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Flat Headed Cat - Once thought to be extinct


One of the most unique and unusual members of the cat family, the flat headFlat Headed Cat faceed cat is ideally adapted for a life of fish eating and water hunting. They are another example of a cat who's appearance seems set them apart from that expected of a member of the felidae family. Perhaps the most aquatic of all cats, the Flat Headed Cat shares many attributes with the fishing cat. Little is known about these cute cats in their natural environment owing to their rarity and elusive nature. 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.


The flat headed cat that is nearly two feet in length and weighs around six pounds. The distinguishing feature is the flattened head owing to the unusual skull morphology. The coat is usually dark brown with white streaks running along the sides of nose below the large eyes that provide binocular visions. This gives the look of a silvery-grey tinge to the coat. Two well-defined pale lines run from the eyes to the ears, and dark spots and stripes are sometimes described on the body. The under parts of this cat are white with brown spots. The inside of the limbs and underside of the tail are reddish-brown. Another interesting departure in the flat-headed cat is that its claws do not fully retract into their protective sheaths. Toes have webbing that is more enhanced than that of the fishing cat, with long thin pads. This occurs in only a few of the wild cats, notably its close neighbor, the fishing cat and Geoffrey's cat found in the Americas.


This very rare and elusive species occurs from Southern Thailand through the Malay peninsula to Sumatra and Borneo, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.


Rarely seen in the wild the flat-headed cat is a crepuscular or nocturnal hunter and is to be found searching for prey in areas of tropical rainforest bordering streams and rivers. Its main prey consists of fish, frogs, shrimp and other aquatic animals, along with birds and small rodents. They also have been known to like fruit and consume sweet potatoes by digging them up in plantations.


Almost nothing is known of their reproductive behavior. A kitten was found in the wild in January. It was still with its mother, who was killed. It is believed that the gestation period is about 56 days, with one to four kittens born.


The Flat Headed Cat was thought to have gone extinct in 1985 but fortunately was seen again in 1995. Not enough sufficient information is known about the density of population of this cat to establish its true status, but it is believed to be endangered throughout most of its range. Habitat destruction is one very significant factor influencing their population sizes, but so little is known about the demography of this small cat that only very rough estimates can be made about their status. Water pollution is also a very major 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. If reports of flat-headed cats thriving in palm oil plantations are true, then this is extremely encouraging. It indicates that they can survive with considerable habitat disturbance.

The darling cat is still classified as vulnerable and is seen A Flat Headed cat fishing in a captive situationin select locations in countries of Southeast Asia. Principal threat is habitat destruction through water pollution and clearing for human settlements. However recent discovery of Flat Headed Cats in palm oil plantations, surviving on rats, is encouraging evidence of the tenacity of this unique cat to survive in various habitats! The IUCN Red List has the flat-headed cat as Vulnerable and CITES have placed them on Appendix One, restricting all trade.