Flat Headed Cat
Common Name: Flat Headed Cat
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Genus: Felinae (Prionailurus) Photo by Anthony Bannister
Misc.: In captivity, it was discovered that these cats possess a “raccoon-like” quality and will wash objects in water.
Size and Appearance: One of the most unique and unusual members of the cat family, the Flat Headed cat is ideally adapted for a life of fish-eating and water hunting. It has a long sloping snout and the top of the skull is flattened (hence the name), and it has unusually small ears. Its eyes are large and close set which allow for maximum binocular vision. Its molars are larger and sharper than other members of the felid family, and are designed to be efficient at holding on to slippery prey. Like the Fishing Cat and the Cheetah, the Flat Headed Cat does not have completely retractile claws. While they can be seen at all times, they do not rub against the ground when walking as do the Cheetah’s. Its feet are even more completely webbed than the Fishing Cat’s, and the pads are long and narrow like the Bornean Bay Cat’s. Its coat is long, soft and thick, and reddish-brown tinged with gray, and the top of the head is more reddish, and they have a particularly short tail. Adults weigh between 4-6 pounds.
Habitat: No research has been on this species in the wild, but reports of sightings indicate it prefers swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forests. It has also been seen hunting rodents in oil palm plantations.
Distribution: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Brunei.
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 56 days, females produce a litter of 1-4 kittens.
In captivity, Flat Headed Cats have lived up to 14 years.
Social System and Communication: Unknown.
Hunting and Diet: Based on the analysis of stomach contents of deceased animals, it is determined that the main diet of these cats is fish, frogs and shrimp. They are mostly nocturnal, and are frequently seen hunting along riverbanks. Captive Flat Headed cats take readily to water and show no hesitation at completely submerging their heads in search of prey or toys.
Principal Threats: Water pollution is the number one threat to these animals, as it contaminates its prey. This problem is widespread throughout the Flat Headed Cat’s range. In addition, waterways are often the first cleared to make way for human settlements.
Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Insufficiently known.
Felid TAG recommendation: Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps). Rarely observed in nature or in captivity, the biology of this species is poorly known at best. Although range-country zoos have aggressively sought to acquire this species, success has been low. Captive propagation has been nonexistent, and North American zoos are not encouraged to acquire specimens.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 2 (both males) worldwide, with 0 being in the U.S. There are 0 living on Easy Street.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.