Foxes do not usually attack cats, but it can sometimes happen. Although the risk is small, cats should keep their distance from foxes in order to stay safe.
Rather than shutting your cat indoors, you could discourage the foxes instead. Urban foxes are persistent, but you can stop them from entering your garden.
- 1 Protecting your Cat from Foxes
- 2 Will a Fox Attack a Cat?
- 3 Are Foxes a Health Risk to Cats?
- 4 How to Deter Foxes from your Garden
Protecting your Cat from Foxes
If you want to protect your cat, you have 3 options:
- Keep your Cat Indoors – Effective, but not the kindest method if your cat loves the outdoors. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of keeping cats indoors.
- Build an Outdoor Cat Enclosure – This allows your cat to spend time outdoors during the night. Cat enclosures can be a good solution if you have the time and space to construct one.
- Discourage Foxes from your Garden – Your cat is less likely to meet a fox this way. They are also less likely to catch an infection from a visiting fox.
Things You Should Know About Foxes
Foxes are very shy, so we don’t know much about their behavior. This can make them seem scarier than they are. Here are some facts you might find useful:
- You are most likely to see a fox in January and February (mating season) and Autumn (when the cubs are young). You’ll hear some howling and screaming during these months. If a fox is screaming at a cat, it might be a cub trying to call out for their mother.
- Foxes are solitary creatures. This means you’ll only see one fox in your garden at a time. If a fox were to launch an attack on a cat, it would be a one-on-one fight.
- You’ll know if a fox has been in your garden; they mark their territory with urine and feces. They may also dig up the garden.
- Foxes have a very distinctive musky scent.
- Foxes are hunters as well as scavengers. They will eat meat, bread, fruit, nuts and seeds, cat food, cooked leftovers, and oil. They don’t eat veggies, though.
- Some people think foxes are very aggressive towards people and pets. In truth, most foxes are very shy and do not pose a threat to humans, dogs, or cats. Foxes do pose a risk to smaller pets and chickens, though.
Will a Fox Attack a Cat?
A fox could attack a cat, but the odds are extremely low. Most foxes would not want to get on the wrong side of a cat’s sharp claws. Also, cats are much better climbers than foxes. This makes them unsuitable prey for foxes.
According to BBC Wildlife, an urban fox travels through 100+ cats’ territories each night. If foxes were a serious threat to cats, we’d see many more injuries and deaths.
Many foxes will eat a cat if they come across a cat’s carcass. They are scavengers, so they’ll eat just about anything. However, the act of stalking and killing a cat is rare.
How Common are Fox Attacks on Cats?
So, it’s “rare” for foxes to attack cats, but how rare? According to Dr. Wedderburn, between 2010 and 2013, 14 vet’s visits (out of 10,000) were due to a fox attack. Based on this data, a cat has a 0.14% chance of being injured by a fox.
According to the same data, the chance of a cat being hurt by another cat is 1.96%, and the prospect of a cat being hit by a vehicle is 5.6%. While the outdoors is a dangerous place for cats, fox attacks pose a very low risk in comparison to other dangers.
This data might not be telling the whole story. Lots of cats go missing each year, and a fox may have killed a portion of these cats. Even so, most vets would agree that foxes aren’t a significant threat.
Are Some Cats More Vulnerable to Fox Attacks?
On the rare occasion that a fox does injure a cat, this may be because the cat is vulnerable in some way. Cats are more likely to be attacked if they are:
- A kitten or tiny cat (i.e., under 5lbs.)
- They are outside for the very first time
- They have a limp, or they cannot climb
- Your cat has been declawed
Cats like these are vulnerable to fox attacks but also other threats. They should not be allowed to roam free.
Are Foxes a Health Risk to Cats?
Foxes mark their territory with urine and feces. If they poop in your garden and your cat comes into contact with it, your cat may catch a disease.
From a cat health point of view, the most important disease to be aware of is toxocariasis (roundworm). This is a parasite that can spread to cats and small children.
Another condition that can spread between foxes and cats is mange (mites). Dogs are more likely to contract mange than cats, but it’s not unheard of in cats. Mange is usually life-threatening in foxes. It’s less severe in cats but will cause some discomfort.
So, to summarize: the risk of a fox attacking a cat is minimal. And the risk of a cat becoming sick from a fox is moderate. Though the risks aren’t high, you should do everything you can to protect your cat. Here are some options to consider.
Keep a Cat Indoors at Night
The Cat’s Protection recommends keeping all cats indoors at night. This is to protect them from threats such as:
- Animal Attacks – Cats can be attacked by dogs, coyotes, snakes, raccoons, foxes, and even squirrels. Here’s a list of predators that prey on cats.
- Vehicle-Related Injuries – Visibility is poor at night so drivers are less likely to see cats on the road.
- Being Stolen – This especially applies to pedigree cats.
- Cruelty – Though rare, there have been cases of humans being cruel towards pets, especially at nighttime.
- Getting Lost – This is more likely to happen the first few times a cat goes outdoors.
- Getting Shut in a Shed or House
Foxes come out at twilight (i.e., when it begins to get dark). You should call your cat inside 1 hour before twilight. Give your cat their evening meal at this time so they have an incentive to come home on time.
