Should You Keep a Pet Fennec Fox (Desert Fox)?

Fennec fox with long pointed ears standing against wired fence

The fennec fox, often called the desert fox, is a small mammal found in the Sahara desert and other regions of North Africa. Although it is uncommon, these little foxes with large ears are occasionally kept as pets. Fennec foxes have an energetic, lively personality. Even if these creatures were reared in confinement, it's vital to remember that they still have wild instincts.

They are normally not particularly cuddly with people as pets, and because they are predatory animals in the wild, they can be quickly frightened. Fennec foxes are also nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. Managing their high activity level during the hours when most people are asleep can be particularly tough. As a result, keeping a pet fennec fox is difficult.

Species Overview

COMMON NAMES: Fennec fox, desert fox

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vulpes zerda

ADULT SIZE: 9 to 16 inches long, weighing 1.5 to 3.5 pounds

LIFESPAN: Up to 11 years in captivity

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Can You Own a Fennec Fox?

Legality

The laws governing the ownership of a fennec fox vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction. Fennecs are regulated in most regions of the United States, ranging from absolute prohibitions to requiring a permission. Furthermore, certain municipal laws may clash with state laws, so double-check the rules where you reside.

Ethics

It's critical that you get your fennec from a reputable breeder or rescue group. While finding a vendor of wild-caught fennecs in the United States is unlikely, it's still crucial to be sure your fennec was captive-bred. These animals adapt to life in captivity far more quickly than animals that had previously lived in the wild.

Things to Consider

Fennec foxes are boisterous, active creatures, despite their cuteness. While they may adapt to living with humans, they are a lot of effort for their owners, who must commit to providing the proper exercise, food, and medical care for these big-eared buddies.

Fennec Fox Behavior and Temperament

Although fennecs like to live in packs in the wild, they are more autonomous as pets. They may love playing games with their humans, such as a fast-paced game of fetch. There will be moments, though, when kids choose to play alone. Furthermore, most pet fennecs will let individuals they know to pick them up, but they don't appear to love being handled in general.

Fennecs are naturally wary creatures who will escape if they are startled. While most would rather flee than fight, if anything genuinely enrages them, they will bite. Some fennecs, particularly unneutered males, may use urine to mark their territory, which may include your home.

To communicate their feelings, these creatures use a range of vocalizations, some of which may be quite loud. They're not a suitable match for someone looking for a quiet pet. Some fennecs get along with other pets in the house, particularly small dogs and cats. They will be able to cohabit more happily with other animals and bond with their human family members if they are introduced at a young age.

Expect to devote a significant amount of time and work to keeping your fennec active. They are fast, energetic, and nimble creatures. Fortunately, rather of being nocturnal, many fennecs will adjust to their human's schedule. Fennecs may be taught to walk on a leash, which helps them use part of their daily energy.

Housing

Fennecs require temperatures of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit because they are desert creatures. If you live in an appropriate environment, a big outside enclosure is perfect for getting your fennec some exercise. Many individuals construct their own outdoor pens from wood and wire mesh. The pen must be constructed to prevent your fennec from burrowing under or climbing over the walls, both of which these excel at. (They have the ability to dig holes 20 feet deep!) Build the enclosure atop pavers, concrete, or wood decking to prevent your fox from tunneling beneath the walls, preferably with a layer of sand or soil on top for a more natural setting. Either slant the fencing in at the top or use screening to cover the whole enclosure.

While playing indoors, your fennec will most likely leap on furniture and may knock over decorations and other stuff. As a result, it's critical to store breakables and anything else that might harm your pet. Fennecs should normally be kenneled while you are unable to oversee them since they will get into everything. If you don't have access to an outdoor enclosure, utilize an inside dog crate.

Some fennecs may also be taught to use a litter box indoors. Because of its proclivity to dig, a covered box is recommended. (Otherwise, a lot of litter will fly out of the box.) Taking the fox to the litter box on a regular basis and rewarding it with food when it uses it successfully is part of the training process. You may instruct the fox to relieve itself outside using the same approach. Never penalize an animal for home mishaps.

Specific Substrate Needs

Keep the floor of your fennec's crate dust-free, with lots of ventilation and low humidity. You can line the floor with old newspaper, making it easy to clean and replace.

What do Fennec Foxes Eat and Drink?

