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What is a Cat Shark?

A cat shark is a small to medium-sized species of shark, known for its distinctive, elongated cat-like eyes. These fascinating creatures inhabit the depths of the ocean, often displaying vibrant patterns on their skin. They're a testament to the ocean's mysteries, each species unique in behavior and habitat. Wonder what secrets they hold? Join us as we unveil the life of cat sharks.
R. Britton
R. Britton

A cat shark is a member of the large family group Scyliorhinidae, of which there are around 152 species. Cat sharks are small sharks, only reaching up to 3 feet (1 m) from snout to tail. Native to many of the temperate, sub-tropical and tropical oceans of the world, some of the smaller and more attractive species are popular with enthusiasts as an unusual addition to marine aquariums. Cat shark species vary widely in appearance and behavior, but most lay their eggs in long, thin cases that have long, tangled filaments at each end to anchor the egg case.

Many of the deep water "ghost" species, which inhabit depths of more than 6,600 feet (2,200 m), have still not been extensively studied, and their behavior, breeding, communication patterns and feeding habits remain a mystery. Some species are known as dogfishes, and although they have an appearance similar to actual dogfish, they are different, unrelated species classified in different scientific groups. All cat shark species, even those known as dogfish, have an anal fin, whereas true dogfish species, Squaliformes, do not.

Cat sharks sometimes hunt and eat squid.
Cat sharks sometimes hunt and eat squid.

The chain dogfish is a striking and attractive cat shark, inhabiting sub-tropical oceans in a geographic range covering the west and northwest central Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea near Nicaragua. It is commonly found at depths of 120 feet (36 m), to more than 1,500 feet (460 m). The chain dogfish has distinctive black or deep brown markings that look like chain links on tan brown skin, which is how it gets its common name.

Like many cat shark species, it is a bottom feeder that prefers rocky terrain. This species remains hidden and motionless for long periods of time before ambushing prey or actively hunting small fish, squid and crustaceans. Both the banded and the lesser spotted cat shark also feed primarily on small fish and squid and are bottom feeders.

The banded cat shark is native to Australia and has banded stripes around its body, which begin as dark brown to black and fade as the cat shark ages. The lesser spotted cat shark has dark spots on silvery skin and inhabits rocky terrain or coral reefs; like the banded cat shark, it prefers to remain close to a known food source. The lesser spotted species are nocturnal, remaining motionless throughout the day and only actively hunting during the night. Both of these species are popular marine aquarium additions because of their distinctive coloring.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone have a cat shark in an aquarium? I'm thinking of getting one because it's a small shark type and very beautiful. But do they do well in aquariums? What's the best and most easy to find feed for them?


@serenesurface-- As far as I know, cat sharks were named that way because of their eyes. Their eyes do resemble a cat's. The shape and the greenish color is very similar. I think this is the only reason why these sharks were called as such.

They may have also been likened to cats because of their colors and the dots and stripes they sometimes carry. There is even a type of cat shark called a leopard cat shark and it really has a leopard like design on the body. It's quite cool actually.


Cat sharks don't look like cats. I've seen many pictures but I don't see the resemblance. And then the article also mentions that some types of cat shark are called dogfish. Yea, those don't resemble dogs either. Whoever named these types of sharks made things very confusing.

At least catfish actually resemble a cat with barbels that look like whiskers. But cat sharks and dogfish seem to be totally random names.

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    • Cat sharks sometimes hunt and eat squid.
      By: hiphoto39
      Cat sharks sometimes hunt and eat squid.