Animal Info - Flat-headed Cat

(Other Names: Chat à Tête Plate, Flachkopfkatze, Gato Cabeciancho, Gaung bya Kyaung, Kucing Dampak, Kucing Hutan, Maew Pa Hua Baen)

Prionailurus planiceps (Felis p.)

Status: Vulnerable


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, Distribution, Threats)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Gestation Period, Birth Rate, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior)
5. References


Profile

Pictures:  Flat-headed Cat #1 (6 Kb JPEG) (Cat Act. Treas.); Flat-headed Cat #2 (6 Kb JPEG) (Small Cat Cons. All.); Flat-headed Cat #3 (38 Kb JPEG) (Animais); Flat-headed Cat #4 (45 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Spec. Gr.) 

The flat-headed cat is a small cat weighing up to about 2.2 kg (4.8 lb).  Its distinctly elongated and flattened head and its small, rounded ears make it one of the more easily recognizable small cats. Its long fur is thick and soft. The fur is reddish brown on top of the head, dark roan brown on the body, and mottled white on the underbelly. Many of the body hairs are tipped with white or gray. The muzzle and chin are white. Two prominent whitish buff streaks run on either side of the nose between the eyes. 

The flat-headed cat inhabits secondary forest/scrub and primary freshwater swamp forest within lowland coastal floodplains. Most collection records for the flat-headed cat are from swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forest. It has also been observed in disturbed primary and secondary forests and in oil palm plantations. The diet of the flat-headed cat is assumed to include fish, crustaceans, frogs and rodents. It may eat birds, especially poultry. The flat-headed cat is thought to be nocturnal and to hunt along riverbanks.

Occurring in Southeast Asia, the flat-headed cat is found in peninsular Thailand and Malaysia and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia). Water pollution, especially by oil, organochlorines and heavy metals associated with agricultural run-off and logging activities, poses a serious threat to the flat-headed cat through contamination of its prey. The clearance of waterways as human settlement expands into forested areas is also a problem. 


Tidbits

*** Cat Tidbit #9: The discovery of a cat buried with what could be its owner in a Neolithic grave on Cyprus suggests domestication of cats had begun 9500 years ago - the oldest known evidence of people keeping cats as pets. (Evidence for the same situation with dogs dates back to the Natufian culture of Israel, which dates to 12-11,000 BC.) (BBC Online 2004) (See Cat Tidbit #10.)

*** Short legs, a long head with tiny, low-set ears, and a short tail combine to give the flat-headed cat a most uncatlike appearance. In fact, in some ways it looks more like an otter or a civet. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

*** The flat-headed cat shares with the cheetah the uncommon characteristic of having so-called "non-retractile" claws. Actually, this description is not technically correct, because the claws do retract, but the covering sheaths are so reduced in size that some 2/3 of the claw is left protruding. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002

*** The flat-headed cat's toes are more completely webbed than the fishing cat’s (Nowell & Jackson 1996).

*** Its morphological adaptations suggest that the flat-headed cat's diet is composed largely of fish, and thus that its distribution is closely associated with water (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

*** The flat-headed cat is more aquatic than the fishing cat (Humphrey & Bain 1990).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

[The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature; also called the World Conservation Union) is the world’s largest conservation organization. Its members include countries, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  The IUCN determines the worldwide status of threatened animals and publishes the status in its Red List.]

  • 1986 - 1990: Indeterminate
  • 1994: Insufficiently Known
  • 1996: Vulnerable
  • 2002 - 2005: Vulnerable (Criteria: C2a(i)) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2005) 

Countries Where the Flat-headed Cat Is Currently Found:

2005: Occurs in Brunei, Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatra), Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore (introduced) and Thailand. (IUCN 2005)

Taxonomy:

Recent genetic analyses have lead to the proposal that all modern cats can be placed into eight lineages which originated between 6.2 - 10.8 million years ago. The flat-headed cat is placed in the "leopard cat lineage," which diverged from its ancestors as a separate lineage 6.2 million years ago. The leopard cat lineage also includes the pallas cat, the rusty-spotted cat, the leopard cat, and the fishing cat. (Johnson et al. 2006)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

Distribution:

The flat-headed cat is restricted to Southeast Asia and is found in peninsular Thailand and Malaysia and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia) (Meijaard et al. 2005).

Distribution Map (2 Kb JPEG) (Big Cats Online)

Threats:

Water pollution, especially caused by oil, organochlorines and heavy metals associated with agricultural run-off and logging activities, poses a serious threat to the flat-headed cat through contamination of its prey. The clearance of waterways as human settlement expands into forested areas is also a problem. (Nowell & Jackson 1996, IUCN 2005)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The head and body length of the female flat-headed cat is: 46 - 49 cm (avg 47 cm) (18.1 - 19.3" (avg 18.5")) (n = 3). For the male it is 45 - 52 cm (avg 49 cm) (17.7 - 20.5" (avg 19.3")) (n = 6). A female flat-headed cat weighs: 1.5 - 1.9 kg (avg 1.7 kg) (3.3 - 4.2 lb (avg 3.7 lb)), while a male weighs 1.5 - 2.2 kg (avg 1.9 kg) (3.3 - 4.8 lb (avg 4.2 lb)) (n = 6).  (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Habitat:

The flat-headed cat inhabits secondary forest/scrub and primary freshwater swamp forest within lowland coastal floodplains. Most collection records for the flat-headed cat are from swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forest. It may be less specialized in its habitat requirements than is presently believed, as indicated by collections in disturbed primary and secondary forests and by sightings in oil palm plantations in Malaysia, where it apparently hunts rodents. (Nowell & Jackson 1996, Bezuijen 2000, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, IUCN 2005)

The flat-headed cat is found in the Indo-Burma and Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005).  

Gestation Period:

Approximately 56 days (captivity) (Nowell & Jackson 1996).

Birth Rate:

There are only 3 litters recorded for the flat-headed cat. One consisted of 2 kittens and the others each included a single kitten. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Maximum Age:

Three flat-headed cats each lived to 14 years (captivity) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Diet:

The diet of the flat-headed cat is thought to include fish, crustaceans, frogs and rodents. It may eat birds, especially poultry. (Nowell & Jackson 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) 

Behavior:

The flat-headed cat is thought to be nocturnal and frequently to hunt along riverbanks (Nowak 1999).

Prey are carried at least 2 m (6') away from the water by the flat-headed cat before being eaten, preventing slippery prey from easily reentering the water (Muul & Lim 1970, Humphrey & Bain 1990).

Captive flat-headed cats show a great affinity for water. At one facility, when a captive kitten was given a large bowl of water, it immediately jumped in and began to play. It would submerge its head completely to depths of at least 12 cm (5") to seize pieces of fish, and it sometimes played in the water for hours. It also caught live frogs, but ignored sparrows that were put in its cage. It "washed" its food in water, and in another captive situation, adult flat-headed cats were seen to grope on the bottom of a pool with their forepaws spread wide, much like a raccoon. Furthermore, these adults were much more excited by a mouse in their bathtub than one on dry land; by standing either in the water or next to the tub, they would try to fish out the mouse with their teeth or paws. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)


References

Animais, BBC Online 2004, Bezuijen 2000, Big Cats Online, Cat Act. Treas., Cons. Intl. 2005, Humphrey & Bain 1990, IUCN 2005, IUCN Cat Spec. Gr., Johnson et al. 2006, Meijaard et al. 2005, Muul & Lim 1970, Nowak 1999, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Small Cat Cons. All., Sunquist & Sunquist 2002


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Last modified: March 19, 2006;

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