:

Adult size is attained in 8 - 9 months (Humphrey & Bain 1990). One female became sexually mature at fifteen months (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Gestation Period:

Approximately 63 - 70 days (captivity) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Birth Season:

Most observations of kittens in the wild date from March - April, suggesting that mating takes place in January - February, although births can occur at other times of the year (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Birth Rate:

One to four fishing cat kittens are born in a litter (Macdonald 2001). In captivity, the average litter size of 13 litters was 2.6 (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Early Development:

Captive fishing cat kittens were first observed eating solid food at 53 days of age, but they continued to suckle until they were weaned at about 6 months (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Dispersal:

Young fishing cats become independent at the age of 10 months (Nowak 1999).

Maximum Age:

The fishing cat lives an average of 12 years, but it has been known to live more than 15 years in captivity (Arkive 2006).

Diet:

Fish are the most frequent prey of the fishing cat. Other water-associated prey include crabs, molluscs, and frogs. The fishing cat also feeds on mammals (e.g. rats, civets, fawns, wild pigs, goats, calves and dogs), reptiles (e.g. snakes, lizards and skinks), and birds. (Melisch et al. 1996, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Bambaradeniya & Amarasinghe 2001, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Behavior:

The fishing cat is a nocturnal hunter. It is very much at home in the water. It is a strong swimmer, even in deep water, and it can swim long distances. The fishing cat has been observed to dive into water after fish, as well as to crouch on a rock or sandbank near the water and swat the fish out onto dry land with its paw. It has even been seen to catch waterfowl by swimming up to them while fully submerged and seizing their legs from underneath. (Humphrey & Bain 1990, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Nowak 1999, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Social Organization:

The fishing cat appears to be a solitary hunter, but otherwise there is little information on its social organization or mating behavior in the wild. Limited radio-tracking data suggest that the fishing cat follows the usual feline pattern in which a male’s home range overlaps the smaller home ranges of several females. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) In captivity, males have been observed aiding in the rearing of young (Arkive 2006).

Range:

In Chitwan National Park, Nepal, radio-tracked females used areas of 4 - 6 sq km (1.5 - 2.3 sq mi), while a male’s home range was about 16 - 22 sq km (6 - 8.5 sq mi) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).


References

Arkive 2006, AZA Felid TAG, Bambaradeniya & Amarasinghe 2001, Choudhury 2003, Cons. Intl. 2005, Fauves du Monde, Humphrey & Bain 1990, IUCN 2005, IUCN Cat Spec. Gr., Johnson et al. 2006, Kawanishi & Sunquist 2003, Macdonald 2001, Melisch et al. 1996, Nowak 1999, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Tiger Terr., Wildl. Prot. Soc. India 2005 


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Last modified: September 2, 2006;

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