Fennec Foxes as Pets: Are They Right for You?


Kaycee is an exotic pet owner experienced in working with a variety of non-domesticated animals.

Why Are Fennecs so Popular?

When you think "exotic pet," chances are that the fennec fox is one of the animals that will come to mind. These tiny, hyper foxes are the smallest members of their family. For a variety of reasons discussed in this article, many people say they are the best type of fox to keep as a pet.

Fennec foxes have won the attention and adoration of millions of animal lovers, boasting comedically large ears and a dainty, refined face with huge eyes that pull at your heartstrings. It's no wonder they're popular! With many viral videos showcasing these animals, it's not uncommon to see comments declaring, "I want one!" But what really goes into owning one of these adorable little critters? Turns out, it may not be as simple as you'd imagine.

Is It Legal to Own a Fennec Fox?

Before you even consider purchasing a fennec fox, read the care guides and plan your visits to meet one, or ogle babies for sale near you, you must realize that these animals are not legal in many places due to overbearing laws on exotic animal ownership. The majority of states in the United States have some form of restricting legislation on fennec foxes, be it an outright ban, or requiring owners to apply for a state permit. Some permits states require cost annual fees, which can be costly, and others will not provide permits to people looking to own fennecs as pets.

Purchasing fennecs without checking if they are legal is irresponsible and leads to animals inevitably being seized and either sent to a sanctuary or euthanized by the state. There are never happy endings and you will not be given lenience. It is your responsibility to contact your local Fish & Wildlife Services or Wildlife Resources Commission in your state and to look up the current, up to date laws your state has.

In addition, cities and counties have the right to restrict what animals you may own as well. Therefore, even if the state you reside in is legal, your city or county will still punish you and your pet if they have their own laws that say otherwise.

How Much Does It Cost to Care for One?

Fennec foxes are not cheap pets, especially when compared to other animals. They are very popular, in demand, and somewhat difficult to breed. This leads to the animals themselves being pricey: a whopping $2500–$3500! Different breeders will, of course, have different prices, but scams run amok on the internet. If you are paying less than $1500 for your fennec fox, you are being scammed. In addition, breeders selling fennec foxes must be USDA licensed for the sale to be legal.

Fennec foxes are best purchased as newly weaned kits. Adult fennecs may be sold for much cheaper than babies, but fennecs are not like dogs or cats. You cannot purchase an adult and expect it to be tame and friendly with you right off the bat. They are shy and flighty by nature, and bonding with an older fennec can take months of hard work and patience. It's worth paying the extra money for a kit.

If you do not live near a breeder, you will need to arrange for shipping. Fennecs are shipped on airplanes, in a secure and comfortable carrier, and will be awaiting pickup at the airport they are sent to. Shipping is anywhere from $300–$500, so you also need to keep this in mind while tallying the costs.

Your new fox will also need a place to live. Enclosures for your fox can cost anywhere from $500 to $2000, as discussed below. You will easily be spending $4000 or more on your fennec fox's upfront costs.

What Kind of Housing Do They Need?

Providing housing for fennec foxes is relatively simple, if expensive. There is no one method to it, many people report success using different setups, enclosures, and techniques. Fennec foxes can be allowed to free roam a room in your home so long as it is fox-proofed. They will dig carpet and chew anything left out. They may also cause expensive damage or break things precious to you if left out.

One option you may decide on is providing an outdoor enclosure for your fennec fox. This will provide all the space your fennec could want, as well as room for them to dig, forage, climb, and mess about in an area that you can customize and make as complex or natural as you like. Fennec foxes especially enjoy large tree limbs or wooden platforms to climb, and soft sand or dirt to dig in.

Enclosures may be difficult to construct if you have no experience with construction. The topic of building such structures is beyond the scope of this article, but there are basic guidelines you must follow if this is the option you decide on.

