With their slender bodies, night-hunting abilities, and similarly shaped eyes, foxes are comparable to cats.
However foxes are not cats, nor are they related to them.
Foxes are actually related to dogs, so their anatomy and nutritional needs are the same as those of canines not felines.
What family do foxes belong to?
Even though there are some similarities between certain fox species and cats, both in terms of appearance and the way they behave, the two are members of different families.
Cats are members of the Felidae family. The house cat, by its scientific name, Felix catus, is one of the smallest in its family.
Despite the fox and the cat not being closely related or members of the same scientific family, they are members of the Carnivora order and the Mammalia class.
They’re also both part of the Chordata phylum, which means that they have a spine, so they both are vertebrates.
But then again, so are many other mammals in the Canidae and Felidae family.
Similarities between cats and foxes
Cats and foxes do have numerous similarities:
Some types of foxes are quite similar in appearance to cats.
Foxes have their eyes shaped like those of a cat.
In terms of functionality, their eyes work very well at night, which also makes them similar to cats since the latter are nocturnal animals.
Another interesting detail about the grey fox, in particular, is that it has retractable claws just like cats do.
They help them climb trees in an easy and fast way, which other foxes aren’t as able to do.
Foxes also have slender and smaller bodies, especially when compared to some types of dogs, and that is yet another comparability to cats.
Finally, fox whiskers are sensitive organs, and if you’ve been a cat parent before, you probably know how important whiskers can be for your feline buddy.
When it comes to the behaviour of both of these species, the two areas where they are most alike are hunting and killing.
First of all, since they are smaller-sized compared to other predators, foxes tend to hunt the same prey as wild cats.
We’ve already noted that the eyes that foxes are equipped with make them great nocturnal hunters, but they also behave like cats when hunting.
In fact, they adopt the same body position, which means that they tend to stalk their prey and pounce on it once they’re practically certain that it’s a safe win.
Furthermore, they tend to play with what they catch — another likeliness to cats.
What about the way they kill their prey? Well, this is another area where foxes’ behaviour resembles that of wild cats.
Instead of grabbing and shaking their prey like most other canids tend to do, foxes will kill them by biting them in body areas where important blood vessels are located (such as the prey’s neck).
Like wild cats, mountain lions, and other members of the Felidae family, foxes are usually solitary hunters (unlike members of the Canidae family, which tend to hunt in packs, such as wolves).
Finally, and although this is not a detail that necessarily makes foxes similar to cats in particular, it’s worth noting that they’re playful and friendly and will often behave between one another as domestic dogs and cats do.
How Are Foxes Different To Cats?
Foxes and cats also have plenty of differences too:
The first and perhaps the most important detail that separates these two species is the fact that, like dogs, foxes are omnivores.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that their diet should mostly be made of protein coming from animal sources.
Also, when it comes to nutrition, some types of foxes, such as the bat-eared fox, are equipped with very large ears, which makes them capable of hearing the sound that insects in their vicinity make.
The bat-eared fox can eat a variety of lizards, as well as insects, although its favourite is the termite.
By contrast, cats will very rarely hunt down insects, and when they do, they’ll most likely do it out of pure enjoyment, just to play with them, insects like ants are popular for cats to play with.
Although they might have become popular pets in the past several years, you cannot housebreak a fox.
That means that, unlike cats, a fox will never use the litter box or even wait for a break for you to take it out for a walk in the garden like you would your dog.
Another detail that makes the difference between foxes and cats is that while cats are well-known for grooming themselves, foxes don’t do the same.
In fact, foxes’ dens are known for being particularly smelly.
This species secretes a hard-to-bear odour from its scent glands, but it doesn’t do it for protection, as a skunk would, but rather to distinguish itself from its living environment and other animals.
While foxes are similar to cats in that they are much smaller and more slender than dogs, their bodies are not the same as those of cats.
Starting with their mouth, foxes do have sharp teeth like cats, but they are both located differently, and they also differ in numbers.
The average healthy adult fox has 42 teeth.
Adult cats have 30 permanent teeth, while kittens have even fewer – 26.
Foxes also have snouts instead of the noses that our feline friends are outfitted with.
Cats also have fewer scent receptors compared to foxes, but that was to be expected since they also have fewer than dogs.
While foxes are capable of sensing scents from farther away compared to their feline counterparts, the latter can distinguish smells better (especially when they are nearer).
Both species have overall better senses of smell compared to humans.
The osteo-skeletal system of these two species is different, too.
While a fox has an average of 170 bones (provided that it hasn’t suffered trauma and lost a limb), a healthy cat can have as many as 230.
Cat hair and fox hair differ from one another
While there are species of cats that have several different layers of hair on their bodies, which makes them more capable of withstanding extreme temperatures, no cats are capable of surviving in very cold weather.
Most cats have two or three hair types in their coats, although there are species, such as the Cornish Rex, which have just one layer (also known as the undercoat or the down hair).
But the fox can survive in extreme temperatures especially the arctic fox.
In fact, it can survive in temperatures as low as -70 degrees C (-94 degrees F).
Do cats and foxes sound the same?
The answer to this question is a clear no.
To us, it might sound that the hissing and spitting that some foxes can make in some situations resemble the sounds that an aggravated cat produces, but in fact, they are different.
Their frequency is not the same.
Moreover, foxes are not capable of purring, but that’s mostly due to the anatomy of their larynx.
Not all cats purr, but the smaller species, such as house cats, lynxes, bobcats, or cougars, are indeed capable of purring.
Since foxes are members of the same taxonomic family as dogs, wolves, and other canines, they are not related to cats.
Foxes and cats do have similarities in terms of appearance and behaviour, but the first remain more closely related to dogs rather than our feline friends.
This is part of the reason why foxes may occassionally attack cats.