There’s a wild animal that looks very similar to our pets when seen from a distance. It begs the question, is a fox a dog or a cat? These small creatures often take on an appearance similar to our fur babies at home. So, we decided to take a deep dive into their true nature to find out which pet they are more related to.
Keep reading to learn if a fox is any relation to your canine or feline. We also find out if foxes’ can be domesticated or if they’re banned in certain places.
Let’s jump in!
Is a Fox a Dog or a Cat?
A fox is actually more related to a dog, or more accurately put, it’s a member of the Canidae family. So, it’s not a dog or cat per se, but foxes share some similarities with both canines and felines, hence the confusion. They also have their own unique characteristics that set them apart altogether.
Physically, foxes have traits that differentiate them from both dogs and cats. They possess a long bushy tail, pointed ears, and a relatively slender body, similar to that of a cat. However, their leg structure, snout shape, and certain other anatomical features align them more closely with dogs.
Foxes and dogs belong to the same family, Canidae, which encompasses a wide range of species including wolves, coyotes, and jackals. Despite the genetic connection, foxes have evolved independently from domestic dogs.
The evolutionary tree of mammals can be complex, and the exact branching points can be challenging to pinpoint precisely. Foxes branch from the broader order of Carnivora, which includes both dogs and cats. But they fall within the Canidae family which has distinct canine characteristics.
Why Do Foxes Act Like Cats?
Foxes are solitary creatures, much like cats, known for their nocturnal habits. They have sharp senses, especially keen hearing and a strong sense of smell. Foxes are also highly adaptable and have managed to thrive in a variety of habitats around the world, from forests to urban areas.
While foxes and cats both have natural behaviors associated with hunting and pouncing, their hunting techniques and social structures differ. Foxes are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they consume a diverse diet that includes small mammals, birds, insects, vegetation, fruits, and dead animals. Domestic cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, primarily relying on a diet of meat.
Suggested Reading: Felines do have some unlikely friends in the world, learn how cats and chinchillas relate!
Can a Fox Breed With a Dog?
No, foxes and dogs can’t interbreed and produce viable offspring. Despite their shared membership in the Canidae family, these two species have distinct genetic differences. Foxes belong to the Vulpini tribe within the Canidae family, while domestic dogs belong to the Canini tribe.
Furthermore, foxes have 34 chromosomes and dogs have 78 chromosomes. This is a major genetic barrier making it biologically improbable for them to produce viable offspring.
Can Foxes Be Domesticated Pets Like Dogs and Cats?
Foxes can be challenging and complex animals to domesticate as pets, especially when compared to dogs and cats. While there have been instances of people attempting to tame and keep foxes as pets, we don’t advocate for the domestication of foxes.
Domestication involves a long and selective breeding process to develop traits that make animals more suitable for living alongside humans. There was a famous long-term genetic experiment conducted in Russia, which was the Soviet Union at the time, that showed it’s possible to selectively breed foxes for tameness and more dog-like behaviors.
However, even in these cases, fully domesticated foxes may still retain some wild instincts and behaviors. Foxes also have special dietary requirements, making their care and management more challenging than dogs.
Anna Kubekova, a biologist from the University of Illinois, has been studying domesticated foxes from the experiment since the late 1990s. Her lab’s genetic testing has found that friendly foxes exhibit physical traits not found in the wild, including spots in their fur, curled tails, and different ears. Young foxes normally have floppy ears like puppies do, but the domesticated foxes’ ears stay floppier for longer than when in the wild.
However, researchers haven’t been able to find a gene responsible for the friendly behaviors of the domesticated fox. One of the researchers, Jennifer Johnson, said the following: “The tameness (the nice versus mean) is actually separate from the bold animals versus the shy animals, and the active animals versus quiet animals. When these [tame and aggressive] animals are bred, we see a lot of interesting new behaviors.”
Can You Keep A Fox As A Pet?
Keeping a fox as a pet like a dog or a cat is actually banned in some states, including California, New York, Texas, and Oregon. This is due to concerns about their potential aggression and the impact on wildlife when captured. Furthermore, if you want to bring a fox into the U.S., it’s likely to cost you thousands of dollars. So, while in theory, you can have a fox as a pet, it depends on where you live.
Are Wild Foxes Aggressive?
Wild foxes are not aggressive and aren’t known for attacking humans. However, if they’re rabid when captured or handled they can pose danger and may defend themselves. But even in those circumstances aggression is rare because a fox’s natural instinct is to flee rather than bite or fight. That’s why if you’ve ever seen one in the wild, you’ll notice how quickly they vanish when they see you.
Wild foxes’ behaviors can vary depending on factors such as their environment, territory, and interactions with other animals or humans. But they’re generally shy and tend to avoid confrontations. It’s important to remember that wild animals, including foxes, are unpredictable, and it’s best to observe them from a safe distance and avoid any actions that might provoke them.
Is a Coyote a Dog?
Coyotes are genetically related to dogs, but they’re a specific canine scientifically known as Canis latrans. Both coyotes and dogs belong to the same Canidae family. Coyotes are characterized by their lean, medium-sized build with a bushy tail, a pointed snout, and a coat that can range from grayish-brown to reddish-brown. They’re highly adaptable animals and can thrive in a variety of environments.
Coyotes are distinct from foxes in several ways. While they share certain similarities, such as their pointed ears and omnivorous diet, there are notable differences. Coyotes are larger and more robust than most fox species, with longer legs and a more dog-like appearance. Foxes, on the other hand, often have slender bodies, bushy tails, and a more cat-like facial structure.
Pro Tip: Are you interested in the genetic makeup of your dog? Do a dog DNA test.
Pay Close Attention the Next Time You See a Fox
The next time you see a fox in the wild, pay close attention to its behavior. Notice if it has more dog or cat-like characteristics. Also, see how long it sticks around after it spots a human. You might blink and it’ll be nowhere to be found by the time you open your eyes!
Have you seen a fox in the wild? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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