Are foxes a threat to cats? A study by certified cat behaviourist Anita Kelsey

Copyright 29th August 2014 – Anita Kelsey – http://www.catbehaviourist.com

do foxes eat catsMany of my clients keep their cats indoors at night. It’s one of the times a cat enjoys exploring its territory. Like the dawn, it’s a time of day when there is less traffic – human or motorised and when small mammals and other critters come out to play. When I question why these cats are kept in at night, 100% of the human guardians reply that it is because of foxes. I started to think about this and genuinely wanted to find out the facts myself. Another reason I wanted to do some research was because of my own fears connected to a fox den that’s presently at the end of one of my clients’ gardens. I’ve observed that every time the cat or a human enters the garden, the foxes run out of sight within seconds. The subject of foxes and cats sharing urban space really fascinates me, so I decided to gather some facts from the internet, as well as speak to as many people as possible involved with foxes or cats, including vets, wildlife sanctuaries, cat guardians with free roaming cats and animal hospitals. I have tried to make my research balanced and factual, unlike the scaremongering resorted to by some national newspapers who report foxes attacking babies as if it’s an everyday occurrence.

A fox having just caught a rabbit

A fox having just caught a rabbit

 
Fox tit bits
  • 225,000 adult rural foxes and 33,000 urban foxes roam Britain
  • 84% of wild foxes die before their 2nd birthday
  • They first colonised British cities in the 1930s
Source: University of Bristol and John Bryant

 

 

 

So, what do Foxes eat as part of their natural diet?

At BBC Wildlife they state that:

Foxes have a very varied diet, Urban foxes eat earthworms, insects, fruit and vegetables and a wide variety of both domestic wild birds and mammals. Insects include large numbers of beetles, cut worms (the larvae of noctuid moths, which they get off lawns on wet nights), and both larval and adult craneflies. Most of the birds they eat are feral pigeons and small garden birds, and the most frequently eaten mammals are generally field voles, abundant on allotments, railway lines and other grassy areas. So urban foxes really do have a good varied diet.

When asked the question ‘will foxes kill my cat’ they had this to say:

It’s possible but very unlikely. A typical urban fox home range can be also occupied by upwards of 100 cats, and most of these are out at night. Foxes and cats meet many times every night, and invariably ignore each other. When a fight does break out, it’s often the fox that comes off worse in the encounter.

 

Pete Wedderburn BVM&S CertVR MRCVS

Pete Wedderburn

Pete Wedderburn (BVM&S CertVR MRCVS) who works at Brayvet decided, luckily for me, to do his own in-depth research on the subject and in Feb 2013 published his findings.

His research led him to VetCompass who are a collaborative not-for-profit research project run by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London, in collaboration with the University of Sydney. VetCompass’ aim was to investigate the range and frequency of small animal health problems seen by veterinary surgeons working in general practice in the United Kingdom and to highlight the major risk factors for these conditions. They now have health data on over 400,000 companion animals from over 200 practices across the UK.

His findings identified

79 (5 in 10,000 cats) confirmed and 130 (9 in 10,000 cats) suspected fox fights with cats from 145,808 VetCompass cats since Jan 1st 2010 until Feb 2013 (14 in 10,000 overall). This compares with 541 per 10,000 for cats presented with cat bite injuries and 196 in 10,000 cats being presented following a road traffic accident.

So, in Pete Webberburn’s words

to put fox attacks into context, other cats (x40 times) and cars (x14 times) appear to present much greater dangers to cats than foxes.

The fox who lives in my clients garden. When her cat, or I, enters the garden the fox runs away within seconds.

The fox who lives in my clients garden. When her cat, or I, enters the garden the fox runs away within seconds.

Of course fox attacks can happen on the rare occasion and so cannot be entirely ruled out if we are to be realistic. Speaking personally to 12 veterinary surgeons based in London and country practices, I asked how many cases they had seen where a cat has been brought in with a suspected fox bite or ‘fights’ within the last year. Every vet replied the same. NONE, except one veterinary surgeon who works for Amwell Vets in Waterloo. His own cat of 17 years was recently killed by a fox in Central London. When I asked him why he thought this may have happened he replied…

…because the fox is an opportunist and would have preyed on something they considered weaker (his cat, as well as being old, was completely deaf). The natural prey of a fox is not a cat and in most cases a fox would not attempt to kill a healthy cat especially one that could defend itself.

Despite his own cat having been killed by a fox he considers this to not be the norm.

