Flat-headed cat

He is a wild animal

Origin
Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand
Translation
Francis Vandersteen
The possession of this animal is not authorized Royal Decree establishing the list of mammals not kept for production purposes that may be kept (M.B. 24.08.2009)
The flat-headed cat is a species of cat found in Asian swamps (Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand).

A study carried out on the flat-headed cat showed that over 70% of sightings of this small feline took place within 3km of water. It's the best swimmer in the feline family, and it shows in its physique. The flat-headed cat has a body designed for swimming. It is small and stocky, with a short tail. Its slender paws are partially webbed for easier swimming. Its dark brown fur, lighter on the underside and turning reddish-brown on the head, lets water slide off. Its small, low-set ears keep the water out. The flat-headed cat is one of the few felines to have semi-retractable claws, which don't fully retract into their sheaths, and its teeth are particularly sharp. The flat-headed cat doesn't hesitate to plunge its entire body into the water, and seems adept at swimming beneath the surface. So much so that fishermen can sometimes catch a flathead cat in their nets, along with the fish the feline was chasing.

The flat-headed cat hunts at night or at dusk. A skilful swimmer, it feeds mainly on aquatic prey. Fish are its main prey. It doesn't hesitate to pursue them even underwater. Once caught between the flathead cat's sharp-toothed jaws, which are surprisingly powerful for such a small feline, the fish is lifted out of the water, killed and devoured. Flat-headed cats have also been observed occasionally hunting frogs, rats and small birds, and are also thought to fish for crustaceans, but the bulk of their diet remains fish. In captivity, Flatheads tend to wash their food in water before eating it, like raccoons. They are also much more interested in anything in the water than in the dry.

The flat-headed cat is one of the smallest felines. Flatheads can measure from 53 to 65 cm in length, with a short tail of 13 to 15 cm. They stand around 30 cm at the withers and weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 kg.

The flat-headed cat is known mainly from specimens that have lived in captivity. Fewer than a dozen currently live in just 3 zoos, all in Thailand or Malaysia, for a total of less than 10 individuals in captivity, insufficient to set up a breeding program.

In the wild, the flat-headed cat's nocturnal lifestyle, small size and discretion make it a little-observed and therefore little-known animal. It is no more caught in camera traps than the discreet bay cat. What has become clear in recent years, however, is that the flat-headed cat is on the decline. Of all Asia's small cats, only the bay cat is even rarer and more mysterious. Poaching is a serious threat, but not the biggest. Worse still, the forest is gradually being cleared to make way for oil palm plantations, where the flat-headed cat is unable to survive. Finally, as an aquatic animal, it has to contend with the increasing pollution of wetlands, the drying up of marshes and rivers and the increasing scarcity of the fish it feeds on, victims of pollution and over-fishing.

It is estimated that there are just 2,500 flat-headed cats left, with a population of no more than 250 adults.

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