Are Foxes Closer to Dogs or Cats

Picture of a dog, fox and cat

Foxes are very striking looking animals with their vibrant red coats and adorable appearance. Though many people view them as truly beautiful to behold, others think of them as nuisance creatures that tear apart your garbage and wreak havoc in your neighborhood. Still, since dogs were once wild animals that have now been domesticated, many people wonder if the fox could also be raised to be a cherished family pet. Since the fox bears similarities to the dog and to the cat, it’s not uncommon for people to ponder which species the fox most closely resembles. Is the fox a feline or a canine? Does their biology indicate if the fox belongs to either category? 

When It Comes to Their DNA, Are Foxes Genetically Dogs or Cats?

The DNA evidence supports that foxes genetically belong the canidae family, indicating that they are biologically most closely related to dogs. The word canidae is Latin. Its root word is canis, a term that translates to “dog.” 

The canidae family includes more than just the domestic dog with whom we now share our homes and hearths. Other animals that all fall under this same classification include the following: 

  • Domestic dogs
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Foxes
  • Jackals
  • Dingoes

Interestingly enough, there is a crossover in lingo when it comes to the terminology to refer to the offspring of foxes. While a mother dog’s offspring are always referred to as pups or puppies, the fox’s children may be called kits, cubs, or pups. There is also a differentiation in gender names for foxes with males called tods or reynards and females referred to as vixens.

Why are Foxes Considered Part of the Dog Family and Not the Cat’s?

Believe it or not, there are many similarities between foxes and cats, a fact that causes some confusion. Both in appearance and behavior, there are many ways in which the fox and the cat are quite alike. 

What are the Main Similarities Between the Fox and the Cat?

A careful observation of the fox’s eye reveals that cats and foxes both have very similar eye shapes. The fox is in possession of eyes with vertical pupils that decrease to narrow slits. The back of their eye contains a reflective membrane.

Why Is the Eye Designed This Way?

Both cats and foxes need to be able to see well at night. This eye construction allows for excellent vision both in the daytime and in the evening hours.

Much like their feline friends, the cat, foxes also have claws that can be partially retracted. The claws extend for activities such as climbing but move back into position when not needed or when the noise of claws could be dangerous or prohibitive as when trying not to alert prey to their presence on a hunt for food.

Though dogs also bear whiskers, theirs are not as long as the fox’s or the cat’s. Foxes and cats possess whiskers that are highly sensitive and help with such things as direction, intuition, and balance.

Do Foxes and Cats Have Similar Behavior Traits?

When it comes to their behaviors, this is another area where the fox has more in common with Mr. Cat than Mr. Dog. Here are some of the key areas in which foxes and cats have similar behavior traits: 

Hunting instincts

Foxes were designed to hunt by stealth. Instead of pursuing prey on long hunts requiring a large amount of stamina, foxes prefer to stalk their prey, pouncing when the opportunity presents itself. While dogs are swifter about ending the life of their prey, the fox, like the cat, may instead choose to play with their “prize” once they’ve caught it.

Solitary hunters

Many dogs hunt in packs, but foxes prefer to do it as the cat does, by going it alone.

“Kill” method

Dogs are very efficient when ending the lives of their prey, typically grabbing the creature at the opportune angle and giving a quick shake to snap the animal’s neck to result in a quick and relatively painless death. However, the fox again prefers the cat’s approach instead using their teeth to make their final kill.

Postures

The fox enjoys posturing. Some of the common stances a fox will adopt include arched backs, stiff-legged movements, batting, and raised hackles. 

Nocturnal creatures

While most dogs are active during daylight hours, both foxes and cats come alive at night.

Tree climbers

Interestingly enough, the fox is the only member of the canidae family with the ability to climb trees. Many of them even opt to sleep up there! This is another similarity the fox shares with the cat.

Is the Fox More Similar to a Dog or a Cat as a House Pet?

Foxes can most definitely become family pets if raised from pups in a home setting. But as a pet, does the fox more closely resemble the behavior of a dog or a cat?

Much like many domestic cats, foxes prefer affection when they are in the mood and their own space when they aren’t. This is most definitely another area where the fox shares more in common with the cat than the dog. 

What Are Some Other Unique Characteristics Foxes Possess?

The fox is truly a fascinating creature with many habits that are uniquely his own. Among the most interesting facts relating to foxes and their behavior are:

Foxes rely on the earth’s magnetic field for effective hunting

Experts agree that foxes cannot just feel the earth’s magnetic field; they are also able to visualize it, making it an important tool in finding and keeping track of their prey. The magnetic field appears as a shadow to the fox. As the shadow comes into connection with the sound of the animal the fox is tracking, the fox knows it is time to pounce. 

The fox’s tail serves many important functions

The fox’s tail fulfills many different jobs including assisting with balance and providing warmth for the fox’s body in exceptionally cold and snowy weather. 

Foxes communicate with each other in their own unique languages

The fox is capable of making up to 40 sounds. More than that, foxes are typically quite chatty. 

Purchasing a domesticated fox will cost you $9000

A Russian geneticist by the name of Dmitry Belyaev began a selective breeding program to help create a fox that would be well suited to life as a family pet. He was highly successful. However, for the privilege of owning one of Belyaev’s domesticated foxes, you will pay approximately $9000.

Foxes are very playful

A characteristic the fox shares with both the dog and the cat is playfulness. Foxes not only enjoy playing with other foxes, they also enjoy playing with toys with ball stealing being a particular favorite sport for them.

Are foxes biologically considered to be dogs or cats? Foxes are most definitely members of the canidae (dog) family when it comes to their DNA. However, they most definitely share many more characteristics in common with cats which perhaps has led to much confusion as to which species this wily and beautiful creature actually belongs to.

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One Response

  1. Hello. I just read this article. I was wondering if there is research on wild foxes and human interaction. I was in the Yukon and a pack of foxes would follow me until late I arrived at work. Every morning when I awoke. They never seemed aggressive in fact they followed me with joy. Is this anything you have heard of? Can you please get back to me when you can. Thank you for your time, Hydee.

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