Many people seem to wonder, are foxes dogs or cats? While the fox does seem to share some traits and behavior with both the dog (canine) and cat (feline) they are related only to the Canidae family of the dog, although they share many similarities.
Are foxes dogs or cats? Foxes are related to dogs and not cats. The fox belongs to the Canidae family, shared by wolves, and dogs. However, they do have some interesting things in common with cats. Such as some foxes having vertical pupils, and the ability to climb trees.
Foxes, cats, and dogs seem to be among the most popular shared animal content on the web. The number of cute pictures of the three could probably fill up a whole corner of the cloud.
One thing that they have in common is that the fox, by all appearances could be a relative of both the dog and the cat at first glance, but this is not the case. As mentioned, the fox is related to the dog family which easily answers the question, are foxes dogs or cats, once and for all.
So why then does the fox have so much in common with felines? That answer is not clear, but the amount of similarities makes it an interesting topic.
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Let’s start with the similarities between the fox and the dog
- Both foxes and dogs are Canidae
- They share a similar anatomy
- Foxes and dogs are both omnivores
- They both have snouts and a great sense of smell
- Both have large ears and are adept at hearing
Foxes and Dogs Evolved from Canidae
What animal family is the fox in? Both animals share the same family (Canidae) but are a different genus and species. Although they share a lot of the same traits there are also many things that each animal does differently.
Dogs have evolved from wolves, who over many years and two different instances of evolution, have become domesticated.
Over this long period of time dogs have been housebroken, unlike in the domestication of foxes (these experiments exist today) it is still not possible to housebreak a fox. This is something that many pet fox owners will show you firsthand through the stories they tell online.
Foxes, on the other hand, evolved away from their common ancestor to the dog and became their own species over 7 million years ago. Remains of both foxes and wolves have been found that show they have been a different species for a very long time.
Foxes and dogs have a similar anatomy
Both species have some similar anatomy traits but are not completely the same. They both have snouts, which allows them to have a keen sense of smell, which works great for foxes who still live in the wild and use this skill to hunt.
Many wild dogs (and wolf-like canids) also still have those same instincts, such as jackals, and coyotes.
They also share those lovable big ears. They evolved their hearing in the wild, where being able to hear and catch prey was key to their survival.
Domesticated dogs can still hear and smell very well.
They both have tails, like a lot of animals, and use them to signal other animals for many reasons, such as being aroused, on alert, fearful and more.
Can foxes and dogs breed? While they share much of the same anatomy, they do not share enough of the same chromosomes (due to the foxes split into its own species) to breed the two together.
Although there are many rumors of being successful at this, they apparently call them “doxes” online, there has been no official case where a fox has successfully bred with a dog.
Foxes and dogs are both omnivores
Although many people mistake both dogs and foxes for being carnivores only, this is not true. Dogs and foxes are both omnivores and require meat and vegetation to survive.
Dog food has many of the needed vitamins and supplements that fresh vegetables provide.
Unlike dogs, foxes need a special nutrient called Taurine to survive. It comes from animal tissue and is vital to a fox’s health. Without it, it can cause blindness and more.
Dog food does not have Taurine in it, because dogs produce it naturally. Although a full prey diet is still a healthy choice for a dog. See more here.
What predators prey on foxes? Foxes are also preyed on and are a food source for many animals, including other canids! See more.
What Do Foxes and Cats Have in Common?
Now for the fun part! Foxes and cats have quite a few things in common although they are not related.
First a quick look at the history of cats
Cats are felines from the Felidae family. There are 37 species of cats. There is an overpopulation of cats, only 2% of 20-40 million feral and stray cats are neutered.
Domesticated cats appear to have evolved from tigers, the house cat’s genome is 95.6% tiger. Which is probably why they are such fierce little buggers.
Cat’s are one of the only species on earth that can’t taste sweetness (that’s not cool!) Well, it kind of is.
Cats have almost twice as many neurons in the brain’s central cortex than a dog has.
Cats also have the largest eyes of any mammal relative to the size of their bodies!
cats and Foxes
Now for the similarities between cats and foxes:
- Baby foxes hiss and spit much like kittens
- Foxes make mewing noises and sharp cries
- The gray fox can climb trees much like cats
- Ventrally split pupils (like cats eyes) instead of round
- Foxes and cats share some of the same postures
- Cats share similar hunting techniques with foxes
- Foxes and cats have sensitive whiskers (longer than canines)
- Both animals have similar footing and feet
Baby foxes, kittens, and puppies might be the cutest things on the planet. I can’t think of a single instance when I saw a kitten or puppy and thought, that’s ugly.
