The flat-headed cat, a real wild cat


The flat-headed cat is totally unrecognized. Yet here is a wild animal which deserves our full attention, because of all the felines on the planet, it is by far the most seriously endangered. Let’s discover the main characteristics of the Flat-headed cat, very particular, living near marshy areas and who loves water very much.

Flat-headed cat: description

The Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps) belongs to the family of Felidae. It is from South-East Asia. It is physically similar to the domestic cat, with a maximum length of 69 cm which includes the tail of approximately 17 cm, and a height at the withers between 33 and 50 cm. The largest specimens do not exceed 2.5 kg but there are individuals that weigh at most 1.5 kg in adulthood.

Its name was given to it because of its flattened forehead which overhangs a long narrow head. His ears are small and he wears them straight. It has sharp teeth, short legs, an elongated body, and its claws sharp are semi-retractable, that is, they do not fully retract. Its fur is magnificent and very thick. It is white on the belly, chin, cheeks and muzzle, dark brown all over the back and tail, reddish brown at the top of the head, and may be spotted on the legs depending on the individual.

It is a feline which has the particularity of possessing partially webbed legs. It is sometimes confused with the raccoon cat also called fisherman’s cat which also has webbed legs, but they are indeed two very distinct felines. This anatomical peculiarity is in any case an asset for the flat-headed cat since it lives mainly in the swampy areas of Sumatra, Malaysia, but it is on the island of Borneo that most of the individuals of this region reside. species. This animal also lived in the southern part of Thailand, but for more than two decades no representative of the breed could be observed in this part of the world.

We know he appreciates sea ​​marshes planted with woody plants (this type of ecotone is called the mangrove). He likes the proximity of ponds, ditches where water collects, ponds, rivers, streams and lakes as well as plains planted with forests. Its living area is more or less the same as that of the Leopard Cat, which also explains the common confusion between these two felines by the natives, although clear distinctions exist between these animals.

Flat-headed cat: lifestyle and diet

Knowledge of the Flathead Cat’s lifestyle is relatively low. Despite the rare observations carried out, we know however that it is a feline with rather nocturnal habits.

It’s a carnivorous of course, which feeds on crustaceans, frogs and other amphibians, many species of fish that its liveliness, agility and morphological peculiarities allow it to fish without any difficulty. The Flathead Cat is a Well swimmer who loves water, so much so that its diet consists mainly of aquatic animals.

Flat-headed cat: why is it in great danger?

The number of adult individuals living in the wild is estimated at less than 2,500. It is very little, and this explains why theInternational Union for the Protection of Nature (UIPN) classified it on its red list as endangered. Specialists fear that in 2025 more than one in 5 Flat-headed cats will have disappeared. This decline is due to a set of threats against which nothing is really implemented, namely, according to the living areas of this animal:

  • Overfishing which results in the disappearance of part of the diet of this feline.
  • Pollution of waterways by pesticides and fertilizers with which newly cultivated areas are excessively treated, which causes contamination of water and consequently of the fish on which the Flathead Cat feeds.
  • The disappearance of the preys which constitute the food of this animal pushes it to look for something to eat more and more near inhabited areas. They are not at all appropriate for this wild animal which is then hunted by humans.
  • The destruction of the habitat of this feline since the number of constructions increases considerably, and therefore the decline of wetlands is inexorable.
  • Deforestation of primary forests.
  • The transformation of tropical forests into crops, particularly oil palm.
  • Inbreeding increases as the number of individuals decreases and the wild population is more and more fragmented. The consequence is as follows: in some areas unrelated males and females find it difficult to meet. This is not to promote the maintenance of the species. We know that consanguinity is the cause of serious health problems but also greatly promotes infertility.

It is sad to see that less than 20% of Flathead Cat habitat is protected. The other areas in which it still lives are less and less suitable for this feline. This animal being very little known, it does not benefit, unlike some other species, from very great attention. Hopefully the research project ” Clouded panther “Integrating the Flat Head Cat as well as the program of the NGO Panthera, called” Little felines », Will allow us to get to know this extremely endangered wild animal very quickly and find the necessary solutions to avoid it, in extremis, its extinction.

Photo credit: Jim Sanderson

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