A True Friend of the Fishing Cat (Special Guest Post by @MrGuilt)
One of the best parts of working on CAT in WATER is engaging with the active conservation minded community that participates in conversations about the species by leaving comments on our blog, and tweeting back and forth with us on Twitter. @MrGuilt, AKA Charles Barilleaux, was one of our first @CATinWATER Twitter followers, and it quickly became clear that he was an expert source of information on all thing fishing cat. We are excited to share this guest post as it is written by a true friend of the fishing cat!
By Charles Barilleaux
One of the things I find most fascinating about the cat family is how so much diversity and adaptation is exhibited in the same basic platform. There is no species where this is more evident than in the fishing cat. I find these adaptations most interesting about them.
The fishing cat is built to go in the water. While jaguars and tigers will go into water, only the fishing cat will do so to hunt. Its coat allows it to dry quickly, and its tail is flat to act as a rudder in water. Fishing cats have learned how to attract fish by tapping the water, and its claws are curved like hooks to grab prey out. Their vocalization is quite unique, sounding almost dog-like. These adaptations make the fishing cat unique among felines.
Yet they still posses a lot of what I love about cats in general. As I mentioned, they maintain the general cat shape, with coat of stripes and spots. They bathe and sleep and, on occasion, even play. A fishing cat will look at you with the big, soulful eyes of a nocturnal hunter. While the stripe-to-spot pattern is a unique camouflage, there are signs of tabby patterns in the mix. For all their exotic and unusual behavior, you can still relate to them.
It is this balance between the common and the exotic that make me think fishing cats merit a stop at the zoo. The story of evolution is one of adaptations. Being able to compare cats in general, as a baseline animal, to one as specialized as the fishing cat is a way to witness and understand these processes.
When I look at fishing cats, I see an animal that possesses and has a determination about it. It knows it has to operate both on land and in the water, and that brings a certain toughness about it that other cats lack. You can feel their desire to take on the challenges they face as they look at you. This is unique species, and one I think the world would be worse for its absence.
People ask me what my favorite zoo animal is, and I’m surprised how often my answer is met with confusion: fishing cat? As soon as they hear about these wonderful cats and see a picture, they are converted. In any conservation effort, knowing about a species is the first step towards working to protect them. I am glad that I am able to spread the word, as well as those projects like Cat in Water are helping to do so.