Kittens and baby foxes seem to have a couple things in common. They both hiss and spit when they are babies, unlike dogs.
All three animals are born blind, with eyes shut, and it take weeks for them to open and gain sight.
Foxes can see well in the dark much like cats.
For baby foxes (also known as kits or pups) this can be dangerous in the wild where they are preyed upon by animals higher up in the food chain.
Kittens and kits, baby foxes (another similarity) are definitely a ten on the scale of zero to cute.
What sound does a fox make? Much like cats, foxes make hissing noises, they scream loudly and mew on occasion. There are many videos online of fox calls, screams and screeches.
You probably wouldn’t even recognize a fox call in the wild unless you knew what to listen for. They sound more like mountain lions screeching than they do a dog barking. Their bark is more of a screech or high pitched yapping.
The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is one of the only foxes and the only one of the many canid species that can climb a tree.
They are sometimes known as “tree foxes” and much like cats, use their claws that can retract to grip and climb up trees.
Do foxes purr?
Foxes do purr! Well kind of. They do not purr as loud as cats but they do have a purr-like noise when they get excited.
Although foxes are said to make terrible pets, there is no doubt that they want to be loved by us.
As you can see from browsing on Youtube and from many of the online pet foxes that occupy Facebook and Instagram, they are loving creatures who crave attention despite their former solitary tendencies.
As you probably know cats also purr making them even more mysteriously close to their fox friends.
Fox Anatomy is Similar to that of Cats
One of the most intriguing similarities between foxes and cats is their eyes. Both animals have ventrally spit pupils (vertical) instead of round like dogs and most other mammals.
This must be the biggest of the similarities and it makes you wonder how they could share something as unique as their eyes but not be related.
The fact is, the fox, being a nocturnal hunter, developed tapetum lucidum, and the ability to see at night through a long evolutionary process.
This was a huge leap for their species, giving them an edge to go along with their nocturnal hunting skills.
Hunting Habits of Cats and Foxes
Cats and foxes also share many of the same hunting habits. Wild cats and feral cats eat a lot of the same prey as foxes, such as rodents and small mammals, which makes their diet closer to foxes than dogs.
Foxes also use a death blow type of bite like cats, rather than shaking the prey while biting the way dogs do.
When hunting, foxes use some of the same techniques as cats, pouncing on prey with their front paws and holding them down.
Foxes are stealthy hunters. Unlike dogs, who rely on the detection of sound and smell. Foxes will sit in a still position and wait long periods of time for an animal to scamper by unknowingly and then strike.
Cats and foxes have many similar sitting postures, hunting postures and also alert postures. Foxes will show alerting behavior like a cat by standing sideways, with the hair standing up on their backs.
Fox Whiskers and Paws are Similar to Cats
The fox has very sensitive whiskers like that of a cat. They are much longer than the fox’s canid cousins which gives them the ability to navigate in the dark.
Whiskers can help detect object locations in the dark as well as air changes that help alert them to dangers in the wild.
Their feet are also similar to that of a cat. Foxes have retractable claws, different than any other canid.
The stance foxes stand-in and curl up in, look much more like that of a cat than a dog.
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Can foxes and cats breed? No, foxes and cats can not breed. Foxes are not from the same family as cats, and do not possess the chromosomes to breed with felines.
Do foxes attack cats or dogs? It is a rare occasion for a fox to attack a cat. This may seem odd since cats are just the right size for a fox’s meal. Most foxes and dogs get along and it is also rare for a fox to attack a dog unless it is defending itself.
Most domestic dogs would not attack a fox and in most cases actually get along when kept as pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best answer to this is that foxes are foxes. They are related to dogs, not cats but they separated from their common ancestors many years ago.
No foxes are not part cat. They are canine and are related to dogs not cats.
Foxes make a lot of noises, they have even been known to purr but they do not generally hiss like cats.
Foxes have been known to make high pitched barking noises similar to dogs. They are not usually as deep sounding.
Citations for research:
Foxes act like cats: https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_mammals/red_foxes/
Gray foxes climb trees: https://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3372.htm
The above-listed fox resources are safe for educational research purposes.