Foxes may look cute in the new John Lewis festive advert - but parents are warned not to let their children try to befriend them.
While the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is delighted with the commercial and how John Lewis will be making a donation to wildlife charities, its website warns that contact with humans young and old can trigger a number of illnesses.
These include coughs, headaches, stomach aches, skin rashes and blurred vision.
General guidance issued before the advert was released states: “They will learn to trust people who are not causing them harm and may appear quite bold. But this is unlikely to be a sign of aggression.
“It’s important that people do not try to hand-feed foxes or make them tame as this may encourage foxes to approach people who may not like them and take action against them.”
Children playing with and eating fox droppings are the cause of many of the illnesses and families with foxes regularly appearing in their garden are urged to quickly clean away faeces.
The RSPCA says: “The risk of children picking up this parasite from fox droppings appears to be extremely low.
“If you have any concern about these and any other potential health risks from animals, contact your doctor.”
Nor are they deemed too much danger to traditional pets such as cats and dogs.
Indeed, dogs - also among the stars of the new John Lewis ad - are considered more a threat to foxes and so foxes tend to stay away from gardens containing them.
Night-time research also suggests that fox attacks on cats are extremely rare with foxes more likely to eat cats killed by cars than to target them themselves.
But, even if you live in a built-up area of town, don’t dismiss the possibility of a fox turning up in your garden as they often use railway lines to commute from the countryside.
Praising the advert, an RSPCA spokeswoman said: “The John Lewis advert is a delight to watch. It shows a dog being treated as one of the family and a whole host of wildlife that we help to protect, sentiments we echo here daily at the RSPCA.
“It is wonderful that wildlife charities are benefitting from this year’s commercial.”
To report an injured or sick fox to the RSPCA, ring the 24-hour cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234999.