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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Fishing cat

Fishing catFishing cats are another feline that contradicts the belief that cats dont like water. They are found in a number of water habitats, including marshy thickets, mangrove swamps, and densely vegetated areas along rivers and streams. Powerful swimmers, they push themselves along with their webbed hind feet. They have been seen wading and swimming in shallow water, hunting for a variety of aquatic prey, including fish, frogs and toads, snails and crustaceans. They will also take small birds and mammals, snakes and domestic stock such as calves and young goats.

Zoological name: Prionailurus viverrina

Species: The fishing cat has long been known as Felis viverrina, Wozencraft (1993) in his latest - and controversial - review of cat taxonomy, separates it, together with the Leopard Cat (bengalensis), the Flat-headed Cat (planiceps) and the rusty-spotted cat (rubiginosus) into another genus, Prionailurus.

Two subspecies of fishing cat are described:
- P. v. viverrinus India, south east Asia and Sumatra
- P. v. risophores Java and Bali

Physical appearance: The fishing cat has a long, sinuous body, almost civit-like in appearance, with relatively short legs and a somewhat flattened tail. It forepaws have unusually long phalanges (toes) and claws. Its claws extend considerably from their sheaths even when fully retracted. All four feet are webbed. Its coat is light brown with dark brown irregular spots, fading to white underneath. The backs of its ears are black with a central white spot.

Presence on the planet: Geographically fishing cats are found discontinuously distributed throughout southern Asia, from Malaysia, parts of Indonesia (Sumatra and Java), and Sri Lanka to the Himalayan foothills of Nepal.

Habitat: The fishing cat may be found in the marshes and swamps of southern and southeastern Asia. It avoids human settlements, where it hunts by day, in the water and from the ground, and seeks fish, crayfish, mollusks, rodents, reptiles and other small animals. It is the best swimmer of all cats, catching fish by pursuit and using its long claws as fishhooks.
Fishing Cat
Diet: Fishing cats frequently enter water to take fish, frogs, crabs and even molluscs. They also prey on snakes, birds and small mammals. They are said to have taken calves, goats and dogs and will scavenge the carcasses of larger animals.

Reproduction & Offspring: These cats are assumed to be polyestrous year round. They are said to have a characteristic mating call, but the call has not been described. Dens are constructed in dense shrubbery, reeds, hollow trees, in rocky crevices, or in other secluded locations. Kittens have been seen in the wild in April and June, and have been born at the Philadelphia Zoo in March and August. One to four, usually two, kittens are born after a 63 - 70 day gestation, and weigh around 170 grams at birth. Their eyes are open by 16 days, meat is taken around 53 days, and the kittens are weaned between four and six months. Adult size is attained at eight to nine months, and the young are independent between 12 - 18 months. It is thought that in the wild the adult male may help with the care and supervision of the young, but this is unverified. Captive individuals have lived to 12 years of age.

Conservation status: Wetland destruction is the primary threat facing this species, as over 50% of Asian wetlands are under threat and disappearing. Fishing cats are considered a food item in some areas of their range, and are also persecuted for taking domestic stock. Skins sometimes turn up in Asian markets, though far less frequently than other cats. They are protected over most of their range, with the exceptions of Bhutan, Malaysia and Vietnam. Although they are considered locally common around wetlands, their wild status overall is poorly known, and they have been placed on Appendix II of CITES. The IUCN Red List has the fishing cat as Near threatened.

Life span: 15 to 20 years
The wild splendor!

One remarkable feature is the layered structure of their fur, a crucial adaptation to life in the water. Next to the skin lies a layer of short hair so dense that water cannot penetrate it. Like snug-fitting thermal underwear, this coat helps keep the animal warm and dry even during chilly fishing expeditions. Sprouting up through the first coat is another layer of long guard hairs which gives the cat its pattern and glossy sheen.

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