Are Foxes Related to Cats? The Surprising Answer

Although foxes are closer to dogsbeing part of the Canidae family, their feline mannerisms, long whiskers, patient hunting and agility mean that many people believe they are related to cats. But foxes are not related to cats except that they are both mammals.

Believing that foxes are cats is an easy conclusion to draw, so we’ve put together this guide to clear up some of the confusion.

Do foxes and cats belong to the same animal family?

fox looking away
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Pixabay

Aside from their similar personalities, foxes and cats are not part of the same family. Cats belong to the Felidae family – whether domestic cats or lions – and foxes belong to the family Canidae, just like dogs and wolves.

Canidae

Also known as Canidae or Canidae, the Canidae family includes dogs, coyotes, foxes, jackals, and wolves among the 36 species in this classification. Although they are mostly carnivores, many dogs are also scavengers and will eat everything from carrion to berries and vegetables. They were among the first animals to be domesticated.

Felidae

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 stay healthy.

Similarities Between Foxes and Cats

fox lying on the grass
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Pixabay

Foxes are often confused with cats due to the similarities between them. Although they are completely separate species and even members of different families, these animals behave quite similarly.

Appearance

The physical appearance of cats and foxes often makes people believe that they are part of the same family. Ignoring the obvious size difference and longer muzzle, a fox has incredibly similar whiskers and eyes to a cat’s.

A fox’s whiskers are just as sensitive as a domestic cat’s, and their eyes are also the same shape — with vertical pupils instead of round, like those of other dogs — and work well at night. Foxes are also known to curl up to nap, just like cats.

Behaviour

Foxes have two behavioral traits similar to those of a cat. Their hunting style and personality are easy to recognize if you are familiar with cats.

Hunt

While most dogs rely on dogged pursuit of their prey, foxes take a more patient approach. Like cats, they wait and pounce once they are sure of success. Foxes also tend to favor prey similar to cats, including small rodents like voles and mice.

They are also more likely to hunt alone rather than relying on their pack mates for help, and they bite to kill, rather than grab and shake like other dogs do.

Personality

Many people keep foxes as pets, which makes it easier to spot familiar behaviors. Unlike dogs, who will happily greet you at the door, foxes are calmer. Although they’re known to be affectionate towards 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, are known to hiss like kittens do when startled.

Retractable claws

The gray fox in particular is also known as “cat fox” or “tree fox”. This is due to their partially retractable claws and their unique ability to climb trees. Gray foxes also have rotating wrists that help them climb. However, unlike cats, these foxes have a hard time getting back down.

Differences between foxes and cats

fox walking in the meadow
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Pixabay

Despite all their similarities, there are many differences between foxes and cats. One of them is their relationship with humans. While domestic cats are happy to live with us, foxes have never been properly domesticated.

Therefore, keeping a pet fox is much more difficult than keeping a cat or even a dog. In some places it is even illegal to own a fox due to its wild nature. Foxes – red foxes in particular – need a large amount of space as their territory in the wild is between 1 and 3 square miles.

Conclusion

All in all, while foxes are canines like dogs, they are strong contenders as feline wannabes. Compared to our favorite canine friends, foxes don’t look like dogs at all. Although they have sharp teeth and a long snout, it is easy to believe that they are related to cats.

Featured image credit: Pixabay

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