A fishing cat in a bird's nest

Credits: Allama Shibli Sadik & Muntasir Akash / De Gruyter

 

Cats don’t hate water, contrary to popular belief. In fact, there is a species of wildcat evolved to hunt in water. 

Aptly named “fishing cats,” Prionailurus viverrinus is a species of South Asian cat that has evolved to fish. Unlike other felines, they have slightly webbed forepaws and double layered water-resistant fur. This gives them an edge over others as it means they won’t freeze when they fish, giving them an opportunity to pass this trait down and allows them to stay reliant on their fishing diet, unlike other cats who primarily rely on land prey. They are medium sized cats with yellowish fur, and black tabby stripes that gradiate into mottled spots.

They catch their prey by idling on the edge of a body of water, and scooping the fish out of the water. Very rarely do they wade in and put their head underwater to fish.

But their diet does not solely consist of fish. They are also known to eat small rodents, lizards, amphibians and birds in addition to fish.

The only problem is that with the monsoon season, it is nearly impossible to fish as the land prey is gone, and their usual waters are flooded or destroyed. These cats live in areas prone to flooding and the lack of infrastructure means that the prey cannot flee (also fish cannot sustain on land).

So what does the brilliant cat do?

It climbs trees and preys upon the bird colonies. It has been seen preying upon waterbirds (ie. herons, moorhens, cormorants) high within the tree canopy, snapshotted with camera traps.

This might just be its secret to success since the local population also relies on the fish and (since people have more power than these felines) will deter (and kill) these cats. These waterbirds are not just the cats’ benefit, but the benefit of the locals as well!

Unfortunately, due to brackish waters and the urbanization of wetlands, the clever species is slowly dying out. But that’s another article.

There isn’t a lot known about these guys, but there are ongoing research projects with them.

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