Foxes, which have been known to kill residents’ cats, tortoises, chickens and hedgehogs, can only be controlled by humane methods, the council and the RSPCA have said, rather than by culling.

Demand for pest control services to kill urban foxes spikes immediately after Christmas, when there is a large amount of food thrown away, and during mating season, in March and April.

Fox cull specialist Tom Keightley said he has received extermination requests from residents who struggle to protect animals kept in gardens from foxes.

He also said noise – especially during mating season – and excrement left in gardens were two common complaints.

Julia Gray, from Selkirk Road, Twickenham, has called for Richmond Council to open a discussion around fox culling after her 13-year-old cat, Annie, was killed by a fox in her garden in March last year.

Ms Gray, who returned home one night to find foxes had killed Annie and even eaten her head, said she did not want any other domestic animals to suffer the same fate.

She said: “There was fur everywhere and I found her with her head eaten. It was horrific.

“A few years ago there were hedgehogs in our garden and one winter, on the lawn, foxes dug the hedgehogs out of hibernation and ate them.

“I love all animals but I fear for all our small domestic animals as well as other wildlife creatures, in particular the hedgehogs.”

Abi Holloway, from St Mark’s Road in Teddington, also said she has recently had chickens and a tortoise killed by foxes.

She said: “We went away one weekend and we came back to found them completely annihilated. The foxes ate their heads. It was very sad.

“And once they dug up a tortoise which had been buried for winter. I came back one morning to find they had dug him up, Reginald the tortoise. He was very lovely.

“You do your best to protect the chickens; we dug the wire fence very deep and it was high, but (the foxes) are very clever. They managed to climb a tree and get in through the top.”

A number of gruesome cat deaths within the M25 had previously been linked to a human, dubbed the 'Croydon Cat Killer', but the accepted wisdom is that foxes are responsible.

In late December 8,000 people signed a petition to outlaw fox culling after Hackney Council announced it would “humanely trap” and destroy foxes in one of its parks.

The plans were swiftly abandoned.

Richmond Council said it, like most local authorities, does not support or practise lethal control, instead advising residents on humane solutions.

Councillor Pamela Fleming, the council’s member for environment, said: “The most humane and natural way to control the fox population is to limit their food supply. The less food there is for them to eat - the fewer there will be.

"Storing your food waste securely and recycling it not only stops foxes and other animals tearing open black sacks, but it can be converted into energy and fertiliser. It also reduces waste.

“There are people who see a family of foxes and decide to put food out, but this doesn't help.”

The RSPCA argued a cull would be unnecessary and may not actually be effective since other foxes, as territorial animals, would move to take over in an area which had seen a cull.