Guest writer: Scott Kayser
Hi everyone! My name is Scott Kayser and I’m a zookeeper who has had the privilege of working with fishing cats for the past 5 years. If you have visited the Urban Fishing Cat website (and I’m assuming you have if you are reading this post), you have seen photos of the two handsome cats that I work with. They are brothers and litter-mates named Tegas and Broucek. Through this blog post, I hope to give a little insight into these cats beyond the photos you’ve seen.
I have many memories of Tegas and Broucek but the one that stands out to me is the first time they were given whole salmon. We submerged two fish, each weighing several pounds, at the bottom of their largest pool. It didn’t take long for them both to spot the fish and they began circling the pool, dipping their paws into the water as they searched for the ideal spot for retrieving the salmon. Tegas was the first to jump in and grab a salmon, diving and emerging with the fish in the blink of an eye. Broucek looked on as Tegas trotted away with his large prize in his mouth, finding a place to eat away from his brother. Knowing his brother was the dominant cat, Broucek looked back at the remaining salmon in the pool, still sizing up the best spot for his ‘attack’. He circled the pool some more, testing the waters with his paws once again. Next thing, I knew Tegas was back at the pool and had dove in once more, the thrill of the dive seemingly more rewarding than salmon. He emerged with the second salmon moments later. In those few moments, Broucek had taken advantage of his brother’s absence and had found the first salmon Tegas had acquired. Tegas didn’t seem to mind. They each had a fish and both seemed quite content as they devoured the fish over the next hour.
Tegas has always been the bigger of the two. While only a few pounds bigger than his brother, he has always been the more dominant of the two. He’s never been cocky about it though, even if he moves with a bit of a strut when he gets a big treat like a knucklebone or a large fish. He exudes a quiet confidence, cautious at times but always deliberate. He can come off as a bit serious but he’s been known to have fun too, especially when it comes to fishing. The first time he was given a live tilapia, every time he captured the fish he would quickly return it to the water so he could catch it again.
Broucek, in contrast to his brother, can be quite impulsive, even getting himself in trouble a few times in the process. While he doesn’t seem to have the affinity for water that Tegas has, he’s generally quick to investigate a new toy or enrichment. He’s a very active cat and it can be a fun challenge to find new ways for him to focus his energy. I remember feeding the fishing cats from a vantage point above their habitat. Tegas calmly waited for us to drop the food to him. Broucek, on the other hand, would jump several feet of the ground to try and be the first to get his paws on some fish.
While Tegas and Broucek have very different personalities, both brothers are extremely intelligent. They can always solve the most complicated puzzle feeders that keepers can come up with. They have both participated in training sessions and learned complex behaviors. In fact, both Tegas and Broucek have participated in voluntary blood draws, a great way for us to monitor their health. I’m constantly surprised by the things they are capable of learning and doing.
I’m not even sure I had known what a fishing cat was before I started my career as a zookeeper but I’m so glad for the opportunity to learn just how incredible they are through Tegas and Broucek. Learning to tell them apart by the markings on their foreheads, hearing them vocalize (my coworkers and I affectionately call it the ‘Gremlin Noise’), watching them fish and participating in training sessions with them. Above all, I consider myself lucky to have developed a relationship with these two magnificent cats over the past few years. I’ve gained an admiration and respect for their species and if you don’t already, I hope you can too.