Fishing cat

(Prionailurus viverrinus)




Facts about this animal

This is a heavily built, small to medium-sized cat with an elongated head, rather short legs and a short tail. Head-body length ranges from 70-86 cm, tail length from 25-33 cm (i.e. less than half of head-body length), height at shoulder from 38-41 cm, and the hind foot measures c. 16 cm. Body weight varies from 7.7 to 15 kg.


The head is big and broad, the face longish, with a brown nose pad. The iris is greenish, and the pupils contract into vertical slits. The ears are rather short and rounded.


The fore feet have moderately developed interdigital webs. The claw sheets are small, not enclosing completely the retracted claws.


The coat is short and coarse. Its basic colour is grizzled grey or olive, tinged with brown. Elongate dark spots arranged in longitudinal rows extend over the entire body. There are 6-8 dark lines from the forehead to the neck, and two distinct elbow bars on each forelimb. The backside of the ears is black with a conspicuous white spot. The tip of the tail is black. The underparts are whitish, marked with spots.


After a a gestation period of about 63 days, the female gives birth to a litter of usually two to three kittens.


The fishing cat’s diet includes birds, small mammals, snakes, snails, and fish.

Did you know?
That the fishing cat attracts fish by tapping the water's surface with its paw, mimicking insect movements? Then, it dives into the water to catch the fish. It can also use its partially webbed paws to scoop fish, frogs, and other prey out of the water or swim underwater to prey on ducks and other aquatic birds.


Name (Scientific) Prionailurus viverrinus
Name (English) Fishing cat
Name (French) Chat viverrin, Chat pêcheur
Name (German) Fischkatze
Name (Spanish) Gato pescador
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Mike R



Range Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia (Java, Sumatra), Lao PDR, peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam
Habitat Fishing cats are typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas and are more scarce around smaller, fast-moving watercourses.
Wild population Unknwon, but decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 183 animals reported to CITES (2008)

In the Zoo

Fishing cat


How this animal should be transported

Transport crates should be sufficiently large to meet legal requirements and sufficiently strong to prevent escape or damage to the crate and animal. Basic design should allow free flow of air through multiple sides of the container. Preferably, a double door design at least on one end of the crate should be used. The "inner" door should have bars or wire mesh to contain the animal, and the "outer" door should consist of a thin panel of expanded metal or plywood that provides safety for the handlers and isolation for the animal. The doors should travel vertically to facilitate animal transfer and contain a secure locking system. The crate should drain well, and absorbent bedding should be used to prevent the animal from being exposed to or lying in urine or excreta.


The shipment should be organised in a way to minimise stress. The animal should have access to its transport crate for 2 weeks before shipment, preferably being fed within it. If an extended trip is anticipated, water and food as may be required should be provided while the animal is in transit.


For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Why do zoos keep this animal

The fishing cat is a vulnerable species, but zoos keep it primarily for educational reasons because of its adaptation to aquatic habitats, and as an ambassador for the conservation of species and habitats in South and South-East Asia.


There are coordinated breeding programmes in Australia, Europe and North America.