Cats and foxes

by Richard Jones

A few days ago a fox vaulted over the fence and landed on the two cats asleep just outside the back door. Fur flew. The poor beast didn't stand a chance.

Cat in gardenA few days ago a fox vaulted over the fence and landed on the two cats asleep just outside the back door. Fur flew. The poor beast didn't stand a chance. It stopped half way up the lawn and turned to see what exploding ammunition dump it had fallen into. There was a brief stand-off, then it bolted. The bristling cats padded nervously about for a few minutes, then came indoors doing that nonchalant shrug thing, which means 'Pah, you should have seen the other guy'.

When we first moved to south-east London, 25 years ago, and discovered so many urban foxes here, I often wondered whether they posed a threat to our cats. It did not take me long to work out that foxes, like most predators, are cowards, and despite the obvious size difference, they would much rather take easy pickings.

It is an oft-forgotten rule, but the answer to the question 'what do carnivores eat?' is not 'meat' or 'other animal', but 'whatever they can get'. But this does not mean they are constantly on the ferocious hunt for prey. It means they will take whatever they can get easily, without a fight, without a struggle and without much danger to themselves.

In the wild, foxes are often scavengers, eating road-kill, or doing the evolutionarily laudable task of picking off the young, the infirm, the diseased and the dying. If a fox is going to hunt something live and kicking, it will pick on something much smaller than itself. Much smaller than a sleeping cat even.

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Gardeners' World Web User 16/03/2011 at 11:54

They(foxes) are good at keeping the urban rat in control too, Richard. When the population was decimated by the mange in Bristol rat holes appeared in many gardens that had not seen them before. I do not have a cat but the neighbours' cats are all friendly and like to watch me working in the garden - preparing tomorrows' toilet, I think! When the cats are absent or asleep in the sunshine the fox will venture out but keeps his distance.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/03/2011 at 15:10

Not entirely true - I once had to pull a fox off of the back of a full sized, quite awake and healthy cat.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/03/2011 at 16:28

We have lots of foxes and neighbourhood cats in our area of SE London and I also wondered what they would do if they encountered each other, and now I know! When we had a dog, the local fox would often torment it. The dog's favourite place to lay down and sleep indoors was by the (closed) patio doors. The fox would often come upto the patio door, and tap to get the dog's attention. The dog would then turn in demented circles barking, and scratching at the door to get out. We never did open the door, but sometimes thought we should to wipe that smug smile off the fox's face that we swore would appear as he sat there calmly watching the dog!

Gardeners' World Web User 16/03/2011 at 18:45

Foxes, in my urban garden in Muswell Hill, North London, have taken the trouble to tear open stout wooden animal houses to get to the residents, with terminal consequences for my poor little mates: bantam hens, rabbits and, one Xmas, my incredibly large Aylesbury duck. The duck was carried away over a six foot fence and off through the woods at the back - my kids followed the trail (it had snowed and the drips of blood were clear). It led all the way to Hampstead Heath!!!

Gardeners' World Web User 16/03/2011 at 18:47

Oh, and one also took a 6 week old kitten.

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