Do foxes hunt cats?
September 17, 2004 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I live in a suburban neighborhood with trees and fences. I have an elderly cat. Lately, I've noticed a fox running around the neighborhood late at night - should I be worried for my cat's safety? What can I do about it?

I'm an animal lover, so killing the fox would be out of the question. I'm not opposed, however, to scaring the shit out of the fox so that it leaves the area. If I could somehow get close enough to it to "attack" it and let it know my scent, then perhaps it would stay away from the neighborhood. I don't really know though. Any ideas?
posted by crazy finger to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
Yes, you should be worried for your cat's safety, foxes will eat cats. Why not just keep the cat indoors?

I agree about calling animal control, if it's unusual for a fox to be in your neighbourhood, it might be sick. I certainly wouldn't be "attacking" it either way - foxes are shy but will often defend themselves and their territory, and if it's rabid or has some other illness, you could be letting yourself in for a bad time.
posted by biscotti at 7:27 PM on September 17, 2004

I definitely would be concerned for the cats safety.

Cats in my neighborhood have been attacked and eaten by foxes. I live in fenced neighborhood with lots of trees too. Scaring the fox might work temporarily, but I wouldn't expect it not to come back. Especially if it's hungry.
posted by entropy at 7:32 PM on September 17, 2004

I've done some googling and found this resource which sounds maybe foxes aren't a danger to cats after all. Still, though, my cat is getting older (17 years old) but we've always given him a very healthy diet and he's been an outdoor cat so he is in really good health. I'm just concerned that he's slowing a little and survival of the fittest and all that.
posted by crazy finger at 8:04 PM on September 17, 2004

If your cat comes and goes, how about just not letting him back out at night? That what I've been doing this summer - I have an old(ish) cat and we've spent the summer in a rural environment where we've got foxes and coyotes that hunt pets in the evening, so I just don't let my cat out after 5 PM.

And I'd take that fox site with a grain of salt, they seem to be some kind of anti-fox-hunting activists - which may be a noble cause but gives them a strong foxes-are-harmless bias.
posted by nicwolff at 10:16 PM on September 17, 2004

Despite the fact that you claim to be an animal lover, your cat - which you introduced to the local ecosystem - has killed many local animals & birds. Cycle of life.
posted by i_cola at 4:34 AM on September 18, 2004

your cat - which you introduced to the local ecosystem

Actually, he was a neighbor's gift. But I know what you're saying.
posted by crazy finger at 7:00 AM on September 18, 2004

I disagree to some extent. I agree it's always best to be safe, but even if this fox is fresh out of the woods it's going to go for the easiest food it can get, behaving like and eventually becoming an urban fox.

If you live close to the woods out there in NH, it might be best for the fox to be put back in its natural environment by animal control, but urban foxes are becoming inevitable and they are proliferating.

Urban foxes' diet almost never includes cats:

Fox food and feeding:
Foxes are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, birds, small mammals, insects, and other invertebrates, especially earthworms. In rural areas, they may feed primarily on one species, but in urban areas, feeding studies have shown that the most common food for foxes is scavenged items. This category of food includes edible and inedible refuse discarded by humans, as well as food set out for foxes by humans.
Cute pics, and tons more info on Google.

Urban foxes are a new phenomenon and live most often off of garbage and handouts and discards. While a fox might be a danger to cats, like any animal it will happily take the easiest food it can get over anything it actually has to chase. And even a raccoon is usually a match for a fox.

Given this scenario, I wouldn't worry if I had an outdoor cat, but I also would not have an outdoor cat.
The estimated average life span of a free-roaming cat is less than three years—compared to 15–18 years for the average indoor-only cat. Even the cat who only occasionally ventures outdoors unsupervised can fall victim to automobiles, predators, disease, and other hazards. In fact, two out of three veterinarians recommend keeping cats indoors, most often citing dangers from vehicles and disease.
Urban foxes, pushed out of the wild by development, are inevitable, but the fact is that cats should be kept indoors or given access to a safe cat-run (Cat runs previously discussed here; more here; you can enclose grass and bushes in a cat run if done well!)

I know it sounds mean and heartbreaking to keep your cat inside, and it might even be tough if the cat was feral for a a while before adoption or is naturally feral (like a Maine coon I adopted once), but this should really be your solution.
posted by Shane at 10:23 AM on September 18, 2004

I live next to a lake, it harbours lots of foxes and quite often you see them in our garden or sunbathing on the garage roof looking out over the fields. I have NEVER heard about them attacking cats around here and the only danger my cat comes into contact with is other cats out for a scrap.

I have however, heard about foxes nipping into a house and attacking a baby but I think that's an urban myth
posted by floanna at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2004

My stepmother had a cat who was killed by a fox, or at least, that was the story she told me - the cat was certainly killed by some outdoor animal, and there was a fox around, so it seemed to make sense. I don't know how carefully the evidence was investigated etc, but I wouldn't dismiss the possibility... Best to keep kitty inside after dark, I'd say.
posted by mdn at 12:02 PM on September 18, 2004

A lot of small, young coyotes can look like tall foxes, especially from afar. And they will definitely eat cats. It's time to turn your cat into a daytime-out cat only, which given it's age it might accept quite willingly.
posted by dness2 at 12:37 PM on September 18, 2004

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