Basic Guidelines for Fennec Fox Enclosures

  1. Enclosures must be completely enclosed, roof and floor, with wire, wooden roofing, wire buried a few feet below the ground of the enclosure, concrete flooring covered in dirt, or other materials that cannot be broken out of. Fennecs are adept at both climbing and digging.
  2. Enclosures must supply adequate drainage during rain to avoid becoming flooded
  3. Enclosures must provide shade from intense sunlight and heat
  4. Enclosures must not use anything less than 12 gauge wire. In addition, the wire must not have large enough holes for the fennec to stick their heads in or slip through (A fennec's skull measures width: 1.73"–1.9" and height: 1.46"–1.6")
  5. Enclosures must provide furnishing and enrichment.

If you live in an area where the weather falls below 60 degrees in winter, you will not be able to keep your fennecs outdoors year-round. Fennecs are extremely sensitive to cold and will quickly die if left outside.

Indoor Housing

Some people choose to keep their fennec foxes indoors, as mentioned above. If this is something you would like to do, then the most widely used method is purchasing multiple Ferret Nation brand cages and connecting them together to form one giant cage. However, this can not be used as a permanent house for your fennec. Fennecs are extremely active and keeping them caged for the majority of the day or extended periods of time is not humane.

Setups such as this one require your fox to be out, free-roaming your house or room, and are used as cages for when the fennec cannot be supervised. Fennecs are not animals that are to be caged all day and only taken out to play when you feel like it.

Diet and Feeding

A fennec's diet should consist of 90% of lean meats such as chicken or rabbit, and insects such as mealworms, silkworms, or dubia roaches, and 10% fruits or vegetables. Contrary to the belief of some, fennec foxes are not omnivores. They are obligate carnivores, much like ferrets, and need a diet that reflects this for their health. However, the specifics of their diet is widely debated among keepers.

Fennecs are sensitive to retinol, and too much of it can cause a variety of health issues such as liver and kidney damage. Whole prey diets using domestic mice and rats are full of disproportionate amounts of retinol and not recommended to be fed often for this reason; a great alternative is feeder lizards that have been humanely euthanized before feeding.

Taurine is essential to their health as well. At least 100mg-200mg per is necessary, and adequate amounts are not found in dog or cat food. These two factors make pre-packaged kibble that is acceptable for fennec foxes hard to find, taurine supplementation may be required.

The following brands of kibble are most popularly documented as being fed to fennecs in zoological facilities, with varying success, and often multiple of these foods are mixed or fed interchangeably:

  • Zupreem Exotic Feline Diet
  • Mazuri Exotic Canine Diet
  • Stella & Chewy's Absolute Rabbit Dinner Freeze-Dried Dog Food
  • Instinct Ultimate Protein Canine Chicken Kibble
  • Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken

On the other hand, for best results with a raw or whole prey diet, you will need to get your hands dirty and order whole ground rabbit and day-old chicks online, from websites such as MyPetCarnivore or others. Starting a colony of dubia roaches, crickets, and mealworms will also help tremendously as these insects can get expensive to repeatedly buy every week when fed daily.

Fennec Eating Mealworms

Behavior and Personality

Most people seem to believe that fennec foxes are cuddly, laid back, and cat-like animals. This is not true. Fennecs are extremely energetic, independent, hyper, and cautious. Most owners cannot cuddle their fennecs, and most fennecs don't enjoy being cuddled. Fennecs love to play, but they may not always want to play with their owners. Most fennecs allow their owners to pick them up, but they also don't seem to enjoy it that much. If you are looking for a little cuddle bug to lay in your lap and watch TV with you, a fennec is probably not the right animal for you.

Fennec foxes are very flighty by nature. In the wild, they are prey animals for numerous predators, and they reflect this in their personality. Sudden movements or sounds may put them on high alert, and new people entering the house will send them off to watch cautiously from a distance.

Another fact people are not aware of is how loud these foxes can be. They are vocal, and when excited or upset will make sure everyone in your house knows it. This may annoy some people who prefer quiet pets.

