Although foxes are more closely related to dogs, being part of the Canidae family, their cat-like mannerisms, long whiskers, patient hunting, and agility mean many people believe that they’re related to cats. But foxes aren’t related to cats other than both being mammals.
Believing that foxes are cats is an easy conclusion to come to, so we put together this guide to clear up some of the confusion.
Are Foxes and Cats From the Same Animal Family?
Putting aside their similar personalities, foxes and cats aren’t part of the same family. Cats belong to the Felidae family — whether they’re domestic cats or lions — and foxes belong to the Canidae family, like dogs and wolves do.
Also known as canines or canids, the Canidae family includes dogs, coyotes, foxes, jackals, and wolves among the 36 species under this classification. Although they’re mostly carnivores, many canines are also scavengers and will eat anything from carrion to berries and vegetables. They were among the first animals to be domesticated.
Felines, or members of the Felidae family, are a branch of 37 species of carnivores. The classification includes domestic cats, cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, and tigers, among others. Unlike canines, cats are obligate carnivores and need a diet based on animal protein to remain healthy.
Similarities Between Foxes and Cats
Foxes are often mistaken for cats due to the similarities between them. While they’re completely separate species and even members of different families, these animals behave quite similarly.
Cats’ and foxes’ physical appearances often fool people into thinking that they’re members of the same family. Ignoring the obvious size difference and longer snout, a fox has whiskers and eyes that are incredibly similar to those of a cat.
A fox’s whiskers are just as sensitive as a house cat’s, and their eyes are also similarly shaped — with vertical pupils instead of round ones, like those of other dogs — and work well at night. Foxes have also been known to curl up to nap just like cats do.
Foxes have two behavioral traits that are similar to those of a cat. Their hunting style and personality are both easy to recognize if you’re familiar with cats.
While most canines rely on doggedly chasing their prey, foxes take on a more patient approach. Like cats, they’ll sit in wait and pounce once they’re sure of success. Foxes also tend to favor similar prey as cats, including small rodents like voles and mice.
They’re also more likely to hunt alone rather than rely on their pack mates for help, and they bite to kill, rather than catch and shake as other canines do.
Many people keep foxes as pets, which makes it easier to spot familiar behaviors. Unlike dogs, which will happily greet you at the door, foxes are more sedate. While they’re known to be affectionate toward their favorite people, they can also be incredibly aloof when they’re not interested in attention and just want to be left alone.
Kits, or baby foxes, have been known to hiss like kittens do when they’re surprised.
The gray fox, in particular, is also known as the “cat fox” or “tree fox.” This is due to their partly retractable claws and unique ability to climb trees. Gray foxes also have rotating wrists that aid them in their climbing. However, unlike cats, these foxes have difficulty climbing down again.
Differences Between Foxes and Cats
Despite all their similarities, there are many differences between foxes and cats. One of these is their relationship with humans. While domesticated cats are happy to live alongside us, foxes have never been properly domesticated.
Therefore, it’s much harder to keep a pet fox than it is to keep a cat or even a dog. In some places, it’s even illegal to own a fox due to their wild-at-heart nature. Foxes — red foxes especially — need a large amount of space due to their territory in the wild being anywhere between 1 to 3 square miles.
Overall, while foxes are canines like dogs, they are keen contenders as feline-wannabes. Compared to our favorite canine friends, foxes aren’t dog-like at all. While they have sharp teeth and long snouts, it’s easy to believe that they are related to cats.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay