With partially webbed feet, eyes that act as underwater binoculars and a flattened skull, this adorable little felid is perfectly adapted to its environment. Its streamlined, elongated and flat head houses small rounded ears and huge close-set eyes. Its snout is long and sloping.
It has backward facing teeth, just to stop the slippery ones from getting away, and claws which are not completely retractile. And, it can immerse its head fully in water. Narrow pads occur beneath the partially webbed feet. Together, these inherent characteristics make the flat-headed cat a very efficient ‘fishercat’. Perhaps even more so that its cousin the fishing cat.
Its coat is reddish-brown with traces of grey. The top of its head is of a deeper rust colour. Its reddish-brown tail, with its yellow underside, is short, thick and furry. Overall, it is small, about the size of a domestic cat, growing to only 20 inches in length and weighing 6 pounds at most.
Little is known of the reproductive behaviour of these seldom-encountered cats. Few have been seen in the wild and only three litters have ever been born in captivity. A kitten was once found in the wild, alongside its dead mother who had been killed, but its fate seems unknown. In fact, very little at all is documented about this enigmatic species.
Following limited observations, it is thought gestation lasts about 56 days. Thereafter, one to four kittens may be born. Lifespan in the wild is not known. Although, one flat-headed cat kept in captivity did live up to age of 14 years.
Lakes, streams and swamped lowlands. Secondary forest, riverine forests and peat-swamp forests.
Sumatra, the Malayan peninsular, Borneo and southern Thailand.
What they eat
Fish, crustaceans, birds, small rodents and frogs.
Habitat destruction and degradation, pollution leading to poisoning, human settlement, drainage for agriculture and hunting.
It is thought there may be less than 2,500 mature flat-headed cats (Prionailurus planiceps) left in existence. They are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on the IUCN Red List, as Endangered. Hunting and trading are prohibited in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Habitat protection in the lowland and wetland forests is being addressed.
“Wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will”