Will a Fox Kill and Eat a Cat?

By Ulla Rothschuh Osorio, Biologist. May 22, 2023
Will a Fox Kill and Eat a Cat?

Although dogs and cats are known for a notoriously antagonistic relationship, not as much has been reported on the relationship between foxes and cats. Like dogs, foxes are canids which are notable for their bushy tail, pointed ears and elongated muzzle. They are also known for their mischievous behaviors and an adept ability to hunt. While there are most commonly associated with entering hen houses to kill chickens, the increasingly common presence of foxes in urban areas and other areas where domestic cats live raises questions.

In this thedailyECO article, we ask the question do foxes kill and eat cats? Since many of us may have spotted foxes near our homes, we will want to ensure our felines are protected from potential predators such as feral foxes. This is especially a concern for cats with access to the outdoors.

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Will a fox kill a cat?

Although foxes are woodland animals, they have expanded their natural habitat to include areas with large human populations. This is thanks to their great adaptive ability, something which has allowed them to find new food sources. Often this is in the form of discarded waste from human populations. Like dogs, a fox's diet has adapted to include foodstuffs which are not naturally found in the wild.

This food is not only trash and other waste foods. Foxes are natural predators and will prey on a diverse group of animals. This includes small mammals, such as rabbits and mice. It also includes cats. So they can get sustenance, foxes can kill and eat cats.

Although foxes will kill cats, this does not mean it will happen all the time. Unlike the aforementioned chickens, cats are much better at evading predation from foxes. They are very nimble and can climb to heights. Some foxes, such as gray foxes, can also climb trees, but they are not generally as nimble as felines. Adult cats are larger and more skilled, making kittens and juvenile cats an easier target for foxes.

Generally speaking, foxes will not normally get into a fight with a strong-willed animal like cats. In fact, foxes are relatively shy animals. They are more likely to forage for small, defenseless animals. They are also omnivorous, so they can supplement their diet with fruits and other more accessible foods. Although they now live in closer proximity, cats do not share a natural habitat with foxes. This means foxes don't always consider them prey.

To avoid possible fox attacks on cats, it is best not to let cats outside when foxes are known to be in the area. Moreover, the increased cat populations are often more harmful to our ecosystems since they hunt a greater range of prey. Generally speaking, it is best not to let domestic cats roam since they can cause serious problems to local wildlife..

It is important to mention that foxes do not invade human territory. Human settlements have encroached on a fox's natural habitat, resulting their greater presence in urban areas. If problems arise from feral foxes and cats, it is important to respect their nature.

Will a Fox Kill and Eat a Cat? - Will a fox kill a cat?

What do foxes eat

Although foxes will kill and eat a cat in the right circumstances, this is not common. Foxes are opportunistic hunters, meaning they will eat whatever comes their way or what they can scavenge. Although their diet is more carnivorous than herbivorous, they will supplement their diet with fruit. They will also eat carrion if they find some.

The main prey of foxes are small mammals such as mice. They will also predate on other animals such as birds, amphibians and reptiles. While it won't be their preferred food, they will also eat insects when available. In areas where humans have settled, foxes can eat chickens, rabbits and even food scraps from the garbage.

When the prey is very large, foxes drag it to their burrow. They do so to take time to eat it without exposing themselves to the danger of being outdoors in a vulnerable situation before other predators.

In case they do not finish their food, foxes will save it to consume it later. Hunting is a very demanding activity with results that should not be wasted. There are also some who bury their prey to eat later. This is particularly common when the fox has cubs to feed.

How foxes hunt

A fox's hunting technique will be adapted to their specific environment. For example, they may be more likely to hide in grassy areas. However, they will use their excellent smell, sight, hearing and their typical stalking behavior to catch their prey.

Juvenile foxes are very playful. This allows them to get to know their surroundings while learning in a safe environment. It is during these games they also learn to hunt.

Foxes that live in snow need highly developed skills because of the thick layer of precipitation that can form on the ground. Upon sensing prey beneath the snow, foxes make a vertical leap head first, burying themselves in the snow to capture the animal. In order to detect the prey, they have to remain completely silent. It has even been suggested that they use electromagnetic field reading to detect prey under the snow. Learn the Arctic fox habitat with our article on what are polar ecosystems?

Foxes that live in deserts or similarly arid areas walk stealthily, making no noise before charging their prey. To achieve their kill, they bite their neck savagely.

Learn more about other types of canids with our article on the difference between coyotes and wolves.

Will a Fox Kill and Eat a Cat? - How foxes hunt

Facts about the fox

Now we know that foxes will kill cats in the right circumstances, we can learn some more about their behavior:

  • Foxes are often solitary animals, unlike most canids that live in packs.

  • They tend to be very elusive from humans, although the increasing urban populations are making human/fox interactions more common.

  • There are 27 different species of fox. They are cosmopolitan animals and some have adapted to very different climates. Some may live in deserts or in the arctic, for example.

  • Some species are considered a pest or are found in excess in an area, but others are in danger of extinction. The latter group includes the Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes) that lives in Chile.

  • Most fox species are nocturnal, although some may be diurnal.

  • To defend their territory, foxes mark with secretions to scare away other foxes or animals of another species.

  • Foxes are very vocal and can make 28 different sounds to communicate.

Learn about one of the habitats of foxes with our article on which plants and animals live in temperate forests?

If you want to read similar articles to Will a Fox Kill and Eat a Cat?, we recommend you visit our Facts about animals category.

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