Flat Headed Cats

The descriptively named Flat Headed cat is strange looking feline who maybe looks more suited to the Mustelidae (otters) or Viverridae (Civets) families. As mentioned on a previous post its very well suited to its aquatic lifestyle.

Photo Credit – Nick Garbutt

With a long, flat, elongated head, these cats have eyes that are very close together and farther forward on the head than usual allowing it to better judge distances. The ears are small and low down suggesting hearing isn’t as important as in other species such as the Serval. Its long, narrow jaw is filled with sharp backwards facing teeth, helping it catch and keep hold of its slippery prey such as frogs or fish.

A flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) at the Taiping Zoo.
Photo Credit – Joel Sartore

Slightly bigger than the rusty spotted cat but smaller than the fishing cat these cats are roughly 40-50 cm in length and an average male will weigh roughly 2kg making them on average slightly smaller than a domestic cat.

A flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) at the Taiping Zoo.
Photo Credit – Joel Sartore

They live in the wetlands of Asia and are scarcely distributed. Until as recently as 2013 they were considered extinct in Malaysia until it was spotted again in the Pasoh Forest Reserve. It’s thought there other habitats include Borneo and Sumatra.

Photo Credit – Senthil Palaniappun

Flat headed cats can be found scarcely distributed across Asian. Exact numbers are difficult to find due to a lack of research as is often the case with small wild cats. Being shy and reclusive animals they also often go unnoticed. In fact, they were considered to be extinct from Malaysia entirely until spotted on a camera trap in the Pasoh Forest Reserve in 2013.


Flat headed cats are one of the most threatened cat species on the planet and whilst they’re protected, with trade and hunting prohibited in Indonesia and Borneo, its habitat is getting smaller and smaller with an estimated 50% of its previous habitat now converted in croplands and plantations.

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