Three orphaned fox cubs have adopted a cuddly toy as their surrogate mother after a farmer found them abandoned in his field.

The cute trio, who are now being cared for at Animal Aid in Leatherhead, even offer the fake fox their food and cry when it is taken away at night.

A farmer from Epsom found the litter shivering at the bottom of his garden in a hole under his shed.

With no sign of their parents, he brought the starving cubs into his family home and gave them a stuffed fox belonging to his three-year-old daughter before passing them on to the animal charity.

Simon Cowell, founder of the charity, said: “We were quite surprised at first that a farmer would try and save the lives of three little foxes.

“What was really unusual was the cubs seemed to believe the stuffed animal was their mother and would not leave her side.

“When it came to dinner time they would leave some food and push the bowl towards the stuffed toy. It seemed like they couldn't understand why she wasn't eating.

“At first we couldn't figure out why they made so much noise when it was time for them to go to sleep, but it was because someone had accidentally taken the toy from their basket.”

Since being found last month, the cubs have gained weight and could be released back into the wild in a few months time.

Mr Cowell added: “It is important when the public see a baby animal that they don’t touch it.

“Call an animal charity first, otherwise you can make it harder for the mother to take the young back.

“Often although the animals seem lost, the mother is just around the corner.”

Contact Wildlife Aid on 0906 800 132 if you see an animal in distress. Calls cost 50p.