“If you ask researchers who study the behaviour of fishing cats in the wild, they will tell you that it never backs off”Murphy Kantimahanti / BBC
What is the fishing cat, and where does it live?
Not all cats hate water. At twice the size of the domestic kitty and very wild, there is a cat that loves swimming underwater and lives off a diet of freshly-caught fish.
Prionailurus viverrinus, AKA the fishing cat, hails from parts of India, Bangladesh, and South-East Asia. Its webbed paws help it to swim in the water and walk on wetlands, where it usually resides.
To aid this cat’s main aim of grabbing fish, it has several other distinguishing features, including long and dark spots on its mane. It has a green tint in its eyes and short legs. Its two layers of fur enable the fishing fat to keep warm and dry while swimming in or underwater.
I’ve never seen one – tell me more!
As well a large amount fish, these cats feed on snakes, birds, molluscs, and reptiles. As they are mainly nocturnal, it would be difficult to see one, even if you were able to trudge through muddy marshes where they live.
In recent years, there has been a decline in fishing cat numbers, due to the decline in wetland areas. This has spurred several conservation programmes. In one Cambodian project, researchers installed camera traps to more fully observe the needs of local fishing cats. The results in 2015 provided the first official records of their activity in the country since 2003. This feline variety has also been placed on the IUCN red list for Endangered species.
I’m in Europe – are there any at all?
If you are in the UK or other parts of Europe, the only fishing cats you are likely to see are in zoos. If you are in the UK, here is where you can see one:
Newquay Zoo is home to fishing cats Ben and Freya. Previously, one named Otto transferred to Estonia to form part of a breeding pair. Freya was only a kitten when she arrived in 2021 – from Prague Zoo. Meanwhile, in the next country along. Frodo is a resident of Exmoor Zoo in Devon. There is also one at Crocodiles of the World in Briars Norton, Oxfordshire, and at several other centres. In Europe, The Czech Republic, Germany, and France have the most amount of holdings of fishing cats.
A force to be reckoned with
While it can be elusive, the fishing cat is nevertheless a pretty tough cookie. Indeed, there is one additional distinctive trait of this creature. A biologist in India has noticed that it is quite aggressive. While studying wild dogs, Murphy Kantimahanti laid a trap of beef. Instead of a feral dog, a fishing cat grabbed it. Kantimahanti recognised it by its webbed feet.
He later told the BBC, “If you ask researchers who study the behaviour of fishing cats in the wild, they will tell you that it never backs off”.
It looks then as if this very particular kind of cat won’t be amenable to becoming a domestic pet at any time soon!
While the majority of them don’t seem to share the fishing cats love, there are one or two types that do. Not all cats hate water!
*Mymeow is sister company to Wufwuf.co.uk
While most cats avoid water, they love fish. If you are looking to give your cat something great each month, take a look at Mymeow* monthly themed boxes. This month’s theme – fishing.