Does This Bother You? If so, a Fennec May Not Be Right for You

Caution Regarding Young Children

Fennecs are not good animals to have around young children. They are extremely delicate, and their bones can break simply from being dropped a few feet. Older children who cannot respect your fennec fox should not be allowed around it.

Fennecs can, and will, bite—any animal with teeth can. The bites are not severe and rarely require medical attention, but they can hurt pretty badly. These animals are incapable of severely injuring you but if you cannot tolerate nips or bites, this fact may be a deal-breaker for you.

Ethical Concerns

Many people in our society hold the belief that fennec foxes and other exotic animals should not be kept as pets. This is hotly debated and as the purpose of this article is to inform you about basic fennec care, it will not be covered with much depth. Instead, some common claims against keeping them will be debunked.

Claim: Fennec foxes are stolen from their home in the wild and smuggled into countries like the United States to be sold as pets.

Truth: Fennec foxes in the United States are sold by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) licensed breeders as per federal law. These animals have been bred in captivity for decades, there is no demand for wild-caught ones aside from zoological facilities that sometimes need to import new bloodlines. They are not taken from the wild and do not harm wild populations.

Claim: Fennec foxes are impossible to be cared for as pets and are perpetually stressed.

Truth: Fennec foxes can absolutely be cared for as pets, and are not too difficult to, but just like any other animal, prospective owners need to be aware of their needs. When cared for correctly fennec foxes thrive as pets and are happy, relaxed members of the family.

Claim: Fennec foxes live shortened lifespans as pets due to stress and improper care.

Truth: The majority of pet fennecs are cared for correctly, as their care is not difficult to provide for, and when proper care is provided, live lives much greater than their wild counterparts; up to 15 years compared to the six to 10 seen in the wild. There is absolutely no evidence supporting the notion that pet fennec foxes have a shortened lifespan.

Are You Ready for Exotic Pet Ownership?

So, after reading all of this, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Or, you may be thinking to yourself, "Bring it on! I can do this!" Both are absolutely fine. The most important part of purchasing any animal is to have one hundred percent certainty that you will be able to handle it and provide for it for the entirety of its lifespan.

This article is not intended to be your only source for learning about pet fennec fox care; just the bare-bones basics—the beginning of a journey. Exotic pets are for dedicated, patient, and creative keepers with a passion for animals, and the fennec fox is no exception. If you are still interested in owning or learning about fennec foxes, the sources below will be of great value to you.

Sources and Helpful Links

  • Dempsey, Janet L., et al. “Nutrition and Behavior of Fennec Foxes (Vulpes Zerda).” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, vol. 12, no. 2, 2009, pp. 299–312., doi:10.1016/j.cvex.2009.01.004.
  • Brahmi, Karima, et al. “First Quantitative Data on the Diet of the Fennec Fox, Vulpes Zerda (Canidae, Carnivora), in Algeria.” Folia Zoologica, vol. 61, no. 1, 2012, pp. 61–70., doi:10.25225/fozo.v61.i1.a10.2012.
  • “Basic Information Sheet: Fennec Fox.” LafeberVet, 12 Feb. 2019, lafeber.com/vet/basic-information-sheet-fennec-fox/.
  • “Treating Fennec Foxes.” Treating Fennec Foxes.
  • “Fennec Care Sheet.” Tiny Foxes.

Fennec Foxes as Pets and the Ease of Their Care

Talk about cute animals that you just want to cuddle and Fennec foxes should be at the top of your list. These tiny foxes are hugely adorable and they come with the cutest big ears!

Fennec foxes which are also known as desert foxes originated in Africa and are considered to be an exotic pet. This means that there are a lot more rules and a lot more regulations in your path.

There is a lot that goes into the care of Fennec foxes if you are looking into getting one as a pet. They behave quite a bit like a dog but because they are not domestic animals it takes a lot more work and energy to keep them happy, safe and housed.

One of the first things that any potential owner of a Fennec fox needs to know is that their pet is nothing like any pet they’ve ever owned. Quite like a mixture of cat and dog these animals are a serious commitment.

