How this small wild cat catches fish for dinner

April 6, 2015, 1 p.m.

The fishing cat is found in southwest India and southeast Asia, but only in densely vegetated areas near water, such as mangroves, marshes and rivers. While they catch birds, snakes and small mammals as part of their diet, they are best known for their ability to fish. How it lures fish is rather clever. Smithsonian National Zoo writes, "The cat attracts fish by lightly tapping the water's surface with its paw, mimicking insect movements. Then, it dives into the water to catch the fish. It can also use its partially webbed paws to scoop fish, frogs, and other prey out of the water or swim underwater to prey on ducks and other aquatic birds."

Not only is its body shape ideal for life in the water, but so too is its coat. International Society for Endangered Cats writes, "One remarkable feature is the layered structure of their fur, a crucial adaptation to life in the water. Next to the skin lies a layer of short hair so dense that water cannot penetrate it. Like snug-fitting thermal underwear, this coat helps keep the animal warm and dry even during chilly fishing expeditions. Sprouting up through the first coat is another layer of long guard hairs which gives the cat its pattern and glossy sheen."

This cat species is now endangered and its population has dropped significantly as its habitat is converted for agricultural use and development. Even in protected areas, their numbers continue to decline, since the species does not have protections outside of these areas. If they move outside of the boundaries, they are in danger of being hunted. Even within protected areas there is widespread poaching with noose snares. Also, because they rely on riparian habitat, they are sensitive to the pollution of rivers and streams. There are only around 2,500 cats left in the wild, and without significant conservation efforts, it is estimated that they will disappear from the wild within 15 years. Visit Fishing Cat Conservancy for information on how you can help.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.