David Cuffe Associates, who are based in Clapham, stipulated further that

most of the serious injuries we see on cats are due to territorial fighting between neighbouring cats.

Today I contacted Trevor Williams who runs The Fox Project, A charity established in 1991 as a specialist Wildlife Information Bureau and Fox Deterrence Consultancy. Since 1993 it has also incorporated  a Wildlife Hospital.

fox and cat debateI asked him what his thoughts were on foxes attacking cats and why he felt this could happen on occasions?

Well,  from a personal perspective, I’ve had three cats in recent years and all of them chased the foxes out of the garden if they spotted them!  And the foxes didn’t hang around!

It would be absurd to suggest a cat never comes off worse from an encounter with a fox, but we’d suggest it was so rare as to be insignificant.

However, when there are problems, it’s usually during the cub season, when foxes – like all species – will take on anyone and anything to protect their young.  As cats are notorious for curiosity and for mauling small animals, their concern is well founded, and we admit several such cubs every year with serious cat scratches and bites.

Over the 23 years we’ve been in existence we’ve paid for around 15 post-mortems on cats suspected of being killed by foxes.  In every case, death was from other means, usually crushing (road accident).  As foxes will certainly scavenge roadkill, sightings of foxes hauling dead cats across the road or even found consuming them, are regularly misinterpreted. (This had been mentioned by another vet – author’s note)

Interestingly, scores of proud cat owners (all of whom think their cats unique) have sent us photos over the years of cats chasing foxes.  No-one has ever sent us one of a fox chasing a cat and we’ve never observed such ourselves.

The Fox project sums up by stating in their ‘Disease And Aggression’ pamphlet on Foxes:

many cats chum up with foxes if they don't chase them out of the garden

many cats chum up with foxes if they don’t chase them out of the garden

Where small pets are concerned, one must remember the fox is a predator. If rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens etc. are housed outside, a good quality pen is vital, because these are all natural prey to a fox. However, such concerns need not be felt for cats and dogs, most of which out-weigh the average 5kg adult fox (despite nonsensical scare stories involving foxes weighing 17kg), and where rare aggression is more often caused by a fox’s defence of young cubs rather than from other motivation.

…..In any event, many more householders contact us with stories of ‘chumming-up’ between a fox and the caller’s cat, dog or, rather more mysteriously, their rabbit(!) than with situations involving aggression.

 

The BBC reported on a fox attack on a human and spoke to numerous experts including Urban wildlife expert John Bryant who concluded:

I have only ever heard of two cases in my 40 years of dealing with foxes, one of which turned out to be a German Shepherd and the other a cat. But it is always possible – there are thousands of three-month old cubs beginning to run around. They smell food and go through an open door but it is freakish that a fox should attack someone. Foxes are among the most amenable, least aggressive mammals you could share your environment with.

 

Ending with:

It’s very rare for a fox to be brave enough to face a cat

On the same news report the RSPCA stated that

foxes were shy creatures and the case in East London was an extremely rare occurrence.

Martin Hemmington, who is the founder of The National Fox Welfare Society confirms that the majority of foxes do not want contact with humans… He goes on to say:

 

It takes quite a lot of effort to catch them. Walking into people’s houses is not common place and they would never go in with the intention of attacking someone. I can only imagine the fox has found itself in a situation and it has become distressed and panicked.

 

They are wild animals and will bite if cornered. Perhaps it was injured or had concussion from a car accident.

I contacted Penny Little, who is the founder of Little Foxes Wildlife Rescue, with some questions regarding foxes and cats. Her fear was that many people misinterpret what they hear or see. She explains further:

Most reports of foxes attacking cats are either a result of misunderstanding, or are malicious.  Foxes have many human enemies!   But I hear so many stories from people, and sometimes it is obvious to me how the misunderstanding arises.

For example, a lady rang me concerned that the family of foxes in the garden would hurt her cats.  She explained that she had actually heard the foxes attacking the cats.  A little probing made it quite obvious that what she was actually hearing was the cubs at noisy play – they make a lot of yickering and screechy noises when they play.  She accepted this was indeed what she was hearing, and stopped worrying about the cats!

I am absolutely convinced that foxes do not represent a threat to cats.  I would make a small possible exception for tiny kittens, which could possibly be attacked purely as an almost reflex action of pouncing on a small furry animal (however I know of no actual cases of this).

The fact is that the claims of people just do not add up to anything concrete,  they are anecdotal, subject to misunderstanding and also to the average person’s extremely low knowledge of wild animal behaviour.  Foxes are massively misunderstood.  Their mating cries can, and certainly are, misinterpreted as the screams of , say, the cat later found up the road injured, although in actual fact the cat was in a cat fight – nothing whatsoever to do with the amorous foxes!

