Foxes are opportunistic predators and have a notorious reputation for being sly and cunning killers who kill for fun. Not only that, but they have a reputation for attacking pets, particularly cats. But why do they have that reputation and is it justified? Do foxes eat cats? Join us as we discover if foxes really do eat cats.
What do Foxes Eat?
As we’ve already mentioned, foxes are opportunistic predators which is why it’s not surprising that people think their feline friends are under threat. But what do foxes actually eat?
Foxes are omnivores so, despite their reputation, they actually eat a mixture of fruit and berries as well as prey animals. However, they are still skilled hunters and have an opportunistic nature – if they can catch it they will eat it. That being said, foxes generally eat a range of rodents such as rats and mice, voles, birds, and insects. If the opportunity presents itself then they do also take chickens and livestock such as lambs – which is why they are often described as being pests by farmers. However, foxes are actually not pests as they do a really important job at keeping the rodent population under control, particularly in towns and cities.
Foxes are mainly all nocturnal or crepuscular so are most active during the night and the twilight hours. They are particularly skilled at flitting silently amongst the shadows while searching for their prey. This allows them to sneak up on their prey once they detect their scent, but also allows them to remain hidden from predators themselves. That’s right, even though foxes have a notorious reputation, they actually have a range of predators depending on the species of fox and it’s location. Depending on the country, predators of foxes include leopards, bears, polar bears, wolves, coyotes, and us humans.
How often do Foxes Encounter Cats?
One thing to consider when we’re talking about whether foxes eat cats is how often they actually encounter each other. The truth is that foxes and cats do cross paths fairly regularly, particularly in urban areas. Cats, just like foxes, are excellent hunters. Anyone who has got a cat is probably no stranger to the “presents” that they bring in in the form of a mouse or a bird. That’s because cats prey on many of the same animals that foxes do – mainly rodents and birds. Due to this, foxes and cats are naturally in the same range as they are hunting the same animals. Not only that, but cats – just like foxes – are often out during the night. So, this means they’re out and about at the same time and hunting the same things. Naturally, this means that foxes and cats are going to encounter each other quite frequently.
Do Foxes Eat Cats?
Foxes will eat cats, but generally their prey is smaller than grown cats and their first reaction when confronted with a large cat is defense. In fact, as we’ll demonstrate in just a moment, the threat from another cat is roughly 60 times greater than a fox!
Many pet owners are terrified that foxes will eat their cats. Considering that foxes and cats do often cross paths, it’s perfectly understandable to be worried that a fox might eat our beloved pets. However, this is not usually the case. That’s because foxes are not typically considered to be a threat to cats.
The truth is that foxes are actually really quite shy and timid animals. Although they are skilled hunters they typically stick to smaller prey that they know they can catch easily and cats just aren’t on the menu for them. Most of the time foxes are actually scared of cats and will usually run away. However, if a cat does encounter a fox then most are pretty good at defending themselves. Many cats are a similar size to foxes anyway, but hissing and arching their backs with their fur standing on end is a really effective way for a cat to make themselves look a lot bigger than they actually are. Therefore, it’s a good way to make a fox back off if it does decide to think about taking on a cat.
In urban settings there are often a lot of cats within the same range as a fox. However, statistically there is a far greater chance of a cat being killed by a car or injured in a fight with another cat. In fact, they are actually 60 times more likely to be injured by another cat than a fox.
Do Foxes Eat Cats on Occassion?
Although it is rare, foxes do sometimes attack (and eat) cats. However, this is usually only kittens, or very old or sick cats. This is because foxes are opportunistic predators and will attack something if they think it is easy prey. Kittens are much smaller than foxes and often defenceless. Therefore, if the opportunity arose, then a fox is likely to take it. Again, it’s the same with elderly, sick, or injured cats – they don’t have the same defenses a healthy adult cat does which makes them easier prey.
Foxes, like many animals, will do anything to protect and defend their young. So, sometimes (although still rarely) foxes will attack cats if they feel threatened and are protecting their cubs. This could be if the cat has wandered too close to the den, or when the young cubs are just beginning to explore the outside world.
As well as being opportunists, foxes are also scavengers and eat whatever they can find. Urban foxes have a reputation for scavenging in dustbins for left over food. This scavenging behavior is exactly why foxes sometimes are seen eating cats. However, it’s not necessarily because they’ve killed them. As we’ve already mentioned, cats are more likely to be killed by a car than a fox. Unfortunately after a cat has encountered a car they’re usually left as roadkill. This is when a fox is more likely to eat a cat as it’s simply scavenging on the remains.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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