Fennec Fox Catlike QualitiesFennec Fox Doglike
Qualities
They are independent.They are very
energetic.
They can jump and climb anything.They are very social
and need
playmates.
When they don’t want to be touched they don’t want to be touched.They love to play
games like fetch.
They can be difficult to train.When they want to be cuddled,
you better cuddle
them.

Even though these pets are a serious commitment they can be a lot of fun once they are properly prepared for and cared for. Fennec foxes are a lot like other pets we know, but they need special preparations.

If you are going to purchase a Fennec fox the very first thing that you need to do is build an outdoor enclosure. Because these foxes can jump so high and dig very deep they need proper accommodations for when they will be put outside.

An outdoor enclosure for a Fennec fox should have fence walls that extend under the earth about 10 feet, or they should have a floor that is buried about 4 feet underground, extends past the fence line, and has the fence resting on it.

Fennec foxes can dig over 20 feet underground when they put their minds to it.

With both of these cases, it will prevent your little Fennec fox digger from digging their way out of their shelter. I suggest adding a layer of chicken wire under whatever type of floor you decide to use and bury.

Your enclosure should have walls that are buried at least 4 feet underground if they are meeting the underground flooring, or buried at least ten feet underground.

Fennec foxes aren’t cheap and losing one would be devastating. That is why making sure that these animals have the best homes and protected shelters are extremely important.

There should also be a roof to this enclosure so that your Fennec fox doesn’t jump out of the enclosure. You have to remember that these pets are not domesticated and so it is in their blood to roam free not to stay fenced up in a back yard.

If you decide to leave your Fennec fox inside while you are away from home you will probably want to put them in a crate of some sort. Fennec foxes are extremely curious, and you will come home to a destroyed house if they are left to their own devices while you are gone.

You also have to prepare to deal with their energy levels. These animals are cute and adorable but they are wild animals and as such, they need a lot of stimulation and a lot of action to help them remain calm and happy.

There is more that goes into Fennec foxes than just housing. These animals need friends and lots of associations to be happy. In the wild these animals live in packs of at least 10.

Fennec Foxes are one of the smallest breeds of Foxes weighing in at about 3 to 4 pounds.

So, although they are independent like cats, they need social stimulation to be happy and healthy. Early introduction to other people and animals will help them be happy and less aggressive pets.

If Fennec foxes are left too on their own, they can end up being mean and aggressive. This is true for most animals but especially for animals that are used to living in the wild.

Maybe more important than socialization and housing is the fact that these adorable little creatures need to eat, and what they eat really does affect them and how they behave.


Conclusion

Fennec foxes are awesome animals and make great pets. They are sociable and agile, and can bond well with dogs. You can feed your fennec fox a diet that includes both dog and cat food, as long as it is rich in taurine and primarily meat-based. A variety of roots and vegetables can supplement your fennec fox’s diet. Avoid grapes, and you should have a happy, healthy fennec fox.

Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below. Share this with your friends, and happy pet keeping.


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Fennec Foxes as Pets: Everything You Need to Know

The fennec fox is adorable and has ears that go on forever! They are tiny and weigh between 2 and 4 pounds. It is said they look like Pokemon. Their golden and dense coat usually has a black tip - all of their physical characteristics allow them to adapt to desert conditions. They look so snuggly that you can hardly imagine them in their native environment, the Sahara Desert.

They are the most social of all foxes and need an outlet for their endless energy. They enjoy digging (similar to a dachshund or terrier) and can dig up to twenty feet a night in their natural environment. An outdoor pen and fence must be extended many feet below ground. It is said that Fennecs appear to disappear into the sand since they dig so fast.

"It is native to the Sahara Desert of northern Africa and can be found as far east as Kuwait. This species is uniquely adapted for life in a harsh desert setting , from its small size to its enormous ears."


Watch the video: 10 Cutest Exotic Animals You Cannot Own As Pets


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