Everyone knows that cats like to eat fish. But not everyone knows that there is a particular species of cat, known as the Fishing Cat, which lives in marshland and reed beds in southern and Southeast Asia and which is said to dive into the water in order to catch fish and shellfish. Its claws are longer than other cats – and apparently these are designed precisely for the delicate job of scooping fish out of the water.
Just about every cat in the world has a liking for fish, as all cat food manufacturers are aware, but none more so than the intrepid Fishing Cat, which is prepared to get wet in order to catch its supper.
NAME: Felis viverrina
RANGE: Southern and Southeast Asia including from India through Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern China to Taiwan.
HABITAT: Reed beds and long grasses of riverbanks, marshes and swamps.
APPEARANCE: Medium-size cat with spotted, greyish brown coat. Short legs and large, heavy head. Average length of head and body: 75-86cm (29-34in); tail 25-33cm ( 10-13in) . Adult height: 40cm (16in). Average weight: 8-14kg (17-23 lb) .
FOOD: Fish, frogs, molluscs and crustaceans.
BREEDING: Gestation 63 clays with litters of 2-3 kittens.
- The Fishing Cat is a well camouflaged cat with tabby-style markings. Its one distinguishing feature is the eye-spots on the backs of its ears, with a white area inside a black ring.
- In spite of its alleged ferocity, the Fishing Cat is said to be easily tamed.
- The Fishing Cat is a nocturnal hunter so it is rarely seen in its natural habitat.
- When the Fishing Cat was first scientifically described in the 19th century, it was thought to look similar to a civet, hence its Latin name viverrina. But it is definitely a cat.
Fishing is built into every cat’s instinct and it is not unknown for a domestic cat to catch fish in a river or pond. Some have been known to leave their trophy in the shape of a dying goldfish on the edge of the pond when they discover it’s not quite to their taste. Others have even raided the home aquarium.
But in southern and Southeast Asia, this behaviour is rather less unexpected, thanks to the presence of the Fishing Cat. This is a wild cat, which lives in the marshland, reed beds and swamps. It is of medium build, with short legs and a large, heavy head, and it has particularly long claws which it uses for the delicate task of scooping fish out of the water. It thinks nothing of diving into the water and swimming strongly in order to catch fish and molluscs.
The Fishing Cat is a wild and powerful cat with fierce intentions, which it demonstrates by attacking anything that it is able to overpower. It eats snakes and frogs, it is not daunted by ducks or other waterfowl, and it has even been known to attack sheep, calves and feral dogs. It has the sinister reputation, too, of carrying off human babies, when there is no one standing guard nearby.