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Rare Fishing Cats Born at the Ohio Zoo
Credit: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Three fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Jul. 29, 2011. The kittens, two males and one female, are being cared for by their mother in a secluded den where they will remain until they are several weeks old. This is the first offspring for this pair of fishing cats that came to the Columbus Zoo in 2010 as part of the Species Survival Plan for these endangered animals.

Adult fishing cats are twice the size of a domestic cat and range in weight from 15-35 pounds; males weigh significantly more than females. As many as four kittens are born after a gestation period of about 63 days and the kittens weighed approximately six ounces at birth. Kittens' eyes open by the 16th day and although they will begin eating meat when they are a few months old they are not weaned until 4-6 months of age.

Fishing cats are skilled swimmers despite their short, stocky body. Webbing between their toes aids in swimming and walking in muddy wetlands without sinking. As their name suggests they eat primarily fish but will also prey upon crustaceans, mollusks, frogs and snakes. They are powerful enough to hunt small wild pigs, young deer and calves.

The nocturnal fishing cat is found in southern Asia in densely vegetated areas near marshes, mangroves, rivers and streams as well as in tropical dry forests. Water pollution, clearing of forests for settlements and agricultural use, and over-exploitation of local fish stocks are a threat to the fishing cat. The Columbus Zoo's conservation program has supported assessments of distribution, status and movements of fishing cats in their native habitat as well as workshops and school awareness programs in fishing cat range countries.