Fennec foxes are omnivores in the wild, eating a variety of meat and plants such as rodents, birds, insects, and fruit. A commercial wild canid diet, which many zoos offer them, is an ideal food for a pet fennec fox. However, most owners feed their fennecs a combination of dog, cat, veggie, and fruit. It's especially vital to provide enough taurine in a fennec's diet, as taurine is essential for numerous metabolic processes in the body. Consult your veterinarian about the proper quantity and type of food for your fox, since this will vary based on its age, size, and degree of activity.

Most owners feed meals twice daily, but you should follow your veterinarian's advice. You may either place the food in a dish for your fox or conceal it in a reward puzzle to provide mental stimulation for your pet. Also, have a clean water dish on hand at all times.

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Common Health Problems

Before you purchase a fennec fox, be sure there is an in your area who can care for it. Fennecs, like dogs, require preventative maintenance. They should be vaccinated against rabies, canine distemper virus, parvovirus, and adenovirus on a regular basis. Your veterinarian should be able to advise you on the proper vaccination schedule. A yearly health exam is suggested, and if required, your veterinarian will advise you on deworming, heartworm prevention, and flea management.

Fennecs have health issues that are comparable to those that many dogs have. They are prone to renal, liver, and heart ailments, particularly if their nutrition is inadequate. Lethargy and a lack of appetite are common symptoms of these disorders. They are also susceptible to skin diseases, mites, and intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites can produce irregular stools, weight loss, and low appetite, while skin infections can cause a lot of itching.

Exercise

Fennec foxes need a good deal of exercise, both in and outside of your home. You will need to provide your fennec with a huge amount of space to roam and climb and play.

If you have a sturdy 5- to 6-foot fence, you may also let your fennec run around in your yard. However, you must continually keep an eye on your fox to ensure it does not start climbing or digging beneath the fence. You may even let your fox go around outside on a long leash as long as it's under your care.

Grooming

Shedding

Fennec foxes shed a good deal from their fluffy undercoat, and therefore need to be brushed regularly. Vets recommend wire brushes, the kind used for cats.

Bathing/Grooming

Fennec's are excellent groomers, and fastidiously clean: Good news for you, as they do not need to be bathed regularly. In fact, you only need to bathe yours if it gets uncharacteristically dirty.

Size Information

Mature fennec foxes grow from 9 to 16 inches long, weighing 1.5 to 3.5 pounds. They'll reach full size between nine to 11 months.

Training Your Fennec Fox

Fennec foxes are intelligent little beings that don't take to most commands; you won't be teaching yours to sit, stay, or not jump on your furniture.

House Training

Uncaged fennecs cannot be left alone in the house since they are generally untrainable. They'll go about causing havoc and knocking things down. Before you leave them alone, make sure they're safely contained in their cage.

Leash Training

While some fennec foxes can be trained to walk on a leash, many cannot. Please don't expect to be able to walk your fennec the way you'd walk your dog.

Potty Training

Many fennec foxes may be taught to use the litter box, but it will take some time and effort on your part. Consult your exotic veterinarian about the best techniques to train your fennec fox.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Fennec Fox as a Pet

Fennec foxes are cute small animals, but they are wild. Even if they occasionally snuggle with you, they can't provide the type of companionship that a cat or dog can provide. In reality, most dogs are unable to accompany you on walks because they are difficult to leash-train.

Purchasing Your Fennec Fox

A juvenile fennec from a good breeder should cost between $1,500 and $3,500 on average. A price that is less than this is typically a red signal and might indicate a fraud. You may also have to go a long way to find a breeder, as there aren't many in the United States. Some dealers can transport their foxes to you, however this can be a traumatic experience for the animal. It's also a good idea to meet the animal and the vendor before making a decision.

Reproduction/Breeding

Make sure the vendor can provide you with detailed information about the animal's history and health. Also, get recommendations from other individuals who have purchased a fox from that vendor to ensure that the seller is reputable. Breeders need also be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. A recently weaned young fox is preferable to an adult, despite the fact that they are more expensive. This will increase the chances of your fox being tame and sociable as an adult. A healthy fox is vigilant and energetic by nature, though it may be wary of you as first.

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FAQ
  • Are fennec foxes easy to care for?

    Yes. If you give your fennec everything it needs to keep itself busy, and always keep an eye on making sure their fences and enclosures are strong and safe, these big-eared foxes are easy to own.

  • Can you domesticate a fennec fox?

    No. You can play with it, and if you're lucky teach it to use a litter box, but a fennec will always be a wild animal.

  • How long do fennec foxes live as pets?

    These desert foxes live up to 11 years in captivity.

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