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Are Foxes Cats or Dogs? The Definitive Answer - PawSafe

Are Foxes Cats or Dogs? The Definitive Answer

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

are foxes cats or dogs

There is often confusion surrounding whether foxes are cats or dogs. Foxes are fascinating creatures that have captured the attention of many people. They are admired for their striking appearance and playful behavior, and let’s face it, many of us want to keep a fox as a pet just like a kitten or a puppy. Some of us may even be searching for baby foxes for sale or wondering how much they cost.

But are foxes really anything like dogs or cats? Do they belong to the same families? The answer to this question is more complex than one might think. While foxes share some similarities with cats and dogs, they are a separate species. Foxes belong to Canidae, including dogs, wolves, and coyotes.

Despite these similarities, foxes are still classified as dog family members. Stick with us as we explain deeper, with the aid of research, why foxes are not cats or dogs. So, let us jump right in.

This has led some people to believe that foxes are a type of cat. In fact, there are a number of factors that dogs have in common with cats and dogs.

On the other hand, Foxes are omnivores like dogs, meaning they eat various foods, including small mammals, birds, insects, fruits, and sometimes scavenged items. Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, primarily eating meat.

Foxes can live in groups containing three to four adults but prefer to hunt alone like cats. Cats can be social to varying degrees but mostly prefer to be alone as adults too. Dogs are known for their social nature and often form packs, even in domestic settings.

Wild foxes communicate through vocalizations like barks, howls, and screams. However, foxes raised in rescue homes can sometimes purr when craving attention or overly excited. Cats communicate through meows, purrs, and hisses. 

While foxes, cats, and dogs may share some common traits due to their evolutionary history, foxes are closer in evolutionary lineage to dogs than to cats. Still, they are a separate and distinct group of animals within the canid family.

Scientific Perspective

Scientifically, foxes belong to the genus called Vulpes. This means you get many different kinds of foxes across the world. This genus belongs to the Canidae family, that includes dogs. So foxes are related to dogs, but cats belong to a completely different family of carnivores.

Foxes have distinct physical characteristics that differentiate them from both cats and dogs. They have long, bushy tails and triangular ears, similar to dogs, but have a slender, cat-like body posture. Their whiskers are long and have retractable claws, just like cats do. 

Foxes are said to be the only members of the Canidae family who can climb trees. Their eyes are vertically oriented, which is a unique trait of nocturnal animals.

Behavioral Comparison

Foxes have behavioral characteristics that are not different from cats and dogs. They live in solid social bonds but will forage independently. Another similarity is that foxes are active and hunt at night, just like cats do. They are opportunistic hunters and will eat almost anything they can find, including small mammals, birds, insects, and even fruits.

They are also known for their cunning and intelligence, a trait not commonly found in cats or dogs. Like the dogs, they are known for their ability to cache food, which means they bury their food to save it for later.

Understanding Foxes

A red fox in a field

Understanding foxes requires exploring various aspects of their biology, behavior, and ecology. Foxes belong to the Canidae family, including dogs, wolves, and other canids.  They are small to medium-sized mammals known for their cunning and adaptability. 

There are about 37 species of foxes, but only ten are classified as true foxes.  Here are some key points to help you understand these fascinating animals:

Classification of Foxes

Foxes belong to the family Canidae. However, unlike their canine relatives, foxes have some distinct characteristics that set them apart. 

The most common species of foxes are the red fox, gray fox, and arctic fox. Each species has unique physical attributes that allow them to survive in their respective habitats. For example, the arctic fox has thick fur that keeps it warm in the harsh cold, while the gray fox is a skilled climber and can easily navigate through trees.

Physical Attributes of Foxes

Foxes have a slender and agile body, with a bushy tail and pointed ears. They have sharp teeth and claws that they use for hunting prey. Their fur is usually brown, gray, or red, changing color depending on the season. For example, the arctic fox’s fur turns white in the winter to blend in with the snow.

They are also known for their intelligence and adaptability and can thrive in both rural and urban environments. Understanding these characteristics is essential for anyone interested in learning more about these fascinating animals.

But is a fox a dog?

Foxes are not dogs. They belong to the same Canidae family as dogs but are not classified in the same genus as dogs. Foxes belong to the genus Vulpes, while dogs are classified in the genus Canis.

Despite their differences in classification, foxes and dogs share some physical and behavioral traits. Both foxes and dogs are carnivorous mammals with sharp teeth and excellent senses of smell and hearing. They are also both known for their playful and curious personalities.

However, there are also significant differences between foxes and dogs. For example, foxes have longer, more slender bodies and narrower snouts than dogs. They also have longer legs relative to their body size, which allows them to run faster and jump higher than most dogs.

Regarding behavior, foxes are generally more solitary and independent than dogs. While dogs are known for their loyalty and desire to be around humans, foxes are more likely to avoid human contact and prefer to hunt and forage on their own.

Can You Keep a Fox as a Pet Like a Dog?

a pet fox lying on a their owner's lap

Foxes were not domesticated until 60 years ago when Dmitri Belyaev began to study the process of domestication. Later, he would produce a group of friendly, domesticated foxes who displayed behaviors not seen in wild foxes. However, foxes are still not suitable as pets. Some states in the United States, like Utah, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas, do not allow citizens to keep a fox as a pet without a special permit.

Foxes are not like dogs and do not have the same temperament or behavior. They habitually kill more than they consume and are likely to kill other small domesticated animals. However, if you see a fox in your neighborhood, it should not be a cause for alarm. Foxes fear people and will run away when they detect your presence. 

In addition to their wild nature, foxes can also carry rabies, which is a deadly virus that can be transmitted through bites and scratches. Foxes can also bring other diseases such as distemper and mange. 

Personally I would not recommend keeping a fox as a pet like a dog. Foxes are wild animals that belong in their natural habitat, and it is important to respect their place in the ecosystem. If you want to own a fox, it is best to support wildlife conservation efforts and observe these animals in their natural habitat.

Even when foxes are “domesticated,” they are extremely difficult pets. They are very active, especially at night, and incredibly destructive. Many fox pet owners have a very hard time with their adult foxes and this can end in tragedy.

How Much Does A Pet Fox Cost?

A sleeping pet Fennec Fox

The cost of a pet fox in the United States can vary widely depending on several factors, including the species of fox, its age, whether it’s captive-bred or wild-caught, and the breeder or seller you choose. Here’s a general idea of the cost range you might expect for different types of pet foxes:

  1. Fennec Fox: Fennec foxes are one of the more commonly kept pet fox species. Prices for captive-bred fennec foxes can range from $1,500 to $4,000 or more, depending on factors like age and whether they come with a full set of vaccinations.
  2. Red Fox: Red foxes are occasionally kept as pets, but they may be more challenging to acquire due to legal restrictions in some areas. Prices can range from $500 to $2,500 or higher.
  3. Arctic Fox: Arctic foxes are not commonly kept as pets due to their specialized care requirements and limited availability. Prices for captive-bred Arctic foxes can range from $3,000 to $5,000 or more.
  4. Gray Fox: Gray foxes are less common as pets compared to fennec and red foxes. Prices can vary significantly, but they are often in the range of $800 to $2,000 or more.

It’s important to note that keeping a fox as a pet can be challenging and is subject to legal restrictions in many states and municipalities. Always check with local and state authorities to ensure that owning a fox is legal where you live. Additionally, foxes have unique care needs, and they are not typically recommended as pets for beginners. Proper housing, diet, socialization, and veterinary care are essential for their well-being.

Beyond the initial cost of acquiring a pet fox, be prepared for ongoing expenses related to their care, including food, housing, veterinary bills, and enrichment items to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Before considering a pet fox, thoroughly research their specific requirements and consult with experts or organizations dedicated to fox welfare to make an informed decision.