Newspapers give ludicrous coverage to fox scare stories and so the myths build up.

Penny goes on to describe a recent incident at the sanctuary:

We also once took in here at Little Foxes a very young cub  that had been attacked and  brought in to a house by a cat.  The cub died minutes after arrival.  Thus it is understandable if vixens with young cubs act defensively if a cat comes too near the nursery earth, as the cat clearly can represent a lethal threat to tiny cubs.   Even then, I think a vixen would be relying on threat rather than attack.

I thought it only fitting to speak to a cat grooming client of mine who has a huge variety of rescue cats  living with her and all as free roaming ones. I put the following questions to her:

1: How many cats do you have and are they all free roaming?

 13 cats, all are free roaming.

 2: Have any of your cats had any issues with foxes?

 No – never.

3: Do you see foxes on a regular basis in your garden?

Yes – almost every night. They come in from the allotments at the back of the garden. We have a regular couple, I think male and female, who come.

4: How do your cats or the foxes respond to one another?

With benign tolerance. The cats watch the foxes when they’re in the garden. Sometimes the cats chase them out – we had a fox in the house once that I saw and our smallest female cat chased it out.

 5: Are they adult foxes or with cubs?

I have only seen adults.

I also spoke to Sharon Williams, who runs a pet boarding and dog and cat sitting company, called Purr-fect Kitty, in Shortlands which is surrounded by woodland. Clients in Shortlands are very different to many clients in Notting Hill because 95% of Purr-fect Kitties cats are free roaming. I thought this would make an interesting comparison.

1: How many cats do you look after on a weekly basis and what percentage are free roaming?

The number of cat sits I do a week varies on the time of year. Last week I cat sat for 15 households and most of those cats were free roaming.

2: Have any of the cats you look after had any issues with foxes that you know of?

I’ve never experienced any problems with foxes and cats although one of my clients found her cat dead and blamed it on foxes.

Why did your client think her cat was killed by a fox?

because she is worried about foxes and when the cat was found it had been chewed up a bit.

Yes, it has been mentioned by several vets that foxes find roadkill and may drag the cat back to their den or be opportunists and eat parts of the dead cat. Then a person finding their cat would blame the fox for killing it. It’s a theory, but makes a lot of sense.

3: Do you see foxes on a regular basis in any of your clients’ gardens when you are there with the cat?

I don’t always see foxes, as they’re usually quite shy creatures, but on one occasion recently there were always two foxes in the garden and the cats of the household were often in the garden with the foxes.

4: How do your cats or the foxes respond to one another?

On this occasion the cats and foxes went about their own business ignoring each other.

5: Are they adult foxes or with cubs?

The foxes in the garden were adult foxes but I could often hear the cubs playing. I never saw them in the garden though.

 

I contacted Roger Abrantes PhD, Scientific Director of The Ethology Institute of Cambridge. Here’s what he had to say to contribute to this article.

We don’t have any data to corroborate any statement. However, our experience both in the UK and in Scandinavia, where we were stationed for many years prior to the UK, does not confirm foxes attacking cats as normal or frequent behavior. On the contrary, even in farms where attacks on chicken were common, casualties among cats remained nil or extremely low, only counting as exceptions.

Seeing as my borough is Kensington and Chelsea I shall finish this study on a report the council did on foxes after recent media coverage of an alleged fox attack on a young child.

In the past few years there have been some reports of attacks on children.  Thankfully these are extremely rare.  Statistically, the risk that foxes pose is very small indeed.  The risk from dangerous dogs is far greater.

Foxes pose little danger to cats. But, like any other dog, foxes will chase cats. Generally, though, when faced with the claws and teeth of a cat, foxes will back away, knowing they will probably suffer a serious injury in any fight. However, foxes will scavenge the remains of dead cats, but actual evidence of them killing cats is extremely rare. Cats and dogs vastly outnumber foxes and they usually co-exist without any serious problems. But many fox cubs are killed each year by pet cats and dogs.

However, small pets, like rabbits and guinea pigs can be taken by foxes. They need to be securely housed to ensure foxes cannot get access to them. Most wire pens are not robust enough to deter a determined fox. Foxes also eat rats and other rodents and can thus help to keep those pests down.

