An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. Cat_cowrie_s_smith Up to 30mm in length by S. Smith

Cat Cowrie

Melicerona felina


  • Cat cowries are small to medium marine snails (molluscs)
  • Oval shaped shell with flat underside lined with fine teeth. 
  • White in colour underneath, sides irregularly spaced and shaped with dark brown spots. Top of shell grey with fine brown speckled pattern and crossed by four darker bands of large spots (often faint). 
  • Size: Typically 20mm in length, can grow up to 30mm.

What to Observe

Search area for 30 minutes and record under the following categories:

  • Abundant - found easily with little searching
  • Frequent - found with minimal searching
  • Rare -  only 1 or 2 individuals found with intensive searching
  • Not found - not present during search

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

Cat cowries, like all marine snails (molluscs), are under increasing stress due to ocean acidification which can weaken their calcium carbonate shells and reduce body condition. This makes them more prone to disease, predation and low reproduction. Increasing water temperature as a result of climate change will likely affect their abundance and cause a southward shift in their distribution.

When To Look

Throughout the year.

Where To Look

Under rocks during low tide to about two meters deep.

QLD, NSW. Common in the tropics, found NSW with a southern limit of Bulli



Burgess, C.M. (1970). The Living Cowries. AS Barnes and Co, Ltd. Cranbury, New Jersey

Branch, G.M. et al. (2002). Two Oceans. 5th impression. David Philip, Cape Town & Johannesburg.



  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    Several other cowries have similar spot patterns including Cypraea caputserpentis, the most common cowrie found around the Sydney region and Cypraea erosa the most southerly distributed of the tropical cowrie species. Both can be distinguished from the cat cowrie buy the lack of irregularly spaced and shaped with dark brown spots on their sides. 

  1. Did You Know?

    Also found in tropical Indo-West Pacific regions, from east Africa to Samoa.