Dogs and cats are common pets found in many households worldwide. But foxes? Not so much. Though the thought of owning a tiny Fennec Fox may be appealing, is it really feasible?
Do Fennec Foxes make good pets? Fennec Foxes are definitely not for everyone. They require much more work than a dog or cat and need a specialized diet and a secure, quiet home. They can make good pets provided that the owner is willing to make certain adjustments and accept the fact that a fox will be a fox.
Exotic pets like Fennec Foxes can be entertaining, fun pets, but it’s important to have realistic expectations so that disappointment or frustration will never be an issue. Keep reading to learn more about these interesting creatures and how to make it work.
Understand What You’re Getting Into First
Bringing home a Fennec Fox is not the same as bringing home a puppy or a kitten. Sure, there are similarities such as excitement and anticipation, buying food and toys, and setting up an area they can call their own, but a Fennec Fox is not a domesticated pet and requires a different approach entirely.
Fennec Foxes are native to North Africa and are perfectly suited for life in the dry desert. Their thick, sandy-colored coat reflects heat and light during the day, keeps them warm through the cold desert nights, and provides excellent camouflage. Their feet are well furred on the bottom for traction on and protection from the scorching sand.
The Fennec Fox only grows to be 2 -4 pounds with a body length of 9 – 16 inches. The bushy tail adds another 7 -12 inches to the overall length.
The large ears grow to be 4 – 6 inches tall and serve two purposes. The ears contain a vast network of blood vessels to dissipate heat and regulate body temperature.
They also act as sound amplifiers, giving the fox keen hearing to detect sounds of underground prey and the approach of dangerous predators.
Fun Fact: Fennec Foxes are the smallest of all canids and have the largest ear-to-body ratio.
Fennec Foxes are nocturnal animals. They snooze away daylight hours underground and spend their nights hunting, feeding, and playing. They are social creatures typically living in family communities of ten members and are monogamous, meaning they mate for life.
Digging is an instinctive behavior for these little guys, and boy, are they good at it. Their individual, underground burrows often consist of a series of connecting tunnels with multiple entrances/exits and can stretch up to 32 feet in length with cozy dens 3 feet deep interspersed throughout.
Hunting is necessary for their survival, and while they consume a large number of insects and small rodents, they are also capable of bringing down prey bigger than they are, even fully grown rabbits. Fennec Foxes are omnivores, so in addition to meat, they also eat eggs, plants, roots, vegetables, and fruits to meet their nutritional requirements.
Fun Fact: These small foxes are fast and can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour easily.
Allowing total freedom in your home right away will be overwhelming for a Fennec and potentially disastrous for you. Foxes are incredibly curious by nature and don’t arrive already house trained, so in the best interest of your home and belongings, you’ll want to have a safe, designated area already prepared.
Setting aside an entire room with a door that securely closes is the best approach to housing your new pet. You can customize it to meet all of his needs and not worry about him getting into trouble with dangerous cleaning products, electric cords, open windows, and doors, etc. when you leave him alone.
His room can be outfitted with a comfortable bed, a covered litter box, a pile of blankets for him to dig through, a multi-level cat tree for climbing, small balls and safe toys, tunnels to encourage natural behavior, food and water bowls, and even a high-sided wooden box filled with sand to satisfy his digging instincts.
If a separate room isn’t an option, you’ll want to invest in either a dog crate or a spacious multi-level cage to keep him safe when you’re not supervising. Remember that these cute, tiny animals are nocturnal and will have a fabulous time exploring, playing, and ransacking all night long if they’re not contained.
Building an outdoor enclosure for occasional fresh air and sunshine isn’t a requirement, but is an option. Security is absolutely crucial as these foxes can easily scale an average fence and dig out of ordinary enclosures with very little effort.
You’ll need sturdy fencing for the sides and a secure roof. A concrete floor with all fencing securely attached is best. You can then line the sides with wood or sheets of hard plastic and add several feet of sand for digging and tunneling.
If a concrete floor base is not feasible, bury the side fencing at least 3 feet deep to prevent escape and always supervise.
With much patience, Fennecs can be trained to sit, stay, come, fetch a ball, and even walk nicely beside you when wearing a harness.
Training them to use a litter box can be done, though for many owners it’s an ongoing battle. Lots of positive reinforcement, time, patience, and effort will be needed to reliably housebreak, but it is possible. However, training them to only do their business outside is nearly impossible.
Ideally, a Fennec Fox’s diet should mimic their natural diet closely. Whole mice, rabbit and chicken parts, insects like crickets and mealworms, and eggs should form the bulk of their diet (about 90%) with some fruits and vegetables given to supplement.
Some owners feed a high-quality dog or cat dry food or a specialty feed like Mazuri Exotic Canine Diet. Canned pet food can be mixed with the kibble to make it more appetizing, but regardless of whether you are sticking to a natural diet or a commercial one, calcium and taurine powdered supplements should be added daily.
Fennec Foxes are active creatures, and they’ll get plenty of exercise on their own as they play and explore. Although messy, providing a high-sided box or kiddie pool filled with sand will allow them to move as nature intended as they joyfully dig. Teaching them to play fetch can also ensure they’re getting sufficient exercise.
A very snug fitting harness is the only option if you want to take your fox for a walk. Be aware that if he should ever escape, the odds of seeing him again are slim.
Not every veterinarian will be willing to treat a fox. Finding a licensed vet who is knowledgeable about Fennec Foxes and is agreeable to taking you on as a client before you purchase your new pet is critical. Don’t wait until an emergency arises to establish a relationship with a qualified veterinarian.
Fennec Foxes can contract rabies and other diseases that affect dogs. Following a typical dog vaccination schedule will be necessary. Heartworm, flea, tick, and mite prevention are also recommended.
Social and Family Life
In the wild, Fennec Foxes are socially active within their family communities. In captivity they’ll bond with household members, but remember, these aren’t lapdogs. They often enjoy being petted on their head and having their ears stroked, but aren’t going to tolerate being held for long periods. You’ll need to learn to love and admire them from a respectful distance.
Foxes are naturally timid animals and will startle easily at strange objects or loud noises. Gently socializing them when they’re young to the ordinary routines and noises of your home is important to help them settle in.
Fennecs usually get along well with cats and dogs, but make sure any small pets, such as gerbils, are completely inaccessible. Fennecs should never be kept with a dog who has a strong prey drive as the little fox could trigger chasing (and killing) instincts.
As we mentioned, foxes are easily scared and therefore are not recommended for families with children.
How Much Does a Fennec Fox Cost?
You can expect to pay around $2,500 for a Fennec Fox from a licensed breeder. Only purchase a fully weaned young fox and avoid any that are being rehomed.
We talk about everything that goes into their cost and what makes them so expensive in this article.
A fox taken from its first owners and placed in a new home, no matter how loving, rarely adjusts well. Sadly, rehomed foxes usually wind up in sanctuaries because they’re no longer fit to be pets.