It’s true, our fox is a tea leaf. For those not familiar with Cockney Rhyming Slang, ‘tea leaf’ means thief. Let me tell you all about it.
Our Fox Is A Tea Leaf
First to clarify the word ‘our’. This fox is not a pet, she has decided that we are spot in the middle of her territory and spends a great deal of time in our near vicinity.
Night Time Filming
We first saw the fox on our night wildlife camera. There are several foxes that appear from time to time, but most seem to be moving through, on their way somewhere. But Silvi as, we have called her, seemed to appear on camera most nights.
Silvi first caught our attention for her ability to climb trees. Our apple tree was full of fruit and each night our camera caught her climbing up to help herself. She is very adept at it! Then the damson tree came into fruit and we saw her on camera helping herself to the fruit.
One day she appeared on camera in the early hours when it was light and we were struck by how pretty she was. She also has a really dark tail which is quite unusual.
What really caught our attention though, was the day the camera was at the bottom of the fig tree, also in fruit at the time, and Silvi used the camera as a foothold to get up into the tree and get at the figs higher up.
First Sighting In Daylight
It was just before 5pm one afternoon on a hot summer day when I walked out the front door onto the porch to play with some of the cats. They were staring down the outside steps towards the fig tree. I glanced and stopped short in my tracks. There on the wall was Silvi, sitting perfectly pretty and looking at me. As I watched she delicately lifted her head, stretched her neck and took a ripe fig of the tree and ate it. She sat there ages looking at me while I looked at her. So long, in fact, that I called Barnet Boy and he came and looked at her too. She didn’t move.
That seemed to be a significant moment because that night some fox poop appeared on a stone on the corner of our crazy paving around the house. Silvi had marked her territory!
Of course, apart from all the fruit, what was attracting Silvi was the cat food. Regular readers will know we have 16 cats and we used to leave bowls of dried cat biscuits on the porch all the time including at night. Note past tense! We noticed that either the cats were suddenly eating double their usual amount of food or someone else was eating it too. The night camera showed us it was Silvi, coming up on the porch and helping herself at night. And we could see she was female!
Cats Are Not Bothered
My biggest concern through all this was the cats and their safety. But the wildlife camera has shown us the cats either chasing off the foxes, including Silvi, or just sitting near them watching them. The cats do not appear afraid or particularly bothered.
Cat Food Brought In At Night
We started bringing in the cat food at night to dissuade Silvi from coming up on the porch. The pungent smell of fox was starting to become evident so it was time to do something about it. By now she was depositing her marker poop on the outdoor steps too!
However, the wildlife camera shows she still comes every night even though there is no food. She climbs all over our front wall, our logs and door step. The cats are sometimes on the logs sitting watching her move around. One night she stuck her head in the cat house only for Niblet to launch herself at her in disgust with a lot of noise and flying claws! Silvi quickly ran off, but came back later, giving the cat house a wide berth.
One night I opened the front door and met her on the porch. She had figured out the cat food was still available if she came earlier. She is really intelligent!
Moments of Thievery
At this point we started to notice strange things happening. The bedding of the cat house downstairs was pulled out and draped across the garden. We could only assume that Silvi was involved in some way.
Sure enough, the next night we caught her on camera trying to steal our front door mat!
The night after that Silvi stole some cat toys and took them up on the front grass to play with. That was when I announced to BB ‘our fox is a tea leaf!’.
The latest thing is our garden hose. I found the end of the garden hose, chewed, inside the cat garden. So that narrows the destruction down to the cats, the hedgehogs who crawl under the gate and come for a drink out of the water bowl, or Silvi. And I know which one my money is on. The actual hose has been chewed and broken in several places.
Silvi As A Teacher
Silvi has taught us a lot! My previous experience of foxes was only urban foxes including the one shown above from my Mum’s garden. We didn’t know that foxes climbed trees and she has shown us they do. I thought foxes were dangerous for cats and that doesn’t seem to be true in her case. I am glad we don’t have any kittens as that might be a different story. But the main thing I have learned is that our fox is a tea leaf. I wonder how many of our things she has stashed in her den?
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!