Is a Fennec Fox The Pet for You?
The fennec fox is also known as the desert fox, or the world’s smallest fox species. They are native to the Sahara Desert of northern Africa. Although the idea of having a fennec fox as a pet can be really exciting, it’s important to remember that they are still animals with wild instincts, even if they were bred in captivity. They also carry physical features and characteristics that are adapted for the wild life in a harsh desert setting. Therefore, keeping them as a house pet means there may be some adjustments or sacrifices that you’ll need to make in order to keep your fennec fox happy and healthy in captivity. As adorable as they look, fennec foxes are not easy to keep as pets. It takes a fully committed, patient and dedicated person to properly care for these fur balls.
Fennec Fox Behavior and Temperament
Fennec foxes have characteristics similar to those of both dogs and cats because, although fennec foxes typically live in groups in the wild, they tend to be independent as pets. A fox may enjoy an active game with its owner at times and then prefer to play alone at other times.
Many people imagine a fennec fox as a cuddly pet; however, they are quite the opposite. They may enjoy cuddling every now and then, but a lot of the time, they are independent, very active, and due to their natural curiosity and high energy, they can get into things you don’t want them to, causing destruction in your house if they are not supervised closely.
Fennecs have highly sensitive hearing and can easily detect things like insects and rodents across the wall, which we humans cannot. Therefore, they are not suited for city life and anywhere close to loud traffic. They can get startled easily and constant loud noises can lead to more stress.
When confronted with unfamiliar situation or person, a fennec is more likely to flee than fight, but when cornered and frightened, it can become aggressive. During puberty (between 4-6 months), they can get especially temperamental and aggressive. It is good to keep in mind that even with an adult pet fox that has been raised in captivity, there is always a chance of getting bitten, sometimes hard. It is important to teach your fennec not to bite hard by making a noise or saying “ouch” when it bites hard.
Some fennecs, especially unneutered males, will mark their territory with urine. Neutering and spaying at a young age is highly recommended.
Fennec foxes are not recommended for owners who want a quiet pet. They make a variety of vocalizations to express their moods and can get quite loud. Fennecs can get along with other household pets, but introducing them to one another at a young age may help them coexist more peacefully.
Fennec foxes in the wild are mostly nocturnal, meaning they’re more active at night, but fortunately, in captivity they can adapt to their owner’s schedule. Fennecs are quick, agile and active so it may be a good idea to train them to walk on a leash to help get some of their daily exercise outside.
Housing the Fennec Fox
A desert animal like fennecs require temperatures of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit for their outdoor habitat. Many people will make their own outdoor pen giving enough room for their fennec to get exercise but building a pen for a fennec can be tricky. Before building an outdoor pen, you need to keep their abilities in mind. They are excellent diggers and can easily dig a hole 10+ feet deep! They can also jump over the fence if it’s not tall enough. So, it’s best to build the pen over pavers, concrete, or wood decking and remember to cover the whole top of the enclosure with screening or fencing. Be careful not to let your fennec get loose—once they escape, it’ll be nearly impossible to recapture them because they are extremely quick and they can hear you coming from far away.
If you want to keep your fennec indoors, it’s important to always keep an eye on them because they will get into everything and can create quite the mess. These behaviors are usually never malicious. They are just curious about everything. While your fennec is playing loose in your house, put away or hide anything that can be knocked down, break, or injure your animal. Generally, if there is nobody to supervise the fennec, it should be kept in a dog crate for its own safety.
Potty Training your Fennec Fox
House-breaking your fennec can be frustrating and will require a lot of patience. The training itself is very similar to that of dogs or cats. Take them out, or to the little box, frequently and when they succeed, give them treats. A covered, deep, little box will probably be the best due to fennecs’ tendency to dig. Not all fennecs will immediately adapt to the indoor little box. Do not punish or use violence to intimidate your fox for accidents in the house. Simply clean the spot really well and completely eliminate the smell of urine, and then continue praising good habits.
Fennec Fox diet
Fennec foxes are omnivores, which means they eat meat and plants, but the greater part of a fennec’s diet will be meat. You can feed them a mixture of high-end dog food, cat food, lots of insects (such as wax-worms, super worms, phoenix worms, dubia roaches and locusts) vegetable and fruits. In the wild, fennecs are opportunistic eaters, so they may eat constantly if you allow them to graze-feed; therefore, you need to watch how much food and how often you feed your fennec. Consult your veterinarian on the right quantity and variety for your fox, as this can vary depending on age, size, and activity level.
Fennecs are incredibly efficient with their water requirements in the wild, however as a pet, you will need to provide a bowl of clean water at all times.
Before you acquire a fennec fox, finding an exotic veterinarian near you who can treat it is critical. Like dogs, fennecs need preventative care and vaccinations to stay healthy. They need to have yearly exams and get routinely vaccinated for rabies, canine distemper virus, parvovirus, and adenovirus. Your vet should be able to recommend the correct course and dosage of vaccines and if necessary, advise you on deworming, heartworm prevention, and flea control.
Is It Legal to Own a Pet Fennec Fox?
Laws about keeping a fennec fox as pet vary widely. Some US states ban them outright while others don’t mention them at all; and although other US states allow them, you may find that your local municipality may not. Many states don’t allow ownership of native foxes but may allow fennecs because they are not indigenous to the United States.
If you live in a state where fennecs are considered to be restricted, you will need to get a permit and follow habitat specifications to keep one as a pet. Some local laws might conflict with state laws as well, so be sure to do your homework and check the regulations with state and local wildlife officials to make sure you are within bounds of the law.
Purchasing Your Fennec Fox
It is best to acquire your fennec fox from a reputable breeder or rescue organization so you can get thorough information on the animal and its health history. It’s recommended to go check out the animal in person, if you can, before committing, however this may be a challenge since there aren’t that many fennec fox breeders across the U.S. Another option is to ask the seller if they will ship the animal to you. Shipping can be very stressful for the animal, but some sellers will ship their foxes following specific measures to keep the stress to the minimum.
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