Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus

Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus

Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus


Extant (resident)

Bangladesh; Cambodia; India; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Thailand

Presence Uncertain

Indonesia, Vietnam

Although they look cute and cuddly, the Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus has a feisty, firecracker temper. This small to medium sized wild cat can become defensive if approached in the wild. They are around twice the size of a domestic cat and typically weigh around 5-16 kg and have stocky short legs and a short tail.

Their faces are round with elongated noses that gives them a civet-like appearance, which is why their scientific name is viverrine. They are agile and fast hunters and can reach fast speeds in pursuit of prey. They have an average lifespan of approximately 12 years. They are threatened by palm oil deforestation, and in Indonesia it is uncertain if their population have remained intact due to deforestation and hunting pressures.

Fishing Cats face a high risk of extinction throughout their range and are thought to be amongst the most vulnerable of the small and medium-sized cats in Southeast Asia.

IUCN Red List

The feisty #Fishing #Cat has the highest risk of #extinction of all small #wildcats in SE Asia. They are #vulnerable from #palmoil #deforestation, #hunting and more. Help them and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife #RT2022

The #Fishing #Cat is #vulnerable in SE Asia. They are edging closer to #extinction from #palmoil #deforestation and #hunting. Fight for their survival, every time you shop #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife #RT2022


Fishing cats are carnivores and have a diet mainly of fish, reptiles, birds and other swamp, riparian or peatland dwelling animals. They are opportunistic and will hunt for whatever is available. When they swim they use their short tail like a rudder to control their direction. Their flexible ears with 32 muscles in them can swivel almost 180 derees meaning that they can hear in several directions at once.

One hunting technique they commonly employ is to pat the water with their paws, in order to make tiny waves. This attracts insects, which land on the water. Fish are then attracted to insects and come to the surface where Fishing Cats either catch them with their paws or dive into the water to chase after them.


Fishing cats communicate with guttural hisses, moans and growls and low-toned meowing. During courtship, they make a sound known as ‘chittering’.

Males (who are considerably larger than females and have a larger roaming range) will typically mate with multiple female partners during the breeding season (January to February).

Fishing cat pregnancies typically lasts around 60 to 70 days and anywhere between one to four kittens are typically born. Similar to domestic cats, the kittens are weaned between 4 to 6 weeks old and become independent at 10 weeks old.


Historically, fishing cats live in a variety of wetland, swampland and peatland environments in SE and Central Asia. Although they face extremely intensive anthropogenic threats including hunting, habitat loss for human settlements and monocrops such as palm oil.

Sparse and declining populations live in Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka and parts of Pakistan, in western India to southern China, Java, and Sumatra. They live primarily in wetland areas, swamps, and marshy areas around oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks, and mangrove forests.

They are highly adaptable and can be found in agricultural areas and cities close to human settlement.


The Fishing Cat faces a high risk of extinction throughout their range and they are thought to be amongst the most vulnerable of the small and medium-sized cats in Southeast Asia, reflecting the very low overlap of occupied habitat with protected areas and other conservation interventions, rather than any particular inherent higher susceptibility than shown by the other small cats (e.g. Duckworth et al. 2014). The major threat across their South Asian range appears to be habitat loss and fragmentation by developmental activities such as urbanisation, industrialisation, agriculture and aquaculture (prawn and shrimp farms), whereas in Southeast Asia persecution is the major threat (Melisch et al. 1996, Cutter and Cutter 2009, Tantipisanuh et al. 2014, Willcox et al. 2014). Outside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand, Cutter (2015) reported 84% mortality of radio-collared Fishing Cats during the study period. 

IUCN Red List

50% of wetlands throughout Asia are threatened and disappearing due to human settlement, pollution, drainage for agriculture, wood cutting, and excessive hunting.

Fishing cats face major human-related threats which include destruction of their wetland and swamp habitat for palm oil and timber agriculture along with ongoing persecution and illegal hunting for meat and body parts.

As they compete for fish in river ecosystems, they are often persecuted by fishermen. Destructive and exploitative fishing practices and pollution run-off into swamps and mangroves are additional threats.


Fishing cats are solitary and nocturnal hunters who rest during the day in dense jungle. Then they venture out at dusk and evening for water and food. They are fond of water and are agile capable swimmers. They are able to swim long distances in pursuit of fish.

Their olive-grey coat and black spotted backs allows them to remain inconspicuous while hunting in waterways, mangroves and swamps throughout SE and Central Asia. Females are considerably smaller than males.

Their claws don’t fully retract, this is a marked morphological difference to other species of cats. Retracting claws stops them from going blunt.

Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus - Asia

Protecting the Fishing Cat would also protect many other plant and animal species throughout Asia

You can support this beautiful animal

Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance

Further Information

IUCN Rating vulnerable

Mukherjee, S., Appel, A., Duckworth, J.W., Sanderson, J., Dahal, S., Willcox, D.H.A., Herranz Muñoz, V., Malla, G., Ratnayaka, A., Kantimahanti, M., Thudugala, A., Thaung, R. & Rahman, H. 2016. Prionailurus viverrinusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T18150A50662615. Accessed on 06 September 2022.

How can I help the #Boycott4Wildlife?

Contribute in five ways

1. Join the #Boycott4Wildlife on social media and subscribe to stay in the loop: Share posts from this website to your own network on Twitter, Mastadon, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube using the hashtags #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife.

Join 11,928 other followers

2. Contribute stories: Academics, conservationists, scientists, indigenous rights advocates and animal rights advocates working to expose the corruption of the palm oil industry or to save animals can contribute stories to the website.

3. Supermarket sleuthing: Next time you’re in the supermarket, take photos of products containing palm oil. Share these to social media along with the hashtags to call out the greenwashing and ecocide of the brands who use palm oil. You can also take photos of palm oil free products and congratulate brands when they go palm oil free.

4. Take to the streets: Get in touch with Palm Oil Detectives to find out more.

5. Donate: Make a one-off or monthly donation to Palm Oil Detectives as a way of saying thank you and to help pay for ongoing running costs of the website and social media campaigns. Donate here

Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: