Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 24, 2021

How fishing cats Prionailurus viverrinus Bennett, 1833 fish: describing a felid’s strategy to hunt aquatic prey

  • Divyajyoti Ganguly ORCID logo and Tiasa Adhya EMAIL logo
From the journal Mammalia


The fishing cat’s persistence in a ‘semi-aquatic niche’ suggests the evolution of a successful hunting strategy. We describe it for the first time by analysing 197 camera-trap video-clips, collected from a participatory-science initiative, within an ethogram framework. The cats spent ∼52% of the time sitting and waiting for prey (fishes) to come nearer and took limited attempts to hunt (3.89%) in deeper waters (in which the upper portions of the cat’s body were submerged), where its hunting success was found to be 42.86%. In shallow waters, it adopted a predominantly active mode of hunting (∼96%) to flush out prey.

Corresponding author: Tiasa Adhya, Centre for Conservation of Natural Resources, The University of Transdisciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, 74/2, Post Attur via Yelahanka, Jarakabande Kaval, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560064, India, E-mail:


The authors would like to acknowledge all participants of the ‘Know Thy Neighbours’ program – a participatory science initiative funded by Wildlife Trust of India, Wildlife Conservation Trust and Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (162513804). We would especially like to thank Subrata Maity, Anil Maity, Bappa Malik, Maidul Islam Khan, Joydeb Pradhan, Sudhin Adhikari, Indrajit Adak, Saswat Pati, Sourav Pati, Baraju Behera and his team members from Ma Pakshi Suraksha Samity and members of Mahavir Pakshi Suraksha Samity whose enthusiastic participation is especially mention worthy. We would also like to thank Iravatee Majgaonkar, Partha Dey and Dr Ajith Kumar for their vital inputs in developing the manuscript. A special thanks to Dr. Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi who asked a question, during a discussion over the preliminary findings of the study, which piqued us to re-look at our analysis and discover aspects that excited us. Finally, we thank the anonymous reviewer for comments on our manuscript to help improve the same.

  1. Author contributions: Conceptualisation: Tiasa Adhya, Divyajyoti Ganguly; methodology: Tiasa Adhya, Divyajyoti Ganguly; formal analysis and investigation: Divyajyoti Ganguly; writing – original draft preparation: Divyajyoti Ganguly, Tiasa Adhya; funding acquisition: Tiasa Adhya; resources: Tiasa Adhya; supervision: Tiasa Adhya.

  2. Research funding: Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (162513804), Wildlife Trust of India and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest regarding this article.

  4. Data accessibility statement: The data have been archived at an online repository since acceptance of the manuscript. Link for archived data:

  5. Research ethics: Not applicable.


Bahaa-el-din, L., Henschel, P., Butynski, T.M., Macdonald, D.W., Mills, D., Slotow, R., and Hunter, L. (2015). The African golden cat Caracal aurata: Africa’s least-known felid. Mamm. Rev. 45: 63–77, in Google Scholar

Banerjee, S. (2018). Interactions between wild carnivores and local residents in two districts of rural Bengal in the lower Gangetic floodplains, M.S. thesis. Pune, India, Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University).Search in Google Scholar

Bianchi, R.D.C. and Mendes, S.L. (2007). Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) predation on primates in Caratinga Biological Station, southeast Brazil. Am. J. Primatol. 69: 1173–1178, in Google Scholar PubMed

Branch, L.C. (1995). Observations of predation by pumas and Geoffroy’s cats on the plains vizcacha in semi-arid scrub of central Argentina. Mammalia 59: 152–155.Search in Google Scholar

Carbone, C., Teacher, A., and Rowcliffe, J.M. (2007). The costs of carnivory. PLoS Biol. 5: 363–368, in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Carss, D. (1995). Foraging behaviour and feeding ecology of the otter Lutra lutra: a selective review. Hystrix 7: 179–194.Search in Google Scholar

Corbett, L.K. (1979). Feeding ecology and social organization of wildcats (Felis silvestris) and domestic cats (Felis catus) in Scotland, Ph.D. thesis. Scotland, University of Aberdeen.Search in Google Scholar

Curio, E. (2012). The ethology of predation. Springer Science & Business Media, Heidelberg.Search in Google Scholar

Cutter, P. (2015). Fishing cat ecology: food habits, home ranges, habitat use and mortality in a human-dominated landscape around Khao Sam Roi Yot, Peninsular Thailand, M.S. thesis. Minnesota, University of Minnesota.Search in Google Scholar

Funny Kitten Videos. (2014). Jungle cat and the other inhabitants of the animal world 2014, Available at: in Google Scholar

Geertsema, A.A. (1984). Aspects of the ecology of the serval Leptailurus serval in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Neth. J. Zool. 35: 527–610, in Google Scholar

Haque, N.M. and Vijayan, V. (1993). Food habits of the fishing cat Felis viverrina in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 90: 498–500.Search in Google Scholar

Higginson, A.D. and Ruxton, G.D. (2015). Foraging mode switching: the importance of prey distribution and foraging currency. Anim. Behav. 105: 121–137, in Google Scholar

Hunter, L. (2019). Carnivores of the world. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.Search in Google Scholar

IUCN/SSG Cat Specialist Group. (n.d.). CATS, Available at: in Google Scholar

Kitchener, A.C., Van Valkenburgh, B., and Yamaguchi, N. (2010). Felid form and function. In: Macdonald, D. and Loveridge, A. (Eds.), Biology and conservation of wild felids. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 83–106.Search in Google Scholar

Kruuk, H. and Turner, M. (1967). Comparative notes on predation by lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog in the Serengeti area, East Africa. Mammalia 31: 1–27, in Google Scholar

Martin, P. and Bateson, P. (1993). Measuring behavior: an introductory guide. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.10.1017/CBO9781139168342Search in Google Scholar

Michalko, R. and Pekár, S. (2016). Different hunting strategies of generalist predators result in functional differences. Oecologia 181: 1187–1197, in Google Scholar PubMed

Mukherjee, S., Goyal, S.P., Johnsingh, A.J.T., and Pitman, M.L. (2004). The importance of rodents in the diet of jungle cat (Felis chaus), caracal (Caracal caracal) and golden jackal (Canis aureus) in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India. J. Zool. 262: 405–411, in Google Scholar

Nair, S. (2012). Habitat use and abundance of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) from camera-trap surveys used for monitoring tigers in the Terai region of India, M.S. thesis. New Zealand, University of Otago.Search in Google Scholar

Ogurlu, I., Gundogdu, E., and Yildirim, I.C. (2010). Population status of jungle cat (Felis chaus) in Egirdir lake, Turkey. J. Environ. Biol. 31: 179–183.Search in Google Scholar

Olbricht, G.E.A. and Sliwa, A. (1997). In situ and ex situ observations and management of Black‐footed cats Felis nigripes. Int. Zoo. Yearbk. 35: 81–89, in Google Scholar

O’Hara, K. (2012). Fish behavior and the management of freshwater fisheries. In: Pitcher, T.J. (Ed.), The behavior of teleost fishes. Springer, Netherlands, pp. 496–522.10.1007/978-1-4684-8261-4_19Search in Google Scholar

Ren, Y., Xiong, M., Yu, J., Li, W., Li, B., Liu, J., and Zhang, T. (2019). Effects of artificial submersed vegetation on consumption and growth of Mandarin fish Siniperca chuatsi (Basilewsky) foraging on live prey. J. Freshw. Ecol. 34: 433–444, in Google Scholar

Rizzuto, M., Carbone, C., and Pawar, S. (2018). Foraging constraints reverse the scaling of activity time in carnivores. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2: 247–253, in Google Scholar PubMed

Rochlitz, I. (2014). Feline welfare issues. In: Turner, D.C., Bateson, P., and Bateson, P.P.G. (Eds.), The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 131–154.10.1017/CBO9781139177177.015Search in Google Scholar

Romare, P. and Hansson, L.A. (2003). A behavioral cascade: top‐predator induced behavioral shifts in planktivorous fish and zooplankton. Limnol. Oceanogr. 48: 1956–1964, in Google Scholar

Ross, S., Barashkova, A., Kirilyuk, V., and Naidenko, S. (2019). The behavior and ecology of the manul. Cat News 13: 09–13.Search in Google Scholar

Sohel, S. and Lindström, K. (2015). Algal turbidity reduces risk assessment ability of the three‐spined stickleback. Ethology 121: 548–555, in Google Scholar

Stanton, L.A., Sullivan, M.S., and Fazio, J.M. (2015). A standardized ethogram for the felidae: a tool for behavioral researchers. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 173: 3–16, in Google Scholar

Sunquist, M. and Sunquist, F. (2013). Ecological constraints on predation by large felids. In: Gittleman, J.L. (Ed.), Carnivore behavior, ecology, and evolution. Springer Science & Business Media, Heidelberg, pp. 283–301.10.1007/978-1-4757-4716-4_11Search in Google Scholar

Sunquist, M. and Sunquist, F. (2017). Wild cats of the world. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Search in Google Scholar

Vladau, V., Bud, I., and Stefan, R. (2008). Nutritive value of fish meat comparative to some animal’s meat. Bull. Univ. Agric. Sci. Vet. Med. Cluj-Napoca - Anim. Sci. Biotechnol. 65: 301–305.Search in Google Scholar

Williams, T.M., Wolfe, L., Davis, T., Kendall, T., Richter, B., Wang, Y., Bryce, C., Elkaim, G.H., and Wilmers, C.C. (2014). Instantaneous energetics of puma kills reveal advantage of felid sneak attacks. Science 346: 81–85, in Google Scholar PubMed

Yilmaz, E., Aydin, M., Yildirium, A., and Sahin, P. (2018). The importance of consumption of fish meat in early childhood period in terms of healthy development. Act. Aqua. Tr. 14: 357–364, in Google Scholar

Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Video 1:
Video 2:
Video 3:

Received: 2020-09-04
Accepted: 2021-09-30
Published Online: 2021-12-24
Published in Print: 2022-03-28

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 29.3.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow