Foxes are rather common creatures, found in both rural settings and more populated areas like towns and even major cities. Theyre wily creatures and have a reputation for making messes that they often didnt create, though these scavenging predators can pose a danger to some pets and livestock.
Foxes dont often attack and eat dogs, but any hungry wild predator could be a danger to any domesticated animal thats small enough to be a meal! An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan.
An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.
Are foxes dangerous to dogs?
The Details. The short answer is no. It is, as we shall see, certainly not unknown for foxes to attack cats and, more rarely, dogs or people; but none of these incidents are likely.
Do foxes and dogs get along?
Generally, foxes get along well with dogs and cats and often learn their habits. During the molting period (over the summer), the fox should have its hair brushed regularly. Of course, you might want to check if it’s even legal to own a domesticated fox, in your state.
Would a fox eat a small dog?
In most cases, there’s no reason to be worried about a fox attacking your dog. Even for small dogs, it’s a rare occurrence. … Foxes don’t often attack and eat dogs, but any hungry wild predator could be a danger to any domesticated animal that’s small enough to be a meal!
What happens if a fox bites a dog?
If your dog is bitten by a fox, then you will need to contact your vet and get an emergency appointment where your vet will provide first aid by cleaning and disinfecting the wound with an antiseptic. Then they’ll dress the wound by bandaging it with an absorbent gauze pad and adhesive tape.
Despite the population of foxes that are now living in urban areas, they do their best to avoid dogs. In fact, grey and red foxes will even try to avoid small dogs and do not like this type of confrontation. However, there can be occasions when the two species are brought closer than either would like, so what are the chances of a fox attacking your dog?
However, there have been a few occasions in recent years where foxes have entered yards and gardens and attacked small dogs or puppies. Probably not; red foxes usually target any small animal that weighs up to 3.5 kg (7.7 lb).
The animals that foxes hunt are mostly small mammals, like mice, rabbits, squirrels, and hamsters. If you have puppies or miniature small dog breed, I would not leave them unattended on your property if foxes are in the local area. Over 60 years ago, a Russian scientist named Dmitry Belyaev became the Institute of Cytology and Genetics director in the Soviet Union.
He decided that to fully understand the process, he must attempt to replicate the early days of domestication. Belyaev chose to domesticate foxes because of their shared genetic family (Canidae) with dogs. He worked over many years to create a version of the red fox that was friendly with humans and had an agreeable personality.
Domestic foxes still have a high prey drive, though, and they would still chase any small rodent or bird. There are a handful of reports in the press in recent years relating to fox attacks on dogs. 2020 United States Cranford police are warning residents that a fox attacked dogs in two separate incidents in that town Wednesday, one on Orchard Street and one on Cornell Road. Patch News
If a fox will attack a dog, kill it and eat it, Im very concerned that a child could be attacked. Irish Examiner 2010 United Kingdom Peter Crowden, chairman of the National Pest Technicians Association, described foxes as very territorial. Though domesticated foxes are less likely to attack dogs than wild ones, they are still a living animal, making them unpredictable.
Foxes naturally build their homes in cozy nests or dens, and this is where they lay their litters. These man-made structures are ideal for a fox den in urban areas but of course, that can put them into close contact with dogs. The best guard against a fox attacking or eating a small dog or puppy is to keep your pets on leash for their first and last trips outside during the day.
Foxes dont usually hunt animals half their size, but they can aggressively respond if caught off guard. An infected fox could attack your dog and potentially give him the deadly disease. Ive written a more extensive guide about this relating to the ways foxes can make dogs sick ( read that here ).
This Coghlans Bear Bell on Amazon will let a fox know that your dog is coming so he doesnt get startled. Ultrasonic animal deterrent This small machine is simply to set-up and works by emitting flashing lights and sounds that we cant hear but are irritable to foxes and other pests. It doesnt just deter foxes but is also said to work on other pests you want to get rid of such as rats, moles, squirrels, and coyotes.
To prevent this, keep your dogs food out of your garden or yard, as it will attract hungry foxes. Install motion lights Foxes are most active during the early and late hours of the day.
Both red and gray foxes live among us in cities and towns, where scavenging for food makes life easy. They generally avoid people, but the lure of easy food, such as pet food or unsecured garbage, can result in backyard visits. Usually, the best thing to do is leave foxes alone, but here’s what to do about the most common fox concerns:
Sometimes foxes are blamed for damage they did not cause, such as when they are spotted eating from spilled trash when neighborhood dogs or other animals were responsible for the overturned trashcan. Both red and gray foxes dig dens mostly for raising kits, but also to use as shelter from severe winter weather.
If you find a fox family in an inconvenient spot, consider allowing them to stay until the young are old enough to begin accompanying their parents on foraging outings. Fox kits are born in the spring, usually in March or April, and youll see them emerge from the den four or five weeks after birth. Thats the moment to watch for, as it is then safe to encourage them to leave the den site if there is reason to hasten their departure.
Place urine soaked kitty litter, a sweat-soaked T-shirt, a pair of smelly sweat socks or old sneakers in or near the den opening. Mount shiny party balloons or 12-18 inch lengths of Irri-tape on sticks or poles a few feet off the ground just outside the den entrance. Foxes are excellent diggers, so the best defense is to bury an L-shaped footer of hardware cloth around the perimeter of the area you are trying to exclude.
Most dogs are not at risk from an attack by a fox unless they have threatened its young, but they still should not be left outside unattended for a host of safety reasons, including harassment or dog-napping. Miniature dogs are especially vulnerable to harm from any number of predators, though, including foxes, so they should be even more closely monitored when outside. Protecting small animals: Pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept indoors for their health and safety, especially at night.
Poultry should be protected with sturdy hutches or pens built to withstand any break-in efforts by foxes, raccoons or dogs. Immediately take any pet who is bitten by any wild animal to your veterinarian for an examination and an assessment of any need for vaccination. Foxes prey on squirrels, birds, chipmunks and other animals that are only active by day, so they may simply be looking for a meal at that time.
Mange is an extremely debilitating affliction caused by microscopic parasites called Sarcoptes scabiei mites, that result in either patchy or entire hair loss. The disease causes intense irritation of the skin to the point where foxes have been known to chew their own tails off trying to relieve the itching.
Fox attacks, usually minor bites, on people are extremely rare and, generally speaking, foxes are not a threat to humans. The number of attacks on cats and dogs each year is unknown, but seem to be of only minor significance relative to attacks on each other (i.e. dog on cat, or cat on cat). Typically foxes and cats ignore one another and fights are rarely observed.
Unfortunately, despite their unequivocal rarity, especially considering the estimated number of foxes and their proximity to people in towns and cities, several incidents have been recorded, although the validity of some accounts has been questioned. In early November 1996, five-month-old Philip Sheppard needed hospital treatment for an injury to his face after apparently being bitten or scratched by a fox while lying in a pram in his parents conservatory in south London.
In response to this story, Bristol University ecologist Stephen Harris wrote a short article to Country Life magazine later that month in which he described the hysteria that followed the attack as a misinformed overreaction . In a terraced house in Hackney, Greater London, just before 10pm on 5th June 2010, Pauline Koupparis went upstairs to investigate the crying of her nine-month-old twins Lola and Isabella; she found them in their cots, bleeding from deep wounds to their upper body apparently inflicted by a fox that was still in the room. This story attracted much media attention and was broadcast around the world; various fox experts expressed their surprise at the incident and some questioned whether a pet cat or dog that was actually to blame.
– Credit: Fiona EmslieDespite some rather disturbing, and at times frankly appalling, abuse the family received from some members of the public, the police investigated thoroughly and, based on the wounds and expert testimony, were satisfied that the twins were bitten by a fox. This attack raised many questions about urban foxesabout whether they were getting bolder, more numerous, or hungrier; in short, whether they are more dangerous nowand caused much speculation as to the reason behind the animals behaviour, including that it might have been a cub or suffering from toxoplasmosis. I do not wish to detract from the fact that this was a serious incident, terrifying for all those involved, so I wont address this more than to make the point that, even if this were an accurate comparison, cases of foxes taking lambs and piglets, especially live ones, are uncommon.
sat, snarling, in the porch area, only turning tail when Bethany’s mother, who the desperate schoolgirl had alerted on her mobile phone, switched on the kitchen light and came out to investigate. In September 2010 Annie Bradwell was bitten on the ear by a fox while in bed in her house in Fulham, West London, and in the early hours of Sunday 24th October 2010, a 37-year-old man was found unconscious by police in St Michael’s Parish Church Cemetery in Musselburgh, Scotland, suffering from hand and facial injuries thought to have been caused by an animal. The most recent incident Im aware of in the UK was that of a two-year-old boy who was apparently bitten on the foot by a fox that entered a house in New Addington, south London, via a cat flap in November 2014.
– Credit: Faruk Ate I will spare you the statistical comparisons with dog and cat bites, because I dont feel they are particularly relevant, and just reiterate that its important to be as cautious and sensible around foxes as you would any wild animal. Nonetheless, in February 2007, a lady wrote to me describing how a fox followed her while out walking her Welsh terrier in Surrey and, when she stopped, it approached and started play bowing to her dog. In one letter, Mike Squires told how his 15-year-old Border Collie spent several minutes playing with a fox in their garden in Wales one December morning, with each taking it in turns to chase the other.
The problem with the Bristol data is that they are not recent; it first appeared in a paper by Harris on the food of suburban foxes published in the journal Mammal Review during 1981 and the questionnaire was actually circulated in October 1977. I know of no recent figures, but in November 2006 the insurer Petplan estimated that some 230,000 cats were run over in Britain every year, an average of 680 per day, with Bristol topping the blackspot list. Macdonald went on to describe how stalking with infrared binoculars in Oxford allowed them to watch fox-cat interactions on many occasions; most cases involved the two ignoring each other, but where conflict was seen the fox was apparently the more nervous of the two.
– Credit: Caroline BoxallProbably the biggest hurdle to assessing fox-cat interactions is that both species are nocturnal, which means that encounters are rarely observed and the first the owner knows of the confrontation is when they find the body the following morning. According to a social media post by the Plymouth & SW Devon branch of the RSPCA, the autopsy revealed that the cat had been hit by a car and did not find any injuries consistent with a fox attack. Credit: Caroline BoxallAnother incident happened more recently, in August 2010, and involved a fox entering a house in Folkstone, Kent through an upstairs window and attacking an eight-week-old kitten.
The final example I plan to include is one e-mailed to me by a lady in Hampshire who, in the early hours of the morning of 23rd January 2011, witnessed a fox dragging a cat outside their house; part of her e-mail is reproduced here, with her permission: we were very shocked to see a medium size fox dragging a struggling cat by the scruff of the neck infront of the flats – about 15 metres, stopping to readjust and then across the road towards our house. This might explain local blips, where several cases are reported in the same town in a short period, but generally superpredation (where one carnivoran eats another) is rare; carnivores often carry parasites and, cats in particular, have a rather unique protein metabolism that makes their meat greasy.
They’re Naturally Fearful of Humans
When you see a fox, they usually turn tail and run quickly. That’s because foxes are naturally fearful of humans. After all, we do hunt and kill them. You might not, but plenty of other people do hunt and trap foxes. Since this is the case, foxes aren’t often going to put themselves in a situation where they have to deal with a person.
Foxes Aren’t Very Large
Foxes are pretty small creatures overall. Red foxes, the most common and largest type, top out at about 30 pounds. Compared to many dogs, some of which can be over 200 pounds, that’s not a big threat. Of course, there are plenty of smaller dog breeds, and if your dog is small enough, it could be targeted as a meal for a hungry fox.
Why Foxes Might be in Your Backyard
If you see a fox wandering through your backyard, there’s no reason to panic or worry. More than likely, it’s just passing through on its way to a different hunting spot. It’s also possible that it’s there to scavenge, attracted by the scent of trash or something else left out. Less likely but still possible, the fox might be using an area under your home or porch as a den. If this is the case, you’ll see the fox often and may need to take measures to motivate the fox to leave.
What Dogs are Most at Danger?
Large dogs are at no risk of a fox attack. If your dog is 50 pounds or heavier, a fox is simply not going to take the risk of tussling with them. No fox is looking at a dog two to five times its size as a meal. Even dogs that are close in size to a fox, say a 30-pound dog, for example, is too much hassle and danger for a fox to consider attacking. But very small dogs, anything under 15 pounds, could be at risk. Tiny breeds, including Pugs, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, and any other very small dogs could potentially be attractive to a hungry fox as a meal.
Do foxes attack dogs?
There are different types of foxes around the world, and we need to look at the different types a little closer to answer the question best. For information on the chances of a fox eating a dog, that’s further down the page.
There are over 30 species of foxes found all over the world. Red foxes are the most iconic and common of these species. Red foxes are also the largest type of fox and, as such, are the species that pose the highest threat to dogs.But will a red fox attack a dog?Probably not; red foxes usually target any small animal that weighs up to 3.5 kg (7.7 lb). This would rule out most typically sized dogs.However, dogs such as Chihuahuas fall into this weight bracket, so a red fox could attack a small dog given the right circumstances. There is a slim chance the fox could see the very small dog as prey and attack it.As omnivores, foxes eat a mixture of plant and animal matter, but their diet consists mostly of raw meat from hunted animals. The animals that foxes hunt are mostly small mammals, like mice, rabbits, squirrels, and hamsters.Next in line are various types of birds, fish, and even reptiles and insects.Miniature dog breeds like Poodles and Chihuahuas are at risk throughout their life because of their small size, and almost all dogs could potentially be attacked by a fox when they are puppies.If you have puppies or miniature small dog breed, I would not leave them unattended on your property if foxes are in the local area.
Do foxes and dogs get along?
Over 60 years ago, a Russian scientist named Dmitry Belyaev became the Institute of Cytology and Genetics director in the Soviet Union. He was intrigued by how early humans domesticated dogs and thought the best way to learn about the domestication was by domesticating a new species from the start.Belyaev chose to domesticate foxes because of their shared genetic family (Canidae) with dogs. He worked over many years to create a version of the red fox that was friendly with humans and had an agreeable personality.Over 60 years after the beginning of the experiment, some foxes are considered to be domesticated. These foxes are not afraid of humans and even enjoy pats and cuddles. They are, however, still quite wild and their actions are unpredictable. Domestic foxes may not be afraid of humans, but that doesn’t mean that they listen to us.
Press reports of foxes attacking dogs
There are a handful of reports in the press in recent years relating to fox attacks on dogs. Here’s a selection of quotes and sources that I found.
If the fox is starving
Foxes are most active in the early hours of the day, and after dusk. Foxes hunt daily, though they don’t always catch something. If a hungry fox were to encounter your small dog during these times, it’s possible that the fox would attack… and there have been reports of foxes eating puppies that they come across.The best guard against a fox attacking or eating a small dog or puppy is to keep your pets on leash for their first and last trips outside during the day. Never leave a small dog or puppies unattended in your yard.If your property is fenced in, provide regular perimeter checks to ensure that wild foxes aren’t digging into your property from the other side.
Rabid foxes could attack a dog
Foxes are one of the most common carriers of rabies. Rabies is a disease which attacks the nervous system in mammals and causes death. It is contagious and transferred through saliva. An infected fox could attack your dog and potentially give him the deadly disease.It’s not as much of a concern as you might think though, as rabies has virtually been eliminated from countries such as the UK and Australia, bar being present in some bats and possibly even flying foxes (a bat species).The numbers are a little different in North America though, where foxes are known to be a rabies carrier. Again though, it’s not a huge epidemic and is probably rare given that in the United States, foxes are only said to report for 5% of rabies cases (see report).
Do foxes eat dogs?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the chances of a fox eating your dog is relatively slim, depending on the size of your dog.Yes, puppies and smaller dogs are more at risk of being eaten by a fox, but in most cases the only time a fox would eat a dog would be if came across an already dead carcass.
Attach a bear bell to your dog’s collar when you walk him off-leash or let him out in the backyard. This
Vaccinate your dog
Most domestic pets could benefit from rabies vaccination. Get your dog vaccinated to remove the worry of rabies from a fox bite.
Ultrasonic animal deterrent
This small machine is simply to set-up and works by emitting flashing lights and sounds that we can’t hear but are irritable to foxes and other pests. You canThere’s a solar panel on it which means you can leave it out to charge by itself. It has a range of 9 meters, and an angle sensor letting it have a wide coverage.It doesn’t just deter foxes but is also said to work on other pests you want to get rid of such as rats, moles, squirrels, and coyotes.
Remove any food sources
Another reason that foxes will frequent your property is if they have a readily available food source. To prevent this, keep your dog’s food out of your garden or yard, as it will attract hungry foxes.Some people will even leave dog food out for foxes to eat. Don’t do this if you want them to leave your garden alone.
Install motion lights
Foxes are most active during the early and late hours of the day. They do a lot of their hunting and stalking in the dark.A motion sensor light could startle them enough to keep them away from your home and your pet. These
Foxes and dogs are related, but that doesn’t mean that they get along. Foxes are wild animals, and the red fox is the most widespread carnivore in the world. Wild carnivores are not known for their ability to get along with domesticated animals, and foxes are no different with dogs.Ultimately, a fox is more likely to run away from your dog than attack it, especially if your dog is medium-sized or larger. There are a few main reasons why a fox might attack your dog. The fox is protecting its babies, your dog startles the fox, the fox is extremely hungry, or the fox is infected with rabies or another disease.Keep your dog by your side and on a leash if you think a fox is in the area and call animal control if you have an issue with a fox on your property. There shouldn’t be a problem as long as you remember all of the information provided.
Scare devices and repellents
If you need a fox family to move on sooner rather than later, harassment may encourage an earlier move. Here are a few humane harassment options once the kits have emerged:Critter Ridder on Amazon.comThese tactics are most effective when they are used in concert as part of a comprehensive plan to encourage the foxes to move on. The purpose of these techniques is to make the parents uncomfortable enough to move the litter to a more secure location. Once the den has been abandoned, make sure all the kits are out of the den before any permanent exclusion is put in place.If the den site is under a porch, deck or shed then it will remain an attractive denning area, and not just to foxes. Foxes are excellent diggers, so the best defense is to bury an L-shaped footer of hardware cloth around the perimeter of the area you are trying to exclude.
Mange is an extremely debilitating affliction caused by microscopic parasites calledThe disease causes intense irritation of the skin to the point where foxes have been known to chew their own tails off trying to relieve the itching. At advanced stages, infected foxes are often seen wandering around during the daytime, seemingly unafraid.
Fox “attacks”, usually minor bites, on people are extremely rare and, generally speaking, foxes are not a threat to humans. The number of attacks on cats and dogs each year is unknown, but seem to be of only minor significance relative to attacks on each other (i.e. dog on cat, or cat on cat). Typically foxes and cats ignore one another and fights are rarely observed.
The short answer is no. It is, as we shall see, certainly not unknown for foxes to attack cats and, more rarely, dogs or people; but none of these incidents areIn recent years, following the case of two young twins who were bitten by a fox in London during 2010, the UK has seen something of a media ‘frenzy’ over urban foxes and the danger they pose to people and their pets. The apparently unprovoked attack on the girls left experts confounded and many people afraid of the animals with which they share their streets and gardens. Some newspapers have been quoting local pest control companies who say urban fox numbers are on the rise and they’re seeing more problems than ever before.Fox numbers appear to have risen in recent years, and a recent estimate from Brighton University biologist Dawn Scott suggests there may be as many as 150,000 in our towns and cities. Interestingly, however, Scott and her colleague Phil Baker at Reading University have found that there is no correlation between fox densities and sightings. In other words, seeing more foxes around doesn’t necessarily mean that the population has risen. Similarly, there is currently no evidence that foxes are more of a nuisance or more dangerous now than at any point in the last decade.When it comes to assessing the evidence, whether it be scientific or otherwise, we must be mindful that we can only observe a fox for a fraction of its time (often using radio-tracking, which only tells us about the animal’s movements and generally nothing about what it’s doing at the time) and over a fraction of its range. Moreover, each fox is an individual: some are bold, some shy, some reclusive, some tenacious. We must thus be careful when generalizing; applying what we observe in one situation to all situations may over- or underestimate the risk. Naturalist and writer Brian Vezey-Fitzgerald summed it up nicely in his 1942 bookI am keen to emphasise that this is not a case of ‘special pleading’ on behalf of the fox, and I am not suggesting that foxes are blameless. I am simply keen that our opinions and actions are based on a rational and balanced appraisal of all the evidence.
Fox attacks on people
Outside of the UK, especially in parts of Europe, India and America where foxes are a vector for rabies, attacks are reasonably well known, but still far from commonplace. In Britain, they are even more infrequently reported and, until recently, received little widespread media attention.Concerns about urban foxes were probably first voiced by the media in an article about “vulpicide” in the London town of Orpington that appeared inSimilar articles crop up from time-to-time and many carry a quote from a source who says ‘it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured by an urban fox’. Unfortunately, despite their unequivocal rarity, especially considering the estimated number of foxes and their proximity to people in towns and cities, several incidents have been recorded, although the validity of some accounts has been questioned.The next case of which I am aware made the press, inIn response to this story, Bristol University ecologist Stephen Harris wrote a short article toThe title of Professor Harris’ article, “In late June 2002, there was a report of a fox biting a 14-month-old boy who was asleep in the lounge of a house in Dartford, Kent and, on 9th September 2003,Following several reports of foxes apparently killing pets in Edinburgh, an article appeared in
The Koupparis twins
The incident that most will be familiar with is the widely publicised case of two young girls who were bitten by a fox in a London suburb. In a terraced house in Hackney, Greater London, just before 10pm on 5th June 2010, Pauline Koupparis went upstairs to investigate the crying of her nine-month-old twins Lola and Isabella; she found them in their cots, bleeding from deep wounds to their upper body apparently inflicted by a fox that was still in the room. Mrs Koupparis called for her husband and together they tried to remove the ‘medium-sized’ fox, which was apparently unfazed by their lunges. Eventually they managed to chase the animal downstairs and out into the garden. The children were rushed to the Royal London Children’s Hospital, where they were treated for severe soft tissue injuries. Isabella suffered a severe bite to her left arm, while Lola sustained a minor bite to her right arm and a serious bite just above her right eye.This story attracted much media attention and was broadcast around the world; various fox experts expressed their surprise at the incident and some questioned whether a pet cat or dog that was actually to blame. In the documentary on the incident broadcast by the BBC, the Koupparis family reiterated that it was most definitely a fox and explained that they do not have any pets.Despite some rather disturbing, and at times frankly appalling, abuse the family received from some members of the public, the police investigated thoroughly and, based on the wounds and expert testimony, were satisfied that the twins were bitten by a fox. This attack raised many questions about urban foxes—about whether they were getting bolder, more numerous, or hungrier; in short, whether they are more dangerous now—and caused much speculation as to the reason behind the animal’s behaviour, including that it might have been a cub or suffering from toxoplasmosis.This case is quite remarkable because not only did the fox enter the house (that can perhaps be explained by the remains of a barbeque left cooling in the kitchen), but it also went upstairs and seemed quite ‘at home’. It has been suggested that the fox may have been attracted upstairs by the smell of the nappies, such items occasionally having been found at earths, but this is purely speculative and, writing inI do not wish to detract from the fact that this was a serious incident, terrifying for all those involved, so I won’t address this more than to make the point that, even if this were an accurate comparison, cases of foxes taking lambs and piglets, especially live ones, are uncommon. The bulk of a fox’s diet is composed of much smaller prey, namely invertebrates (especially earthworms), rodents, birds and rabbits. For reference, lambs and piglets are most vulnerable within the first couple of weeks after birth when, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization, they weigh about 2kg (3 lbs 3 oz.) and 1.5kg (4 lbs 6 oz.), respectively. According to the World Health Authority, a nine-month-old girl weighs in the region of 10kg (22 lbs), about the same as an adult fox.Why the fox wandered around the house might be alluded to by Mr Koupparis’ comment in the documentary that it “
Feeding the problem
It is frequently stated that feeding foxes is a bad idea because it causes them to become dependent on the food being offered and teaches them to associated people with food. Personally, I don’t believe this gives foxes the credit they deserve for being highly intelligent and adaptable animals. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence to suggest that feeding foxes leads to dependency; nor that foxes view all people the same. Indeed, my personal experience is that foxes learn to trust the food-giver and continue to treat others, even those accompanying the feeder, with great suspicion. Consequently, I personally do not see a problem feeding foxes, provided it is done responsibly.First and foremost, this means that only aIn the case of the Koupparis attack, someone in the neighbourhood encouraging local foxes into their house for food may have contributed to the incident. Foxes are perfectly capable of distinguish regular human ‘watchers’ from newcomers and can almost certainly tell one house from another (i.e. entering the wrong house by mistake seems unlikely), but if a fox has found that one house yields food, it makes sense that another might also.
Post Koupparis incidents
Shortly after the Koupparis incident, thirteen-year-old Bethany Blackburn was bitten on her left foot by a fox that, according to media reports, tore a hole in the tent in which she was camping with two friends just before midnight on Sunday 25th July. According to one report, the fox spent two hours scratching at the side of the tent, before it got in. An article inThis incident happened in the Blackburn’s back garden in a suburban part of Long Ditton, Surrey. Miss Blackburn told the paper that the fox, which the girls said was a cub, returned to the garden the next night and urinated on the tent door. There was apparently no food around at the time, so it was presumably curiosity that attracted the fox to the tent. Snarling is most certainly an abnormal behaviour and not one that I have ever seen, nor seen any experienced fox-watcher mention. Indeed, some zoologists point out that foxes do not snarl and suggest the account was exaggerated, although we cannot say for sure. The marking behaviour is not unusual, however; foxes very often scent-mark novel objects in their territory, and a tent would certainly fit the bill.Since these incidents a couple more have made the press. In September 2010 Annie Bradwell was bitten on the ear by a fox while in bed in her house in Fulham, West London, and in the early hours of Sunday 24th October 2010, a 37-year-old man was found unconscious by police in St Michael’s Parish Church Cemetery in Musselburgh, Scotland, suffering from hand and facial injuries thought to have been caused by an animal. There is no direct evidence linking the injuries to a fox, but a local councillor was quoted by the BBC as saying: “In January 2011, Tammy Page was bitten on her left index finger while trying to expel a fox from her kitchen and, later the same month, Deborah Adams was bitten on her left arm when she tried to touch a fox she found sitting in the road to Gluvian Farm in Cornwall. In February 2013, five-week-old Dennie Dolan bitten by a fox in first floor flat in Bromley and, in July of the same year, Anthony Schofield called 999 after sustaining a fractured wrist and two bite wounds while trying to prevent a “These are, of course, the cases that have made the mainstream press, and one wonders how many go un-reported. I, for example, know of at least one attack, recounted on an Internet message board, that was alleged to have happened in August 2005. A gentleman in south-east England was apparently charged by a fox that “
A drop in the ocean?
According to a pest control officer interviewed about the Koupparis attack on theFoxes are medium-sized carnivores and this alone means they have the potential to be dangerous, just as a pet cat or dog does. This capacity does not, however, mean that foxes pose a significant threat to people. Foxes probably are bolder now than they were when they first colonised our towns and cities back in the 1930s and 1940s (see QA), but I feel it’s important to recognise that boldness is not synonymic with viciousness. Bites happen from time to time, but such incidents are still extremely rare.I will spare you the statistical comparisons with dog and cat bites, because I don’t feel they are particularly relevant, and just reiterate that it’s important to be as cautious and sensible around foxes as you would any wild animal. Take
Foxes and domestic dogs
It is often considered that domestic dogs are one of few pets that a fox will not attack and this seems to be largely supported by the evidence. Indeed, I am only aware of one confirmed record of a dog having been killed by a fox. One morning in July 2010 a two-year-old Chihuahua was attacked by a fox that was apparently lying in long grass in a garden in Poole, Dorset. The owner of the dog chased the fox into a neighbouring garden and managed to retrieve the body of his pet after what, in an interview withThis is a curious case because it bares the hallmarks of a predatory attack. The fox appears to have attacked the dog before carrying it away, presumably with a view to eating it. This case is exceptional; it may even be unique. There was an unconfirmed report several years ago involving a fox, which turned out to be a neighbour’s pet, attacking a Staffordshire terrier-cross and another, in August 2012, during which a fox apparently jumped from some bushes and bit the muzzle of a greyhound. In the latter case, the owner reported that the fox “Despite occasional reports of foxes attacking dogs, typically small breeds, in most cases it is the dog that attacks the fox and dogs may be a limiting factor in urban fox distribution. In a paper to theIndeed, Professor Harris found that stray dogs commonly disturbed and chased foxes. Moreover, during the study 87 dead cubs were recovered from the city, 13 (15%) of these were found to have been killed by animals and, in most cases, dogs were responsible. According to the most recent survey by The Dogs Trust, local authorities in the UK handled just over 81,000 stray dogs between April 2015 and March 2016, suggesting stray dogs are still a considerable problem in Britain.If we consider that most foxes are about the size of a large domestic cat, they probably pose a potential threat to only the smallest breeds. In my experience, foxes are wary of dogs, certainly of medium to large breeds, but there have been some reports of unperturbed foxes ‘intimidating’ people out walking their dogs; these reports are often dismissed by researchers, but I have received several accounts of such instances and feel they warrant mention. In one account a lady reported being followed by a fox while out walking her dog at night until she crossed a road (presumably a boundary of the territory) at which point the fox turned and left.Another example was that of a lady in London who told me she was repeatedly barked at and followed by a fox while out walking her Belgian Shepherd dog at about 11pm in June 2010. In these cases, and a couple of others readers have contacted me about, the dog appears the focus of the fox’s attention and, based on the descriptions of the foxes’ behaviour, it seems probable that they were anxious at the dogs’ presence. Nonetheless, in February 2007, a lady wrote to me describing how a fox followed her while out walking her Welsh terrier in Surrey and, when she stopped, it approached and started play bowing to her dog.Indeed, not all fox-dog encounters are irascible and I have come across accounts of dogs playing with foxes. In May 2007, theIn his 1986 book,
Foxes and domestic cats
Whether or not foxes pose a danger to domestic cats is a question that has ignited debate for decades. The subject has made headlines in recent years, partly because there have been rumours that attacks are now more likely than ever before as a result of the Hunting Act of 2004 and many councils have implemented wheelie bins. The argument generally goes that the abolition of hunting with hounds has led to an increase in the fox population and that attacks on cats are the direct result; mounted hunts should, they argue, brought back. These subjects are covered at depth elsewhere on this site, so I won’t dwell more than to reiterate that there is no evidence that: a) fox numbers have risen in response to the Hunting Act; b) mounted hunts have any impact on fox numbers; c) the introduction of wheelie bins has had any impact on fox diet, distribution or behaviour.In February 2005, theThere are few data sets to tell us how many cats are attacked by foxes each year, not least because positively identifying the culprit as a fox (as opposed to a small dog, for example) is difficult. Probably the most off-cited statistics on the subject come from Bristol University. Stephen Harris distributed 5,480 questionnaires asking about fox disturbance, including losses of pets to houses in an area of north-west Bristol estimated to be home to 1,225 pet cats. Harris received 5,191 (95%) completed surveys and calculated that eight (less than 1%) of these pet cats, most being kittens less than eight months old, were thought to have been killed by foxes.The problem with the Bristol data is that they are not recent; it first appeared in a paper by Harris on the food of suburban foxes published in the journalThe most recent reference I’m aware of was a blog post that veterinary surgeon Pete Wedderburn made on VetHelpDirect in February 2013. Wedderburn searched the VetCompass data base for records of cats admitted with injuries caused by a fox. The database holds medical records for some 400,000 pets from 200 practices across the UK, 145,808 of which are for cats. Wedderburn’s search returned yielded 209 admissions, 79 confirmed and 130 suspected fox fights, between January 2010 and February 2013. These results suggested 14 in 10,000 cats were attacked, or believed to have been attacked by foxes over this period, an incidence of 0.14%. When Wedderburn ran the same search for cats admitted having suffered different injuries, he found cats were 40-times more likely to be bitten by another cat and 14-times more likely to be hit by a car than attacked by a fox.Dietary studies and observations of dead cats recovered from fox earths suggest higher occurrence in urban than rural areas. Indeed, most rural studies make no mention of cat remains in either fox scats or stomach contents, although during his 1981 review Harris found cat remains in 2.1% of stomachs he studied, while a similar study on the food ecology of foxes in Sweden, conducted by Jan Englund during 1965, found cat remains in just under 2% of stomachs. Macdonald’s studies found lower levels, with cat fur in eight (0.4%) of the 1,939 scats they collected. The problem with making inferences based on remains is that the foxes could’ve scavenged the remains. I know of no recent figures, but in November 2006 the insurer Petplan estimated that some 230,000 cats were run over in Britain every year, an average of 680 per day, with Bristol topping the blackspot list. Given that foxes are well known to scavenge roadkill, it seems this habit may explain the presence of cat remains in their diet.There can be no argument that foxes can and do kill cats. They don’t appear to do so often and are only thought to represent a minor threat to pet cats. In his entertaining and well-written account of urban foxes, published in the October 1985 issue of theBoth species are, indeed, numerous. With an estimated 430,000 foxes in Britain and the Pet Food Manufacturers Association’s estimate of 7.5 million pet cats in the UK in 2016, there are about 17 cats for every fox. Macdonald went on to describe how stalking with infrared binoculars in Oxford allowed them to watch fox-cat interactions on many occasions; most cases involved the two ignoring each other, but where conflict was seen the fox was apparently the more nervous of the two. A similar position was taken by Stephen Harris and Phil Baker in their 2001 book,Probably the biggest hurdle to assessing fox-cat interactions is that both species are nocturnal, which means that encounters are rarely observed and the first the owner knows of the confrontation is when they find the body the following morning. This leads to a certain amount of conjecture, not least because it can be very difficult, sometimes impossible, to separate the wounds made by a fox from those made by dog.It is often assumed that a fox is responsible because one (or several) has been seen in the area and no dogs have ever been seen in the garden. Nonetheless, in 2017 the annual survey by the Dogs Trust’s found just over 66,200 strays were taken in by local authorities in Britain between April 2016 and March 2017. There have been several incidents where a fox was believed to have killed a cat that have made the papers and most follow the same line: residents are woken by what they describe as a cat fight and, in some cases, a fox is seen at some point during the night. Recently, I came across the case of a veterinary nurse from Manchester who regularly has foxes visiting her garden that emphasizes the difficulty in being