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Debate: Are foxes a problem for pet owners?

Debate: Are foxes a problem for pet owners?

Foxes are thriving in our cities, and despite their reputation for raiding bins, digging up lawns and making loud mating calls, a survey carried out by Channel 4’s Foxes Live programme showed that the vast majority of people in Britain like foxes.

We want to know what pet owners think. Do foxes cause a nuisance for you and your pet, or are they welcome visitors to your neighbourhood?

THE RISKS TO CATS AND DOGS
According to the RSPCA, the number of incidents of foxes attacking adult cats is low. And despite both being active at night, cats and foxes tend to avoid each other. Even if they were to fight, the sharp claws and teeth of an adult cat mean they are more than capable of defending themselves.

Adult foxes are protective of their young – so if you suspect cubs are close to your home, the RSPCA advises keeping your cat indoors at night as a precaution until the cubs have grown up and the family has moved on.

Mange is a common problem for foxes, and it is true that dogs could catch the disease from them. But the RSPCA says that it is highly unlikely that a pet dog would come into close enough contact with a live fox for this to happen. If your dog were to touch the body of a dead fox that had mange, there is a greater chance that it could get the disease. However, it is relatively easy to treat.

THE RISKS TO SMALLER PETS
Given the opportunity, foxes will kill small domestic pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. If you keep these pets outdoors, they need to be housed in a secure hutch.

Chicken wire provides little protection from a determined fox, so strong weld-mesh, with sturdy door fasteners and a secure lock (not a catch that might be knocked open) is a necessity. It should also be positioned on a solid floor so that foxes cannot dig underneath. Exercise runs should also have secure lids of strong weld-mesh.

HOW TO KEEP FOXES AWAY
If you are concerned about foxes causing a problem for you and your pet, the best thing is to discourage them from coming near your home in the first place. Here are Petplan’s top tips for keeping foxes away:

1. Do not feed them – either intentionally or unintentionally. Make sure they cannot get to food left out for other wildlife or pets.

2. Provide food for wild birds on fox-proof (roofed) bird tables or in feeders.

3. Clear up windfall fruit.

4. Use securely sealed dustbins.

5. Prevent access to underneath your shed as this could provide shelter or a location for digging an earth to raise cubs. If you find a fox den, don’t fill it unless you are sure it’s empty. To check, lightly block the entrance with loose soil or sticks, through which a fox can easily get through. If after a few days the holes are still blocked, pack them more thoroughly with soil. Be especially careful in the spring to avoid blocking cubs into an earth.

6. Put up fences around your garden or use prickly plants.

7. Use a repellent that has been approved for use with foxes. The use of anything other than an approved product as a repellent may be illegal.

8. Keep your garden tidy. Foxes are attracted to overgrown gardens that provide shelter – especially for mothers and cubs.

What do you think: are foxes a problem for you and your pet? Let us know by commenting in the box below.

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