A Fox was spotted in our garden last night and what a beautiful site he (or she) was. We were both absolutely entranced by this beautiful creature very gingerly peering at us through the trees and shrubs, assessing whether or not it was safe to come in.
Of course, there was some anxiety from family members “Don’t encourage him – they eat cats!” DO foxes eat cats? I hoped not.
I went inside to get some food for Mr Fox in case he really was eyeing up my small Burmese. What could I give him? I settled on cat food going on the theory that you can give hedgehogs cat food, (but never milk and bread as it upsets their tummies) and what’s good for a hedgehog, surely couldn’t hurt our stunning visitor.
Mr Fox snarfed down that packet of Felix like it was prime rib, so I got him some more and he ate that to. Then he left.
In the middle of the night we were woken by a high pitched squealing, Mr Fox had returned but was now out the front. It’s a really unnerving noise- a bit like a children’s scream – and I worried that he was in pain or had been hit by a car.
It was obviously neither of these as he is back again this evening, but I thought I should do a bit of reading up, (particularly on the cat issue as I’m very fond of my 3 cats, and wouldn’t be keen on Mr Fox devouring even one of them.)
So first of all what CAN you feed them?
“Virtually anything. Being carnivores, they like cooked or raw meat and tinned pet food. Foxes also like other savoury items such as cheese, table scraps, bread soaked in fat, fruit and cooked vegetables. However, be aware that anything your put out for foxes could equally be taken by dogs, cats and other wildlife.”
No mention of any cat devouring there.
The National Fox Welfare Society suggests that it is fine to feed foxes in your garden, but understand that if you do they will become used to the feeding and return regularly. My first impression on seeing him last night was that he was thin and looked starving but according to the The Society they get a plentiful supply of food from scavenging and supplement that with all the delighted homeowners like me who are only too willing to give them a treat.
A bit of foxy info for you: There are an estimated 258,000 adult foxes in urban and rural Britain. They generally can expect to live for about 2-4 years though they can live up to 10 years. Foxes are a member of the dog family and a group of foxes is called a leash. Although they are a member of the dog family, they have far more in common with the cat: Foxes can retract their claws (like cats) and they have vertical pupils as do cats. They also pounce on prey like cats do and like to have a play with it before the kill.
The screaming and barking sounds made by foxes are usually mainly heard in the mating season in January and February, so my Mr Fox was probably shouting to assert his hold on his territory to another fox in the vicinity last night. They only attack when in fear of being attacked and will normally shy away from humans and larger animals.
There have been horror stories in the press about foxes entering homes and biting babies but these events are extremely rare (and the cynical would say are much more likely to have been perpetrated by dogs.)
So, back to the cat issue? Would my Mr Fox attack a cat? When he arrived in our garden, one of my three cats appeared mildly interested for about a minute and a half, the other two looked bored and went back to sleep. The NFW Society suggest that it is possible, but also highly unlikely. A typical urban fox’s roaming ground can also be occupied by as many as 100 pussy cats and a lot of these will be out at night. Cats and foxes will therefore run into each other every night, and usually ignore each other. Foxes also help cats keep the urban rat population in check.
Reading up on Mr Fox also made me think about the traditional literary image of the clever fox who outwits its predators. According to Lucy Jones, author of Foxes Unearthed, it is likely that you will have a strong view about foxes be it either ‘love or loathing’. Of course this is largely due to the fox hunting debate which rages on but the image of the fox as a cunning untrustworthy animal goes back a long way in our culture.
“Never trust a fox. Looks like a dog, behaves like a cat.” Into the Wild, Erin Hunter
In the epic 12th century poem Reynard the Fox is a crafty and persuasive liar, the fox is also central to Aesop’s fables dating from about AD500 and is depicted as cunning and manipulative. Although The term “foxy” can denote attractiveness or being sexy, in most cultures going back to the dawn of story telling, the fox is a tricky, sly and deceitful creature. Which I think is a bit of a shame. My Mr Fox doesn’t look in the least deceitful. He just looks a bit desperate ( he may be manipulating me of course) and I’m going to welcome him into my garden for as long as he likes. Cats or no cats.