sure. The following is parts of her original account, reproduced here with her permission:More recently, in February 2018, rumours surfaced that a cat had been attacked and killed by a fox in the Honicknowle area of Plymouth. The body was recovered by a member of Plymouth UK Pets Lost and Found (PUKPLAF) and taken to a local veterinary practice for assessment. According to a social media post by the Plymouth & SW Devon branch of the RSPCA, the autopsy revealed that the cat had been hit by a car and did not find any injuries consistent with a fox attack.I’m only aware of a couple of accounts where the attack has been witnessed. In late August 2003, there was an incident in which six foxes were apparently seen attacking a 12-year-old tortoiseshell cat in a back garden of a house in Corstorphine, Edinburgh. One of the cat’s owners managed to scare the foxes away and rushed her pet to the vet – unfortunately its wounds were too severe and it had to be euthanized. This case is unique because it involved several foxes and foxes are solitary hunters; they do not hunt in packs. So how might we account for this bizarre observation? Parent foxes teach their cubs how and where to hunt and cubs may accompany them on hunting trips. If the incident took place as published, this was presumably a family with well-grown cubs (almost indistinguishable from the adults) accompanying their parents on a hunting trip.Another incident happened more recently, in August 2010, and involved a fox entering a house in Folkstone, Kent through an upstairs window and attacking an eight-week-old kitten. As with the 2003 incident, the owner intervened and caused the fox to drop the cat and flee, but the kitten had to be euthanized several days later. This is the first case of a fox entering a house and attacking a cat, raising the question of whether someone locally had been feeding it in their house prior to this. The final example I plan to include is one e-mailed to me by a lady in Hampshire who, in the early hours of the morning of 23rd January 2011, witnessed a fox dragging a cat outside their house; part of her e-mail is reproduced here, with her permission:If we see a fox attack a cat, that’s one thing, but how can we be sure that the cat was killed by a fox if we didn’t witness the incident? Well, there are some features that tend to be associated with fox attacks, rather than dog attacks or fights with other cats – they do not, however, offer conclusive proof. It has been suggested that intercanine distance (i.e. the size of the gap between the canine teeth) can be used to identify the culprit, but foxes and medium-sized dogs have similar distances; about 30mm and 26mm for their upper and lower canines, respectively. Indeed, in a paper to the journalNonetheless, decapitation and the smell of fox on the body are both strongly associated with cats killed by foxes. In hisFoxes may see cats as a potential meal, and I have seen it suggested that certain foxes may be more prone to attacking cats than other – some may ‘specialise’ in cats, was how one author described the situation. This might explain local ‘blips’, where several cases are reported in the same town in a short period, but generallyNonetheless, in November 2011 I received an e-mail from a gentleman living at the foothills of the Wicklow mountains in Ireland who found a freshly-killed kitten buried head first in a raised vegetable plot in his garden. Assuming a fox was responsible, and the details in his e-mail certainly implied so, burial of the kitten suggests it was being cached with the intention of eating later. Similarly, the conclusion of the Meteropolitan Police’s “Croydon Cat Killer” investigation was, unsurprisingly, that foxes were the culprits and, in their blog summary published in September 2018, they described three instances of foxes carrying cat bodies or parts thereof, particularly heads, captured on CCTV.The most likely explanation for aggressive interactions seems to me to be that foxes see cats, and for that matter cats see foxes, as both competition for food and possibly a danger to their young (there are reports of cats killing fox cubs). It is not difficult to see how two equally-sized carnivorans setting up territories in the same area and hunting for the same food could lead to conflict. Consequently, such attacks may represent what biologists refer to asAs with encounters with dogs, a fox and cat meeting is not likely to end in violence. I have come across numerous video and first-hand accounts of foxes and cats ignoring one another, feeding amicably from the same bowl and cats (even kittens) chasing foxes away. This broadly tallies with Harris’ observations that of the thousands of fox-cat interactions he’s witnessed, the cat won each time and, provided it wasn’t cornered, the fox fled. There are even reports of the two species playing and hunting together. One particularly interesting account I received from a lady in Worcestershire described a fox and cat meeting in her garden during October 2014. The pair approached each other to within about a metre and the fox sneezed, or made sneezing actions towards the cat. The lady told me:So, if you’re concerned about the risk foxes pose to your cat, what can you do? There are steps you can take to exclude foxes from your garden, but it is unlikely that your cat restricts its nightly wanderings to your garden alone. Given that both species are nocturnal, and that there is no guaranteed method of controlling the movement of either species, the most effective way to protect your cat is to keep it in at night, thereby vastly reducing the likelihood that it will meet a fox. This is also likely to reduce the probability that it will fight with any other cats, or dogs, and should reduce its impact on the local wildlife population. Additionally, keeping your cat(s) in at night also reduces the likelihood of it being involved in traffic accidents at times when there are few people around to see/help and veterinary assistance is more difficult to find.