A rare Fishing Cat kitten is being hand-reared after he was born by cesarean delivery at Oklahoma City Zoo.
The baby was born on March 31 after his mother, Miri, surpassed her expected due date. The gestation period for Fishing Cats is between 63 and 70 days. Eleven-year-old Miri was five days past her due date and showed no signs of entering labor. The zoo’s veterinary and carnivore teams chose to intervene to ensure that her pregnancy was viable. Although the first-time mother was closely monitored by her caretakers throughout the entire pregnancy, the risks associated with waiting for a natural birth became far too great for Miri and her kitten.
This was the first cesarean delivery of a Fishing Cat in the zoo’s history. The entire procedure lasted three hours and consisted of an ultrasound, radiographs, bloodwork, a physical exam and the cesarean delivery, which resulted in the birth of a male kitten. The kitten is the first offspring of Miri and 3-year-old Boon.
For approximately 1 hour after his birth, the kitten, weighing 164 grams (0.4 pounds), needed help breathing. After two days in the animal hospital, the kitten’s health was stable, and his care team decided that he could be introduced to mom Miri.
Unfortunately, when the kitten was placed with Miri, she displayed no signs of maternal care. The veterinary and carnivore teams began hand-rearing the kitten.
Because hand-rearing a Fishing Cat kitten requires around-the-clock care, the staff works in shifts to bottle-feed the kitten every four hours. To provide comfort and warmth, the care team placed two stuffed animals, scented with Miri’s urine, inside his habitat. The kitten has a healthy appetite and is meeting developmental milestones. Once he is weaned from bottle-feeding and begins consuming solid foods exclusively, the care team will move him next to Miri and Boon so he can see and hear his parents.
The zoo participates in the Fishing Cat Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a managed breeding effort that promotes the sustainability of this species. The SSP strives to ensure a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied population through breeding programs among AZA-accredited zoos. This kitten is the first Fishing Cat born at the Zoo since 1997. Fishing Cats are solitary animals and live an average of 10 to 12 years in human care.
Fishing Cats hunt for fish and other prey from the banks of streams and rivers. Native to the wetlands of India and Indonesia, Fishing Cat populations are declining due to habitat fragmentation and destruction, excessive hunting, and the exotic pet trade. Fishing Cats are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.