Do Foxes Kill Cats?
Do Foxes Attack and Kill Cats?
Best Friends or Arch Enemies? In this Article I Answer the Highly Contentious Question of Whether Foxes Attack and Kill Cats.
If you are reading this article then the chances are that your cat has been missing for a couple of days and you have just spent the last six hours trudging around your neighbourhood repeatedly shaking a small packet of cat biscuits, occasionally sticking your head into a large bush and softly calling out the name of ‘Kitty’, ‘Tiger,’ or ‘Max’.
I expect you are exhausted, cold and lonely and totally fed up with all the nervous glances people have been giving you all evening and feeling quite despondent when you see some of them quickly crossing to the opposite side of the road as you approach. In their defence you probably cut quite an unusual figure emerging from the undergrowth, dressed in your work clothes and Forest Gump trainers with your hair covered in dust and cobwebs.
I imagine that right now and despite, your best efforts, you are struggling to stave off that awful hollow feeling that something dreadful has happened to your beautiful cat. It is at this time that you become far more vulnerable to your darker thoughts and as your hope of a wonderful reunion starts to ebb away you will begin to toy with the question that has been troubling you ever since your cat went missing.
A question that every person who has ever lost a cat has to face up to and just like you, they simply do not want to vocalize it because to do so may actually make the dreaded beast appear. So here it is.
“Do Foxes Kill Cats?”
There are some - fox haters and doom-mongers alike - who would have you believe that lurking in the shadows of every garden is a starving fox waiting to devour every unwary cat that happens by. Unfortunately, they (the doom-mongers) often regurgitate this nonsense across the Internet where it is read and shared by thousands of worried cat owners and it is the sheer volume of these shares that give credibility to the myth that foxes kill cats.
So to Put Your Mind at Rest ‘Foxes Rarely kill Cats’
To put rarely into context for you, fox attacks on cats are so infrequent that no one has actually managed to record an incident on video and when you consider that there are now more mobile phones on the planet than there are people you begin to appreciate that rarely means exactly what it says in the dictionary.
- Rare Occasions
- Hardley ever
- Scarcely ever
- Blue moons or even moon landings
Hopefully, you should now be feeling a lot more confident that your cat has not fallen victim to a fox attack but I’m keen to put this matter to bed once and for all so here are a few supporting facts that will help you to develop a better understanding of the relationship between foxes and cats and to see why disputes between these two 'Apex Predators' are so infrequent.
Here’s the Sciency Bit About Why Foxes Rarely Attack Cats
Currently - according to DEFRA - there are estimated to be 258,000 adult foxes dispersed across Britain that between them produce, on average 425,000 cubs each year. As is the case with all events in the natural world there is good reason for this population boom. Sadly, the mortality rate for fox cubs is extremely high - you can blame the internal combustion engine for that - and most won’t survive beyond their first winter.
By way of comparison a cat count recently completed by the ever watchful and clearly numerically astute RSPCA claims there are 7.5m domestic cats in the UK. They (the RSPCA) reckon in some of the most populated areas such as South East London there can be over 600 cats per square mile, which is a very high density of cats. By comparison DEFRA estimates the fox density to be around 25 per square mile. However, for reasons detailed below it is a little bit more complicated than simple numbers.
Foxes tend to live in small family units consisting of a male and two related females, with either the male or sister helping to rear the cubs. The breeding vixen will usually evict most cubs from her hunting ground after just six months, thereby ensuring there is sufficient food for next season’s litter. So on average there is likely to be a resident cat to fox ratio of 24:1 and that’s a conservative estimate, in some areas the ratio is much higher. This means that within the first few months of their lives most fox cubs will encounter dozens of cats on a very regular basis which will include aggressive toms, territorial females strays and an increasing number of ferals.
Inevitably, the young fox’s youthful curiosity will result in a painful lesson in manners, with an overly inquisitive snout being met with a swift claw across the chops. Teaching it (the fox) that these snarling hissing creatures are not a source of food but a formidable adversary commanding respect and a healthy degree of separation, a lesson that stays with the fox throughout its short life. In consequence of which foxes treat their newly found feline friends with a degree of caution, learning to share their environment as opposed to squabbling over it.
Do Foxes and Cats Fight Over Food?
Anyone who has ever watched a wildlife documentary will know that the only occasion when predators tend to come into conflict with each other is over a recent animal kill. After a few roars and snarls usually one of the predators backs down and allows the other to take the kill.
Both foxes and ‘some’ cats - Dr Mara please take note - kill small rodents, birds and occasionally lizards not exactly a meal worth fighting for. Furthermore, it has been my personal experience that there is a much higher degree of cooperation and tolerance between foxes and cats then people realise.
In 2012 I witnessed first hand how these predators learn to share a food source as opposed to fighting over it.
At the time I was completing an investigation into a missing Persian cat called Banksy-Moon - no relation to the head of the UN - who had disappeared from his home in Belgravia Square, London. I suspected that Banksy was hiding in one of the local private gardens scattered around Belgravia - I’m still talking about the cat - so with the kind permission of the Estate Manager I placed several wildlife cameras in each private garden together with small food traps.
Over the following week I recorded hundreds of images and many hours of video of the local fox and cat population visiting the food traps and taking it in turns to feed and without a single incident of confrontation. I eventually recovered Banksy from one of the gardens and returned him to his very grateful owner however, I am certain that had I left the cameras in place for another six weeks they would have continued to record images of the foxes and cats happily co-existing and without any conflict whatsoever.
Finally, I am sure that there will be some who even after reading my article will scoff and mock whilst continue to spread their fables and folk stories. I can hear their indignant voices crying out.
‘My friend’s sister’s uncle once witnessed their neighbour’s cat attacked and carried off by a fox and don’t you know that once upon a time a fox crept into a house, climbed the stairs and bit a sleeping baby?’
I am sure they believe they are right just like some people once believed the world was flat. However, a good theory must accommodate all the observed facts. So until I see the evidence of these incidents. It is and will remain to be, my professional opinion that:
‘Foxes Rarely if Ever kill Cats!’