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Species Of The Week

September 19, 2011

Fishing Cat

The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. In 2008, the IUCN classified the fishing cat as endangered since they are concentrated primarily in wetland habitats, which are increasingly being settled, degraded and converted. Over the last decade, the fishing cat population throughout much of its Asian range declined severely.

Distribution and habitat

The range of fishing cats extends from eastern Pakistan through the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills in India and Nepal, into Bangladesh, and in Sri Lanka. There are no confirmed records from Peninsular Malaysia, and Vietnam

Ecology and behavior

Fishing cats are solitary and primarily nocturnal.Fishing Cats are strongly associated with wetland. Like other small cats, they defend their territory from neighbours, using urine-spraying and cheek-rubbing to leave scent marks that define their home range. Like many other felids, Fishing Cats also scratch trees, which serves not only to mark territory, but also maintain the claws. Females have been reported to range over areas of 4 to 6 km2 (1.5 to 2.3 sq mi), while males range over 16 to 22 km2 (6.2 to 8.5 sq mi). Adults have been observed to make a “chuckling” sound and likely have other calls similar to those of domestic cats.

As the name implies, fish is their main prey. They hunt along the edges of watercourses, grabbing prey from the water, and sometimes diving in to catch prey further from the banks. They also hunt other aquatic animals such as frogs, waterfowl, and crayfish, as well as terrestrial animals such as rodents, birds, snakes, and even chital fawns.


Fishing cat are endangered due to their dependence on wetlands, which are increasingly being settled and converted for agricultural use, and also due to human over-exploitation of local fish stocks. It is believed to be extirpated in Pakistan, it may already be gone from Malaysia and China, and it has become rare throughout its remaining distribution range.


Prionailurus viverrinus is included on CITES Appendix II, and protected by national legislation over most of its range. Hunting is prohibited in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand. Hunting regulations apply in Lao PDR. In Bhutan and Vietnam, the species is not protected outside protected areas

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