Myths and Misconceptions

There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding foxes, including their classification as either cats or dogs. Here are some of the most common misconceptions:

  • Foxes are part of the feline family: This is a common misconception, but foxes are not part of the feline family.
  • Foxes are similar to cats: While foxes may share some physical characteristics with cats, such as their retractable claws and vertical pupils, they are not similar in behavior or biology. Foxes are more closely related to dogs and wolves than cats.
  • Foxes are nocturnal animals: While foxes are often active at night, they are not strictly nocturnal. They are also active during the day and at dawn and dusk.
  • Foxes are dangerous to humans: Foxes are generally not dangerous to humans unless they feel threatened or cornered. They are more likely to run away from humans than to attack them.

It is important to understand the true nature of foxes and dispel these myths and misconceptions to appreciate these captivating animals for who they are.

Can a Fox Breed with a Dog?

Foxes and dogs are closely related, both belonging to the Canidae family. However, despite their similarities, they are different species and cannot interbreed naturally. 

While there have been some rare instances of fox-dog offspring, they are uncommon and often result from human intervention. In 2021, the first known hybrid between a dog and a fox was discovered in Brazil after being hit by a car. Scientists initially struggled to determine whether the animal was a dog or a fox due to its unusual appearance.

It is important to note that breeding foxes and dogs together is not recommended, as it can result in health problems and behavioral issues for the offspring. Additionally, it is illegal in many countries to breed or keep them as pets, and it’s not recommended due to potential negative consequences.

What Animals Can a Fox Breed With?

A Fennec Fox pet on a carpet with two kits or babies.

Foxes can breed with other members of the Canidae family, such as dogs, but not with members of the Felidae family, such as domestic cats.

Fox-Dog Hybrids

Fox-dog hybrid, also known as dox or the Dogzim, was believed to be impossible until the first one was recently found in Brazil. However, scientists do not know if a mature fox-dog offspring can reproduce.

Fox-Coyote Hybrids

Fox and Coyote cannot interbreed by themselves since they do not have compatible DNA. Interbreeding these two can have potential risks and complications. People who risk crossbreeding these two are endangering the wildlife, and it’s generally discouraged.

Fox-Cat Hybrid

Just as a dog cannot impregnate a cat, a fox cannot make a cat pregnant. Foxes and cats are from the same Canidae family but cannot produce offspring since they are not the same species or genus.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are foxes dangerous?

Foxes are not harmful to humans but can turn aggressive when scared. However, they are a massive threat to small pets such as rabbits, ducks, chickens, cats, and small dogs. Foxes are wild animals and should be treated cautiously, especially if they exhibit aggressive behavior.

Are foxes related to wolves?

Foxes and wolves are both members of the Canidae family, but they are not closely related. Foxes are more closely related to small canids such as coyotes and jackals.

What animals are related to cats?

Cats belong to the Felidae family, which includes other big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, as well as smaller cats, such as domestic cats and bobcats.

Can a fox breed with a cat?

No, foxes and cats cannot interbreed. They belong to different families and have different numbers of chromosomes.

Why is a fox, not a cat?

Foxes belong to the Canidae family, which includes dogs and wolves. They have different physical characteristics and behaviors than cats and are not closely related to them.

Is a raccoon a dog or a cat?

Raccoons are neither dogs nor cats. They belong to the Procyonidae family, which includes other animals such as coatis and kinkajous. However, a species called a raccoon dog is more related to dogs than to raccoons in terms of appearance.


Despite their cute appearance, foxes are wild animals and should not be kept as pets. Foxes are part of the Canidae family, which includes dogs, wolves, and coyotes. While foxes share some characteristics with both cats and dogs, they are their own distinct species. 

Foxes are also known for their intelligence and adaptability, which allows them to survive in a variety of environments. They are omnivores and have a varied diet that includes small mammals, insects, fruit, and even garbage. They can carry diseases such as rabies and can be dangerous if they feel threatened.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.