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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Flat-headed Cat

Family : Felidae
Species : Prionailurus planiceps

Head-body length : up to 50 cm
Tail length : up to 17 cm
Weight : up to 2.2 kg

The Flat-headed Cat is a small, secretive feline typically encountered in forested areas near streams, freshwater swamp forest or other shaded wetlands. It is strictly nocturnal and terrestrial, and appears to be restricted to flat, lowland areas.

This cat will take readily to shallow water : its diet comprises mainly fish and other aquatic fauna, such as freshwater shrimp. It will consume its catch on dry land a few metres away from the water's edge, and is known to wash its food in water prior to consumption to remove unwanted debris.

Its body size is similar to that of a domestic cat, with relatively short legs and a short tail. Its claws do not fully retract, which may be an adaptation to semi-aquatic habits. Its forehead is markedly flattened in profile, and its ears are small and held close to the side of the head.

The fur on its head is orange-brown, and it bears distinctive narrow, dark stripes behind and below the eye. Its flanks are greyish brown, grizzled and lack spots or stripes. The muzzle, chin and chest are white.

This species is considered to be rare and endangered, as wetland habitats continue to be destroyed in many parts of its range. Unlike one of its cousins, the Mainland Leopard Cat, it appears unable to survive in oil palm plantations.

On mainland Southeast Asia the Flat-headed Cat is restricted to southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. It also occurs on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. In Singapore the species is listed as extinct.

Fig 1 : Flat-headed Cat active just after nightfall along a forest stream at the edge of an area of freshwater swamp forest. (Composite image: Abu Bakar).

Fig 2 : Typical freshwater swamp forest habitat.

References : M3, M5

Fig 1

ゥ  Abu Bakar

Fig 2