I see many free roaming cats at night in my area and I also see loads of foxes. I think this study concludes that it is rare for foxes to attack cats and that both species manage to co-exist and share space. Of course a weaker cat, such as the vet’s 17 year old deaf cat, may appear vulnerable to an opportunistic fox but even the vet admits that this is not the norm. Judging by the amount of foxes we now have co-existing in urban areas we pretty much wouldn’t have any cats left if the fox saw the cat as food or continued to look upon the cat as prey.

Maybe it’s time for the guardians of the free roaming cat to let go of fears and the myth that their cat is going to be eaten by a fox whenever it steps outside the cat flap. OK, so maybe the norm is not the photo below either. Maybe, just maybe, it’s somewhere in the middle!

A purrfect, if unusual, friendship

A purrfect, if unusual, friendship

I’d like to thank the following people and organisations for taking part with this study or supplying useful information (in no particular order):

Sharon Williams, Biggin Hill Vets, Village Vets – Maida Vale, Notting Hill Vets, John Hankinson Vets SE14, Amwell Vets Waterloo, David Cuffe And Associates – Clapham, Paxton Vet Clinics, Cotswolds Vet, Billericay Vets, Penmarin House Vets – Cornwall, Trevor Williams, The Fox Project, Kensington and Chelsea Council, Pete Wedderburn BVM&S CertVR MRCVS, Fiona Nolan, BBC Wildlife, The Royal Veterinary College, University Of Sidney, VetCompass, Martin Hemmington founder of The National Fox Welfare Society, John Bryant, RSPCA, Penny Little of The Little Foxes Wildlife Rescue.

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About Anita Kelsey - Cat Behaviour Consultant

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza.
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44 Responses to Are foxes a threat to cats? A study by certified cat behaviourist Anita Kelsey

  1. Anita. I had a fix cub living only garden last year. I have a Stray cat Andy 2 Persians. The cub was left by it’s mother and she came and fed it at night. Stray cat avoided the garden while it was there bit they all share space quite happily. In fact I’ve seen Stray cat swipe at a fox who got to close to her. I’ve observed urban fox behaviour for 12 or so years and I’ve seen cubs playing with cats. The only time there would be a cat attack by a fox would be a sick elderly cat or very young kitten. But generally those 2 shouldn’t be out at night anyway. Hope that helps your research.

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  2. Thank you for an interesting and informative article. It’s put my mind at rest somewhat as most of my six cats are out at night in the summer. I do always try to get them in but they won’t always come.

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  3. John Holland says:

    Sorry to differ but I witnessed a terrifying chase between what I guess would be a semi-urban fox and a young (very healthy !) cat when I was a student living in the valleys west of Huddersfield, Yorkshire. A girlfirend and I had just returned home when we heard a screeching and looked down to see a very determined fox chase a cat along the bank of the river. It was almost like a cartoon (though deadly and real) as the cat was almost caught on several ocassions and just about managed to get away by eventually scambling up a tree. It was not a pretty sight and sadly I have remained suspicious about foxes and cats ever since.

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    • Thanks for your comments John. No one is saying it doesn’t happen. What we are saying is that it is not so common that every cat is going to be attacked and eaten by foxes. You do not know the circumstances of the chase. It could be that the cat got too close to a den with cubs, or a meal the fox was going to eat or any other circumstance that we do not know about. If foxes targeted cats as a norm then the outdoor/free roaming cat population, especially in London, would be near to zero. My area at night has loads of cats living alongside foxes. I wrote this article to try and dispel the myth that foxes eat cats PERIOD. This is just not true. Sorry you had to witness what you did though and glad the cat got away!! 😉

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  4. danatroy says:

    I’ve witnessed an encounter between my cat and a fox that approached him on my back step. There was no hissing, no raised fur. The fox only seemed curious. My cat (a sociable tabby) took a few steps toward the fox and for every step he took, the fox took a step back, keeping a distance of about 10 feet. This went on for maybe 100 feet when I lost sight of them. Because this behaviour belied what I’d heard I felt comfortable enough to see what would happen (while alert to sounds of distress). Ten minutes later my tabby sauntered back to the house where I was waiting for him.

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  5. ken says:

    I live on the east coast of the US in Maryland. I live in an area that is borderline suburban and rural. The rural foxes seem to be a lot larger than the urban foxes that I have seen on video. The fox that I see out back is as big as they get I think- about the size of a smaller springer spaniel (but with a foxes slighter build). I heard this clacking sound and saw a large cat standing on a pile of rocks with the large fox standing over it. Now if this fox was starving (which it’s not- beautiful coat and large) he could have taken that cat as food no questions asked. The fox was surely chasing the cat, the cat would stop every so often to turn and swipe but the fox was definitely trying to nip at the cat while it was running away. I thought a neighbors cat was going to be killed so I walked toward the two and made some noise. Even in my presence, the fox would jump into the grass but would pop back out almost immediately and look at me- which is strange they usually run and don’t look back. After a few times of this, with the cat moving in a different direction, the fox stopped appearing. Then I heard that terrible noise that they make calling out and others replying. I realized that I was not saving a neighbors cat but interrupting the fox from defending its young. And it makes more sense. With the abundance of rabbits, mice and other voles, why try to eat something that fights back? Wild animals are great at risk assessment and there is no need to eat cats when there is already a lot to eat, especially considering they have such a varied diet.

    I just thought that this anecdote is a good example of seeing the action and misinterpreting the entire situation. Had I not really paid attention and thought about it afterwards I would have thought the fox the aggressor.

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  6. C says:

    this is wrong, foxes can and do kill cats. My partner and I have seen foxes carrying cats away. I’m convinced that was the fate that befell my cat when she disappeared.

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    • Thanks for your comment. No where in my article does it state that this never happens. What this article is trying to address is the myth that that foxes kill cats for food as 100% fact every time one sees the other. This is simply not true. People who sometimes see a fox with a cat in its mouth have not seen the actual kill. Many times foxes will see a cat injured or dead by a car and carry the cat off. Foxes will do this as they are opportunistic but as a general rule the fox does not automatically look at cats and think dinner. In London we are overrun with foxes sharing space with cats at night and they are everywhere. If the fox was eating the cat then statistics would show a dramatic decrease in the cat population. Yes, a fox may go for a cat (for whatever reason) but the myth that foxes eat them as a matter of course needs to be dispelled. A further study should be conducted. All the experts I spoke to, as well as the veterinary surgeons, cannot all be wrong! People need to allow their cats out at night without worrying they are going to be eaten straight away.

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  7. ruth822 says:

    I was out for a walk one night around 3am in the west end of Glasgow and on my return I saw a strange sight – a fox was performing a circular ‘dance’ around a neighbour’s cat which seemed to be mesmerised by the circling and head bobbing motion. I assumed this wasn’t a game so I broke the spell and the fox ran off. Re cats out at night in the city: contrary to the idea that it’s safe as there is less traffic, we find that night time traffic both here and in the east end is much faster and in the quiet of the night, totally unexpected by cats who are often caught unawares. This is far more likely to cause death than the huge number of foxes passing through the streets at night.

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    • How interesting Ruth. Never seen this before. A hypnotising fox!! Actually, serious injury by another cat is the biggest reason why cats get taken as an emergency to vets. Being run over is also one of the biggest killers and can be done day and night. Cats never look when they cross the road no matter what time of day. Thanks for contributing in this fascinating topic.

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  8. Daphne Danz says:

    I brought my cat Cody to my aunts house. He slipped out the door and we couldn’t find him. 10 minutes later we see a fox with blood on his mouth, and that’s when we found Cody floating in the water. He was only a year old and was the happiest cat I ever saw. I miss him greatly 😦

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  9. reymohammed says:

    A healthy adult cat would be a meal of desperation for a fox. You consider: we keep canines of two hundred pounds for pets, but only the extremely imprudent would normally harbor a twenty-five pound bobcat. There is a reason for that. There is a reason a 120 pound wolf will not take on a cougar of the same weight, and many of us remember the scene in “White Fang” where Kiche, a wolf-dog living in the wild, was made desperate enough by famine to steal a lynx kitten to feed her cub… and what happened when its mother came for revenge. Don’t declaw your cat, and if it is declawed, don’t let it out. If your cat is able-bodied and fully armed, nothing smaller than a coyote is likely to prey on it.

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  10. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for doing this research and composing this article. I have always been quite paranoid about my two cats being eaten / attacked by foxes in the south London boroughs. I have lived in Greenwich, Lewisham and the council of Bexley, and in every house I’ve always heard and seen foxes prancing about. My two cats are about 2 1/2 years old, neutered, healthy boys that free-roam both day and night. So far, there have been no instances or occurrences with the foxes… However, there have been 2 or so instances where one of my boys has come home with a minor wound due to a fight with a neighboring cat (i witnessed both occurrences). I do agree with your article that is is DEFINITELY more likely for a cat to get hurt based on an encounter with a neighbor cat, rather than a fox. However, I still do worry about cat vs fox fights, mainly around territory disputes. Even though many people recommend to keeping cats in-doors, is it just not possible for me at this point. My boys have been raised to roam outside and they would destroy the house if i were to even try to isolate them in-doors. Plus, in the next few years, I plan to own my own property where i would implement some sort of mechanism to keep the cats isolated to my garden only (there are actually a few good wall / fence tools you can buy and install in your garden).

