The urban animal is completely different from its rural cousin, but that difference isn’t physical-it’s mental. A fox trotted past my shoelaces as I waited outside our offices on Southwark Street recently-it was the closest I’ve ever been to one.
Squirrels feed from people’s hands in St James’s Park, as did pigeons in Trafalgar Square before the previous mayor banned the practice due to the mess the vast flocks were causing and the amount of space they occupied. Each of these animals would flee from a person in the countryside, but then, in rural areas, they’re regarded as vermin and are likely to be shot.
In towns, their presence is often celebrated. I’ve seen rats running around the outside of a smart restaurant at lunchtime in London, but never at that time of day in the countryside.
Urban animals have a different attitude to us. It’s not the same as wild animals on places such as the Galápagos Islands that have no fear of humans-it’s more like disrespect for us. This has manifested itself in the occasional horrific attack by foxes in people’s homes, which I’ve never heard of happening in the countryside. The town mouse and his cousin, the country mouse, have very different attitudes to life.