Cat versus fox: what made Downing Street’s Larry so brave? | Cats

LArry, the Downing Street cat, quit his mouse duties this week to hunt an urban fox from his plot. The burly tabby was filmed carefully stalking the fox before launching into a full-blown chase when the intruder tried to hide in a flowerbed.

Larry emerges victorious, but the encounter has some wondering what gives cats the cheeky confidence to take on larger animals like foxes or dogs.

Experts say cat behavior is heavily shaped by instincts that date back to their wild ancestors. Domestic cats are much more genetically and behaviorally similar to wild relatives than dogs are to wolves. As solitary hunters, establishing and maintaining control of territory in which to hunt and mate is central to the cat’s way of life.

“Cats will confront most other animals if threatened, even dogs,” said Nicky Trevorrow, behavior manager at the charity Cats Protection. “This is because they are naturally territorial – it’s an ingrained instinct – so they will often challenge any other animals in their territory.”

Cats typically have preferred areas for sleeping and eating and mark out their “home range” by spraying, rubbing their facial scent markers on objects, and scratching around the area to alert other cats. Cats patrol their territory along a network of trails, often on a regular schedule, allowing neighboring cats to avoid encounters that could result in a standoff.

A cat’s gender (unneutered males tend to be more confrontational), life experience, and disposition play a role in how they will react to any encroachment on their territory.

“There are many individual variations in how strongly they will react to perceived intruders and whether they will attack animals, such as foxes, that are larger than them,” said expert Professor James Serpell. in animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania. “If a cat’s first encounter with a fox causes that fox to flee, it will likely encourage the cat in any subsequent encounters with foxes.”

Foxes may be larger with more powerful jaws, but evidence suggests that other cats often prove more formidable adversaries. A 2013 analysis of VetCompass, a clinical database of veterinary visits, identified five confirmed and nine suspected fox-fighting injuries for every 10,000 veterinary visits by cats (there was no data to indicate how the foxes behaved in these scuffles). This compares to 541 in 10,000 cats presenting with cat bite injuries and 196 in 10,000 cats presenting after a traffic accident.

“So to put fox attacks into context, other cats (40 times higher risk) and cars (14 times) seem to pose far greater dangers to cats than foxes,” Pete Wedderburn concluded. veterinarian and animator, who realized the fox risk. Evaluation.

“Cats and foxes generally pose no threat to each other and it’s unusual for damage to either of them when they’re in close proximity,” Trevorrow said.

There may be some instinctive animosity between cats and foxes, as there is between cats and dogs, due to the fact that the species once fought over food. “Ancestrally, foxes competed directly with feral cats for food like rodents and birds, and adult foxes likely posed a predation threat to young feral cats and kittens,” Serpell said.

Dennis Turner, director of the Institute of Applied Ethology and Animal Psychology near Zurich, said: “Larry obviously feels at home at No. 10 and is a big buck. Although even intact males are generally more tolerant of other males – they have other things on their minds – they can still chase intruders away from their main areas of activity. These include cats unfamiliar to them, dogs, and even foxes as in this case. Obviously this fox was one of the urban foxes living in and around London – but I bet he won’t be back for some time after that.

The history of the band


Weight: 4-5kg

Height: 23-25cm

Length: 46cm (without tail)

Number of teeth: 30

Maximum speed: 30mph

Food: hyper-carnivorous. Includes cat food

Strengths: Stealth; can see five or six times better than humans in twilight conditions, excellent climber


Weight: 6.5kg

Height: 35-50cm

Length: 45-90cm (without tail)

Number of teeth: 42

Maximum speed: approximately 30 mph

Diet: omnivorous. Includes berries, grass, birds, squirrels, rabbits, mice, beetles and crayfish and food scraps from bins

Strengths: powerful canines, can hear a mouse squeak from 30 meters away, can tunnel under fences and walls