    My question is, are there any measures I can take to prevent foxes from roaming around my garden or nesting nearby? Even with the amazing research you’ve done, I DO NOT want foxes nesting in my garden or in my shed. I do not want the risk, the fox poop, or noise. Is it legal for me to use a humane, live cage trap, then take any caught foxes and release them into the wild (for instance, many miles outside of London in a national park or forest).

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  11. nicky says:

    I’m looking for advice from anyone on how to deal with an extremely traumatised cat. Dylan who is blind was having his morning supervised stroll in the garden when a large dog fox burst out from under a tree in full hunting mode – this was around 10 am in Brighton Uk.
    The dog fox managed to grab and drag Dylan 15 feet before I was able to reach him and secure his release. Being blind he was of course completely terrified but when I was able to get him to the vet he was given the all clear from serious injury. he came home with me the same day and though we all had a restless night as he spat and growled, by afternoon the next day he had more or less settled back to his usual sweet self. 2 days later however and with no clear trigger he became terrified/aggressive again striking out at anything. Another anxious night followed with Dylan remaining under the bed. He has come out but is sooooo anxious – and will scuttle off growling at the slightest thing. My voice worryingly does not soothe.

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    • I’m so sorry you and your cat has had to go through this terrifying ordeal. I am glad Dylan was not harmed physically.

      My practice is vet referral only. I would be happy to visit you in Brighton on a home consultation but can only discuss if you had a referral from your vets. I am away for 10 days from monday so could get something in place for you after Easter if you wish to book a consult in your home? Please email me at info@catbehaviourist.com or get your vet to do a referral to me. Very best wishes, Anita

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  12. Paul Wingfield says:

    Many years ago in the early 1930s, I witnessed a fox chasing a cat and killing it in a London suburb. It was a very swift end for the cat as the fox beheaded it in just a few seconds.
    However, I now have 3 cats and they mingle with foxes.in my back garden. The two species are wary of each other but not afraid and not agressive. It is certainly rare that a fox attacks a cat. I have no idea what actually started the fight I saw but I suspect that the fox was very hungry. These days, the foxes semi to find food more readily available and I have seen them in my garden with magpies inches away from them and the foxes don’t seem to regard them as food.

    I would like to thank you for your well researched and ingormative article.

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  13. Janice says:

    I have just broken up a determined attack on my cat in my back garden in Hove. It was lucky that I witnessed what was happening and managed to get out of the house fast enough to intervene. Our other car disappeared earlier this week. The nature of the attack was very much like the riverside one described below with the fox giving chase at incredible speed. I think giving the impression that foxes will not attack cats is misleading and unhelpful. Clearly they do, and kill them on occasion, but from the press coverage it seems that concerned voices from eye witnesses of attacks are being dismissed or downplayed …

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  14. Sarah says:

    I came to this article after watching a fox and cat last night from my bedroom window. I was alerted by the noises the fox was making. When I looked out, the fox was circling the cat, which was in a defensive posture, crouched low to the ground. The fox was circling, and yapping and making little feints but unwilling to go in for the full attack. The cat then cut and run and the fox gave chase. They ended up out of sight at the foot of my house where I’m sure the encounter would have continued but I’d seen enough at that point and went outside to break it up, so I have no idea how it would have ended. The fox ran back across the street; I didn’t see the cat so I don’t know if it was injured. It’s March though, so I guess protection of cubs could be involved. There is an empty property just across the street with a large unkempt garden just perfect for a den.

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    • Thanks for sharing your story Sarah and for contributing to this debate.

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      • sarah says:

        Perhaps I should add that I had a cat for some 18 years that I allowed out at night in this location (residential suburbia). During these excursions, he had several encounters which left him injured. I think mostly due to altercations with other cats and once was a nearly tragic encounter with a car. The injuries, eye infections and abscesses resulted in many trips to the vet, expense and a certain amount of distress. Although about, foxes were the least of my worries; a neighbour allowed her two Staffordshire Terriers to attack a cat outside my house late one night; I had to take the poor thing to the vet to be put out of its misery. Any injuries my cat returned with I put down to fighting with other cats. But that is an assumption. On one occasion a canine tooth had gone clean through the bell on his collar. Frankly, I have no idea what was going on out there or what he was encountering.

