Fox’s have relatively small stomachs for their size. Consequently, a red fox can eat only about half as much food in relation to it’s body weight as wolves and dogs can (about 10% versus 20%). They therefore must eat much more frequently than their larger cousins. Unfortunately, the vagaries of predatory life work against a fox being able to expect meals on a regular basis. Bad weather, scarce food supplies such as in winter months, injuries, and plain bad luck could cut off it’s food supply for some time. On the other hand, there are times when food so plentiful, a fox can’t hope to eat it all. It is during these periods that the fox will cache food as an insurance policy against starvation.
Not only will the fox save leftover food in it’s caches, it also hunts regularly with the sole intent of storing the kills for later. There are very few variations between caching technique among individuals. Simply described, a shallow hole 5-10cm deep is dug, the food item (usually only a few mouthfuls) is dropped in, and is then carefully covered. The entire process takes only about a minute and a half.
Rather than storing all of it’s food in one central location, foxes tend to build as many small caches as possible, and scatter them across their territories. The most important reason behind this behaviour (as opposed to hoarding behaviour seen in other animals) is to prevent a catastrophic loss of the fox’s entire food supply in the event that another animal finds the store. Any minor losses suffered are generally recouped by raiding the stashes of neighbouring foxes.