Indian Tiger » Wild Cats » Flat-Headed Cat

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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Flat-Headed Cat

Flat-Headed CatThis very rare and elusive species occurs from Southern Thailand through the Malay peninsula to Sumatra and Borneo. The Flat-Headed Cat weighs 5.5 - 8 kg, is nocturnal, which inhabits river margins and swampy areas where it hunts for small mammals, birds, amphibians and fish . Principal threats include water pollution, especially by oil, organochlorides, and heavy metal .

Zoological name: Prionailurus planiceps

Species: Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps). Rarely observed in nature or in captivity, the biology of this species is poorly known at best. Although range-country zoos have aggressively sought to acquire this species, success has been low. Captive propagation has been nonexistent, and North American zoos are not encouraged to acquire specimens.

Physical appearance: Flatheaded cats are about the size of a housecat, but are easily distinguished by their broad, flattened heads, small ears set well down on the sides of the skull, stumpy legs, and comparatively short tails. The width of the head seems to be increased by the large eyes.

The thick, soft pelage is a reddish brown, tipped with white. This gives the look of a silvery-grey tinge to the coat. Two well-defined pale lines run from the eyes to the ears, and dark spots and stripes are sometimes described on the body. The underparts of this cat are white with brown spots. The inside of the limbs and underside of the tail are reddish-brown.

Flat-Haded Cat The body is somewhat long for its size, the effect of which is enhanced by the shortness of the legs. The paws are long and narrow, and the tips of their claws remain partially visible, as they do not retract entirely. The toes are more fully webbed than those of the closely related fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrina).

Presence on the planet: Flat-headed cats have usually been observed close to water in tropical forest or scrub below 700 metres in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra, but they have also been seen in oil palm plantations in Malaysia.

Habitat: No research has been on this species in the wild, but reports of sightings indicate it prefers swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forests. It has also been seen hunting rodents in oil palm plantations.

Diet: The diet of P. planiceps appears to be primarily fish and sometimes frogs and shrimp. These cats have been known to like fruit, and prey on rodents in the Malay palm oil plantations. They sometimes also take chickens. They are reportedly occasionally destructive in gardens, where they dig up sweet potatoes and fruits. Flatheaded cats discovered on the Malay Peninsula were apparently feeding on the numerous rats on the plantations.

Reproduction & offspring: Almost nothing is known of the reproductive behavior of flatheaded cats. A kitten was found in the wild in January. It was still with its mother, who was killed. It is believed that the gestation period is about 56 days, with one to four kittens born. Adult females have four sets of nipples. (ISEC Canada, 2000; Kitchner, 1991).

Flatheaded cats may resemble othe closely related cats in some reproductive parameters. The closely related fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrina) has mating peaks in January and February. In India, fishing cat births occur from March through May. Young become independent around 10 months of age. In leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis), a female who has lost a litter may produce another within 5 months. Young leopard cats can reach sexual maturity by 8 months of age.
Flat-Haded Cat
Conservation Status: Habitat destruction is probably a very significant factor influencing their population sizes, but so little is known about the demography of this and so many of the other small cats that only very rough estimates can be made about their status. If reports of flat-headed cats thriving in palm oil plantations are true, then this is extremely encouraging. It indicates that they can survive with considerable habitat disturbance. Flat-headed cats have been caught in fish traps and CITES have placed them on Appendix One, restricting all trade. The IUCN Red List has the flat-headed cat as Vulnerable.

Life span: 14 years
The olfactory magic!

Little is known about the cats' sense of smell or taste. They apparently rely little on olfaction to locate prey, as do other carnivores, but smell seems to be important when big cats communicate with other members of its own species. It is believed that receptor sites take on odors, with each discernable odor having a unique receptor. These sites then send chemical/electrical messages to the brain for processing, by way of the olfactory nerves. The olfactory system receives odorous information through the nostrils, but cats also have a vomeronasal olfactory system in which smells travel to the brain through two tiny openings in the roof of the mouth.


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