The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Carnivora >> Family Felidae
Fishing Cat

Prionailurus viverrinus


The fishing cat has a deep-chested body with short legs, a big, broad head, and a short tail. The ears are rather short and rounded, with black on the back and prominent white spots in the middle. The fur is coarse and brownish gray in color with distinctive elongated dark brown spots arranged in longitudinal rows extending over the entire body. The underparts are whitish and spotted. The most important water-related features of the fishing cat are partially webbed front paws and a thick undercoat that is impervious to water.

fishing cat

Fishing cats are 25-34 inches long (not including the tail) and weigh 13-27 pounds, with males being considerably larger than females.

Distribution and Habitat

Fishing cats are found in discontinuous populations in northern and peninsular India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, and Java.

Heavily forested regions adjacent to rivers or near jungles are preferred, but they can also be found in scrub areas, reed beds, and tidal creek areas. They have also been seen in dense vegetation near rivers and streams in the Indian Himalayas at elevations of up to 4,900 feet, and as high as 7,000 feet in the mountainous areas of Sri Lanka.


Fishing cats breed once yearly, usually during the months of January and February. Female fishing cats call to attract males to initiate mating. Dens are constructed in dense shrubbery, reeds, hollow trees, in rocky crevices, or in other secluded locations.

The female gives birth to 1-4 kittens (2 being the average) after a gestation period of 63 days. The kittens' eyes open at 16 days, they begin taking meat around the 53rd day, are fully weaned at 4-6 months, and are independent at 10 months. It is thought that in the wild the adult male may help with the care and supervision of the young, but this is unverified. Captive individuals have lived to 12 years of age.


As its name implies, the fishing cat's diet is comprised primarily of fish, with crabs, crayfish, and frogs also being important. The cat hunts along the edges of watercourses and grabs prey from the water, and will also dive into the water to catch prey further from the banks. In addition to "fishing" for food, fishing cats have also been observed eating snakes, rodents, young deer, and ducks, the latter often being caught by the legs from under water. Domestic chickens, goats, calves, and even dogs are also "fair game," as are leftovers from other animals' meals.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
family Felidae
genus & species Prionailurus viverrinus

Animal Diversity Web
International Society for Endangered Cats
San Diego Zoo

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Carnivora >> Family Felidae

This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.