On The Wild Side: Uninvited Guest

Foxes may not be a welcome sight in many gardens, but local photographer Cathy Cooper felt a duty of care when one took up residence in her home…

Talbot Road, Twickenham

As November rolls around again, I’m reminded of the time two years ago when I had a surprise visitor. On the 13th of the month at precisely 3pm, I opened the door to my back room upstairs and there on the landing, curled up asleep, was a fox. She awoke. We looked at each other for a second then she quickly ran down the stairs and out of the cat flap.

Shortly afterwards, the fox came back in, went out again and repeated this several times.  The cat flap was pegged open for our 22-year-old cat who had not quite mastered the technique of pushing it.

Thinking the vixen was hungry, I gave her some cat food but she wasn’t interested and went out. Her coat was in poor condition with patches of mange so I contacted the National Fox Welfare Society for their free treatment drops. Later that evening my husband and I were watching TV, when we heard a crash. She was suddenly in the house again, had ran upstairs and gone under the bed. I managed to chase her out.

Two days later the mange ointment arrived. Foxy Talbot, as we now called her (a nod to the inventor and photography pioneer), came in and went straight upstairs to the back room and under the spare bed. I took up a dish of jam sandwiches laced with the drops and some cat food. She devoured it all then settled down and fell asleep.

During the night the fox wanted to play and made lots of noise pulling things down in the back room until I opened our bedroom door. She would then settle down but start again once I had closed the door and gone back to bed. I didn’t get much sleep and was relieved when she finally left in the morning. I kept up the jam sandwich regime for a few weeks and her coat started looking much better. She normally came in around 9pm and got on the sofa but if she came early when I was cooking, she would get under my feet and try to bite my slippers. She was very tame and I could stroke her or even brush her, which she liked. I put her food dish in the kitchen and she ate with the cats. If she wanted more she would bash the enamel bowl with her paw. The cats were tolerant at first but not happy when she started to sleep in one of their baskets. This was crossing the line. I got a cardboard box, cut a hole in it and put some bedding inside but Foxy Talbot ignored it and continued to use the basket.

After that, I put a spare basket in the downstairs bathroom at night which meant I could close an inner door so she was separated from us and the cats. One day I noticed she had an abscess on her head. I got some antibiotics plus treatment for toxoplasmosis. I suspected that she had this disease, which affects the brain and takes away all form of fear. This might explain why she was so tame. I started the treatment just after Christmas, plus bathed her head where the abscess had burst. She was so good, easy to handle and a very small sweet little lady.

Talbot Road, Twickenham

During this period, the little vixen became quite a star on social media and friends from all over the world watched her daily progress with interest, some even sending me gifts.

On New Year’s Eve Foxy Talbot came and spent some time with us, had her meds and we saw the New Year in together. Then she went out and we never saw her again. We missed her terribly but hope she felt well enough to return to the wild and live like a fox again. 

•   For information on caring for foxes (plus fox-related gift ideas!) Contact the National Fox Welfare Society: national-fox-welfare.com

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