The Flat-headed cat is a small wild cat. It is about the size of a domestic cat. The fur is long, thick and soft. It 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. The ears are rounded. The eyes are unusually far forward and close together, compared with other cats, giving the felid improved stereoscopic vision. These cats have fairly short legs and retractable claws. Their jaws are relatively powerful and teeth are adapted for gripping onto slippery prey.
Flat-headed cats occur in extreme southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Kalimantan and Sumatra. They are restricted to lowland tropical rainforests and primarily occur in freshwater habitats near coastal and lowland areas. These cats are found in both primary and secondary forest.
Flat-headed cats are presumably solitary, and probably maintain their home ranges by scent marking. 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. Flat-headed cats have been observed to wash objects, raccoon-style. They hunt with full submergence of the head, and the fish were usually carried at least two meters away. Captive specimens show much greater interest in potential prey in the water than on dry land. Vocalizations of a flat-headed cat kitten resembled those of a domestic cat. The vocal repertoire of adults has not been analyzed completely, but they purr and give other short-ranged vocalizations.
Flat-headed cats are very rare and elusive and information about their mating system is not available. Their gestation period lasts about 56 days. Of three litters recorded in captivity one consisted of two kittens, the other two were singletons. There is no information on parental care. Kittens are likely altricial, as with most other felids. Females probably raise the young on their own. Gestation and lactation receive significant investment, and they may provide an extended care period for the young, and teach them to hunt before their offspring become independent.
The Flat-headed cat is primarily threatened by wetland and lowland forest destruction and degradation. Causes of this destruction include human settlement, forest transformation to plantations, draining for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, wood-cutting and fishing. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is prevalent in many Asian wetland environments and is likely to be a significant threat. Expansion of oil palm plantations is currently viewed as the most urgent threat. Flat-headed cats are also threatened by trapping, snaring and poisoning. They have been captured in traps set out to protect domestic fowl.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Flat-headed cats is fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. This species’ numbers are decreasing and it is currently classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.