It’s possible to spot a fox during the day, but most of their activity is at nighttime (especially urban foxes).
Building a Cat Enclosure
Although it’s safer to keep cats indoors, very active cats might become bored. If you suddenly stop allowing your cat out at night, this may lead to frustration.
As a compromise, you could install a cat enclosure or Cattio in your garden. The best cat enclosures connect to a cat flap so your cat can come and go as they please.
If you haven’t the time or budget to build a Cattio, make sure you provide your cat with plenty of indoor activities. Cat furniture, cat puzzles, and toys will help to keep your cat amused overnight.
How to Deter Foxes from your Garden
If keeping your cat indoors is not to your liking, there are alternatives. Instead, you could try and deter foxes from your garden. If foxes don’t come into your garden, your cat is less likely to meet one. Also, the spread of infection will be minimized.
Once a fox has started visiting, it can be hard to get rid of them. If you want them to stay away, you’ll need to make your garden less inviting. Here are some tips to consider.
Secure Your Garden
Believe it or not, foxes can enter gaps as small as 10cm x 10cm. They can also scale a 2-meter-high fence.
To keep foxes out, try and install a fence that runs the full perimeter of your household. Fences with strong foundations are best as these stop foxes from burrowing underneath.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to make your garden 100% secure, even if you invest in quality fencing.
Keep a Tidy Garden
Foxes love to hide in the long grass. Keep your lawn mown so that it’s less inviting for foxes.
If you have a wildflower bed, try to put a path around the wildflower bed/lawn. This means the fox will feel exposed if they try to hide in it.
Use your Garden
Some people stop using their garden once a fox moves in. This is the worst thing to do because it will encourage the fox to stick around. After all, foxes are shy, solitary creates who do not want to be disturbed.
The best thing you can do is to start using your garden more often. If your garden is long and thin, put a table of chairs down the end of the garden.
Remove all Sources of Food
Foxes will eat just about anything. You might not think it, but there are lots of food sources in your garden. Bugs, litter, and even some types of fertilizers can excite a fox’s taste buds. To detract foxes, consider the following:
- Make sure your rubbish is not accessible. The best way to do this is to place it in a wheelie bin. If you don’t have this option, tie up the bags with a double knot and place them in a bin with a secure lid.
- If you have fruit trees, remove fallen fruit.
- In urban areas, litter can blow into gardens. Try to remove this litter daily.
- Foxes will eat bread and birdseed. If you want to feed the birds, make sure the feeder is positioned up high.
- Avoid bone meal fertilizers, chicken manure, or fertilizer containing animal blood. The scent will be very appetizing. You could try using green manure, such as comfrey.
Compost your Waste Responsibly
Composting is a great way to recycle veg scraps. But if you are not careful, it can attract foxes, rats, and other small animals.
To prevent this, only put raw fruit and veg in the compost. Do not collect oil, cooked food, or meat as this will attract foxes.
Choose an enclosed compost bin with a lid rather than a compost heap. This can be turned intermittently until it starts to decompose.
Clean Up Fox Droppings
As mentioned, foxes mark their territory with feces and urine. If you find evidence of this in your garden, try to clean it immediately. Not only will this reduce the risk of infection, but it will also discourage the fox from returning.
So, how should you clean fox droppings? Lot’s of people use bleach, but this is not the best cleaner to use. Bleach will only mask the scent. Instead, use a biological washing power (and hot water) to break down the substance. You can also buy enzyme-based washes from pet stores.
If you feed your cat outside, foxes will often poop on the cat’s food bowl to try and mark their territory. So, even if your cat stays out overnight, feed them inside the house.
Cats who spend time outdoors are prone to worm infections. These cats may benefit from regular deworming treatments. Speak to your vet for advice.
Hailing is probably the most effective tactic. However, it must be used consistently to have the desired effect. You use your voice and body language to warn off the fox. For example, you may:
- Walk/run confidently towards the fox
- Wave your arms quickly
- Clap your hands loudly
- Jump up and down on the spot
- Throw a tennis ball at them
- Use a whistle or other loud noise
Foxes are usually very scared of humans so they’ll run away. According to the Humane Society, you should not feed a fox from your hand because they may lose their fear of humans, and therefore become more dangerous.
Inner city foxes may be less receptive to hailing than suburban foxes because they’ve had more interactions with humans.
Should I Use a Fox Repellant?
There is a product that claims to keep foxes away. The device releases ultrasonic sounds that foxes can hear, but humans cannot. The sounds are very irritating for foxes so it can help to keep them away.
The problem is that ultrasonic fox repellants can affect cats, too. Cats have excellent hearing so an ultrasonic device will sound very annoying.
Some people use garlic as a natural fox repellent. They crush cloves of garlic and place these throughout the garden. There is not much evidence to suggest this works, but it could be worth a try.
Foxes pose a minimal risk to cats. If your cat is declawed, lame or weighs less than 5 lbs., you should take this risk seriously.
The easiest and most effective way to keep cats safe is to keep them indoors overnight. This will not only protect them from foxes but also road accidents and other dangers.
Some cats are so independent that keeping them inside would be impractical. In that case, you should try to deter foxes from coming into your garden. This will not only prevent fights but also infections.