The Flat-Headed Cat is a small wild cat patchily distributed in the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Borneo and Sumatra. Since 2008, it has been listed as endangered by the IUCN due to destruction of wetlands in their habitat. It is suspected that the effective population size could be fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, with no sub-population having an effective population size larger than 250 adult individuals.
Like some other small cats, it was originally placed in the genus Felis, but is now considered one of the five species in Prionailurus.
Flat-headed cats are very rare in captivity, with less than 10 individuals, all kept in Malaysian and Thai zoos as recorded by ISIS.
The flat-headed cat is distinguished at once by the extreme depression of the skull, which extends along the nose to the extremity of the muzzle, the sides of which are laterally distended. The general habit of body is slender, and the extremities are delicate and lengthened. The head itself is more lengthened and cylindrical than in the domestic cat. The distance between the eyes and the ears is comparatively great. The cylindrical form and lateral contraction of the head is contrasted by an unusual length of the teeth. The canine teeth are nearly as long as in an individual of double its size.
The thick fur is reddish-brown on top of the head, dark roan brown on the body, and mottled white on the underbelly. The face is lighter in color than the body, and the muzzle and chin are white. Two prominent buff whitish streaks run on either side of the nose between the eyes. The ears are rounded. The eyes are unusually far forward and close together, compared with other cats, giving the felid improved stereoscopic vision. The teeth are adapted for gripping onto slippery prey, and the jaws are relatively powerful. These features help the flat-headed cat to catch and retain aquatic prey, to which it is at least as well adapted as the fishing cat. Legs are fairly short. Claws are retractable, but the covering sheaths are so reduced in size that about two-thirds of the claws are left protruding.
The anterior upper premolars are larger and sharper relative to other cats. The inter-digital webs on its paws help the cat gain better traction in muddy environments and water, and are even more pronounced on this cat than those on the paws of the fishing cat.
It has a head-and-body length of 41 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in) and a short tail of 13 to 15 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in). It weighs 1.5 to 2.5 kg (3.3 to 5.5 lb).
The distribution of flat-headed cats is restricted to lowland tropical rainforests in extreme southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Kalimantan and Sumatra. They primarily occur in freshwater habitats near coastal and lowland areas. More than 70% of records were collected less than 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) away from water.
Their morphological specialization suggest that their diet is mostly composed of fish, but they are reported to hunt for frogs, and are thought to catch crustaceans. They also catch rats and chicken.
Flat-headed cats are presumably solitary, and probably maintain their home ranges by scent marking. In captivity, both females and males spray urine by walking forward in a crouching position, leaving a trail on the ground. Anecdotal historical accounts report that flat-headed cats are nocturnal, but an adult captive female was crepuscular and most active between 8:00 and 11:30 and between 18:00 and 22:00 hours.