Fishing cat Felis viverrinus
The fishing cat was given its Latin name on account of its rather viverrine or civet-like appearance. This cat occurs in Sri Lanka, across the costal areas of South and Southeast Asia up to Malacca and Sumatra; the smallest representatives of this species are found in Java and Bali. Fishing cats are strongly associated with wetlands at the altitudes of 1,500 meters; they typically live in mangrove swamps located near rivers and streams. The fishing cat has a stocky powerful body with a length of 95-120 cm, and large round head with strong jaws. Its neck is short too, the ears are rounded, small, and low-set; the tail is unusually short for a felid and very thick at the base. Females weigh six to seven kilograms and are markedly smaller than males (male’s weight may reach 11-15 kg). The fishing cat’s fur is short and coarse, and its coloration (from olive-brown to olive-grey) makes the animal blend into dense vegetation. Amazingly, this cat has webbing beneath the toes of its front paws which does not allow its large sharp claws to be completely sheathed, but is useful when the cat is fishing. The fishing cat can climb trees but it does so very rarely. More often it could be seen walking in shallow waters. The fishing cat is a brilliant swimmer that uses its short tail for steering. Fishing cats are solitary, and each individual establishes its home range. The fishing cat is obviously appropriately named because fish has been found to be its preferred food. The fishing cat is usually catching fish in the daytime, and may hunt on other prey at night or twilight. While fishing, the cat sits on the shore of the river or stream and waits for the fish to pass by, and then sharply knocks the swimming fish down or seizes it with its paw equipped with dangerous claws. The fishing cat can prey on frogs, snakes, crustaceans, small mammals and birds, and sometimes takes poultry, domestic dogs, goats and calves.
Fishing cats may mate at any time of the year. Female builds a den in a concealed place in a dense thicket of reeds or bushes, natural caves or hollow trees where she gives birth to 2 or 3 blind kittens. They open their eyes at the age of about 15 days; mother nurses them till the age of three months, and then begins bringing them meat. The kittens reach full adult size at around nine months. In captivity fishing cat males help females with raising their offspring, but it not known if they do the same in wild.
Fishing cats caught at early age are tamed easily and may take to people. However, local people persecute these cats because they prey on their poultry and compete with humans for fish. Besides, meat and skins of the fishing cats are widely used in the traditional eastern medicine. The fishing cat is a rare animal included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.