        Having now seen an attack in action, I now know the question is not “do foxes attack cats?” but is actually “how often do foxes attack cats?” The only answer that can be admitted at the moment is “we don’t know”, although it’s likely to be “not very often” as a big, fit cat can give as good as it gets. A random assembly of anecdotes and circumstantial evidence is not enough to make a definitive judgement; There seems to be a lot of bolstering of preconceptions.

        Whatever the truth, the above litany of expensive scrapes means that my current softy of a cat is kept indoors after about 9 pm which I believe reduces the potential for harm; the price of veterinary treatment has escalated alarmingly. He’s used to the regime now; he gets a bit of nocturnal exploring and then comes to bed voluntarily. Interestingly, since the fox turned up, he’s been coming in earlier. We heard the fox bark again last night and the cat was on high alert immediately. As I said, he’s a softy.

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  15. David Atkinson says:

    Hi

    We live in north London in an area with a lot of foxes. They are seen quite regularly and are quite bold, although you can’t get really close they’re happy and quite relaxed foraging up to about 10 feet away.

    We have a cat and also feed a stray who sleeps at night in a cat box in the garden. He’s a decent size tomcat who I would have imagined would be able to give a fox as good as he gets. However recently we’ve noticed the stray’s house and bedding has been disturbed, we thought it was foxes having a go at him. This morning at dawn there was a real commotion and we saw a very large healthy and bold fox chasing our stray who was v. scared and distressed. We chased the fox away but it came back a couple of times, nearly got to our stray, but luckily we did manage to chase the fox away (throwing used tea bags at it….). I love having foxes around but am worried about our stray.

    Our own cat has never seemed to have any trouble, but he’s in most of the night. I’ve seen a group of foxes pass through our garden with him sat not far away, they seemed to ignore each other, and have never really worried, but it does seem that our local foxes and stray cat don’t get on well, and I worry that this won’t end well.

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  16. Celestial says:

    Thank you so much for the article. We have moved up to McCall, ID for the summer and this evening I let my house cat out with my outdoor cat at night for the first time. My outdoor cat was sitting quietly with a large fox 10 feet away. I panicked thus the reason for reading your article. I’m glad to read that it is possible but unlikely. Thank you for at least allowing me SOME peace of mind that my cat had a fighting chance.

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  17. alyssa20923 says:

    I have an indoor-outdoor cat who I used to be afraid of letting outside. I kept him indoors for as long as possible until it became inconvenient. I made the choice of not getting him declawed because I didn’t want him to be in pain. I didn’t exactly understand at the time that he would need his claws for a greater purpose. Now I could not be happier with my decision because over the years his claws have really come in handy. I used to be shocked when he came back into the house with clipped ears from fights with neighboorhood cats, but I know that I made the right decision. We’ve had several fox scares over the years, but we never can keep our cat indoors at night. It is comforting to know that if he does meet a fox he will be ready because of his sharp claws and previous practice with our dogs and other neighborhood cats. Thanks Anita!

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  18. angela wright says:

    My 17 year old cat was chased into the kitchen by a fox last night, luckily back door open and it ran off when I rushed in. It worried me as the cat loves spending all her time in the garden in summer. This never happened before and she didn’t appear too bothered. Would keeping a light on near house help (she never goes far)?.

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    • Thanks for your comment Angela.

      That is quite unusual. Maybe the fox senses your cat is old and perhaps vunerable or perhaps your cat went too close to its den? Water sprayers that work on sensors spray unwanted visitors that enter your garden. They usually deter foxes or cats who get a spray of water when they pass. If you have an idea where a fox might be coming into your garden you can position a sprayer there. I’m not sure where you live but keep an eye out and chat to the neighbours about a possible den nearby, perhaps at the end of one of their gardens.

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  19. Ashley says:

    This is exactly the sort of article a fox would write..Don’t let your cats out at night if foxes are in the area

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  20. Margaret Brandon says:

    Whilst in my care my neighbour’s elderly and almost totally blind cat went missing one night. He has access to the garden via a cat flap and I last saw him basking in the sun at midday. When I returned later that evening he was nowhere to be found. I am so sure he did not slip out of the front door as I entered the house and he was too feeble to get out of the garden – high fences etc. There was no sign of fur/blood etc and I am left wondering if he had died during the day and was taken away by one of the very many foxes we have in Forest Hill. Our local foxes come into the gardens and sit patiently in mine waiting for my cats to finish their food before they tuck into the leftovers. There has never been any conflict between them and my cats but articles in this blog do suggest that a fox will remove a dead cat…..but without any sign of mauling etc?

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    • Yes, margaret, Foxes are opportunists. If they see a dead cat they may carry it back to the den to eat. Same with roadkill etc. Your cat may also, sadly, have been victim to a fox as foxes sense a vulnerable animal although you do state that the foxes in your area and the cats got on well together.

      Having said the above..I am so sorry that your cat has gone missing as it’s a terrible thing not to know what has happened. God bless.

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  21. Nick Stewart says:

    Our cat is a large cat of 14 who watches the foxes that have been coming into our garden for a year now largely due to the scraps i leave out for them. They keep away from each other. I Will probably slowly decrease the amount of food i leave out for them to ensure they forage elsewhere and as Sam is getting older, but it has been fun seeing them grow from tiny cubs to adults. Interesting as it seemed over the summer they all completely disappeared, now 2 have reappeared.

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  22. K says:

    One summers day I was meditating at home and I had the back door open (which is just next to the sofa I was sitting on). I felt a rough feeling on my big toe and saw a fox sniffing it at that moment and not peaceful anymore I screamed. I am sure to this day that the fox was picking up the peaceful vibes, felt safe to come inside and was simply curious about me. When I got over the shock I was rather touched of this brush with nature. However my screech scared the living daylights out of dear Mr Fox, it couldn’t get away quick enough.

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  23. Rebecca says:

    Great article. Thanks. Our cat chases fox out of the yard! She’s petite and 17, and doesn’t mess around with her territory.

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  24. Hayley Pepper says:

    Very interesting and informative also a relief 😁 two foxes chased my two cats but ran off when they saw me lol. Thank you for researching this, has been a great help/relief.

    Like

  25. Alessandra says:

    I have been reading the article and responses with great interest. I live in south east London and recently a young fox (small-ish but not quite a cub) came inside my house – twice! The first time I had people wotking in the garden so I thought it would have come in because of the doors left open and the general chaos. It went upstairs and relaxed on one of the beds – marking his territory with fecies all aorund! The cat noticed it at one point and went into the room and started hissing at the fox – that’s how my partner noticed there was something wrong! He managed to hush it away and there was no collision with the cat. Roughly two weeks later we are woken up by screams/fight noices inside the house around 5 am. The fox was back (I am pretty sure it’s the same one). This time it managed to squeeze through a CAT FLAT which is programmed to only let in my cat as it has a chip sensor – I still don’t understand how!
    I think it was the same fox because it went back to that same room and I probably jumped on that same bed, but this time my cat was sleeping on that bed (we were both asleep next door but all doors were open). Cat and fox fought and the fox was chased out. By the time I got out of bed and ran to see what was going on they were already downsatirs and the fox went out – from the cat flap! I think it was the cat that attacked it as it saw it coming on the bed and got scared. There were more fox hairs around than cat ones, and the cat has no scars or bites.
    I am a little concerned though – I didn’t think foxes came inside houses and definitely not finding their ways through protected cat flaps. Clearly the encounter with the cat was not peaceful and as much as I believe it was the cat that attacked because he got scared, next time it could end differently if the fox wants to fight back. Perhaps foxes are starting to behave differently and more aggressively in urban areas….?

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  26. Ingrid mott says:

    My white cat would follow me and my two dogs to the park late every night passing the graveyard where the foxes would ‘case’ us.

    The cat always walked way behind us three. One night across the field, my femaile dog hung behind stopped still and barked loudly and continuously until I walked back to investigate. Several yards back behind my dog, the cat was stuck with a fox to his left and another to the right. The foxes were taking it in turns to howl at the cat. There were no bushes or trees and the cat was unable to get away. He was making clawing gestures to the right fox and then to the left, as they sat howling in turn. Their plan was clearly to tire the cat out before taking it for dinner! With my approach the foxes ran off and I picked up my terrified cat, who most certainly had been planned for the foxes meal that night !

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  27. Jason Dunn-Shaw says:

    It seems to me that an urban fox will only move into your garden if he has sufficient food for his family. This being so I cannot see why a healthy cat should be on the menu in the first place.

    Like

    • Margaret Brandon says:

      My neighbour’s lovely cat was left in my (but in his own home) care for a couple of nights and just disappeared from a garden he could not get out of. He was blind and frail but v happy to be in the garden and he had access to the house at all times. We are distraught and I can only think he must have died and was taken by a fox.

      Like

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