Fennec Foxes: What to Know About Keeping These Exotic Animals as Pets

With ears like these, it's not wonder people want fennec foxes as pets!

Fennec foxes have long been coveted by exotic pet lovers everywhere. These animals have oversized ears straight out of a fairy tale, so it's no surprise they capture a lot of attention. Fennec foxes are also quite small, usually weighing between two and four pounds, making them the perfect size for smaller living spaces. Originally found in the sandy Sahara, the Vulpes zerda has a dense golden coat with black tips made for blending into its natural habitat. But fennec foxes look so snuggly, it's almost difficult to imagine them living in their harsh native environment!

Sometimes confused with coyotes, these tiny creatures are the most social of all fox breeds and need an outlet for their endless energy. They enjoy digging (similar to a dachshund or terrier) and can dig up to 20 feet a night in the desert. When kept in captivity, a fennec fox's outdoor pen and fence must be extended many feet below the ground to keep it from escaping. With the exception of their escape-artist abilities, these little guys might sound like the perfect exotic pet—but are they really?

Do Fennec Foxes Make Good Pets?

cute fennec fox as pet

As with any exotic pet, fennec foxes are not legal to keep as pets across the entire United States. Some states have banned them altogether, while other states require special permits. Check to make sure it's legal to own a fox as a pet in your specific state before considering making a fennec fox a part of your family.

In addition to checking local ordinances, it's also important to review the current endangerment status of fennec foxes before adopting one. In some areas of the country, these foxes are considered a protected animal, which means you should leave them in their natural habitat by all means possible. Fennec foxes suffer from just how adorable they are, as one of the main threats to their livelihood is humans. Whether they're poached for pets or furs, humans don't exactly make it easy for these little guys to thrive.

What Does a Fennec Fox Eat?

fennec fox on sand in natural environment

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Fennec foxes are omnivores, and you can feed them commercial dog food. If they're kept as pets, a canine diet of high-quality kibble is fine—but you'll need to occasionally add a freshly-killed rodent or chick, some fruit, and vegetation. Though these additions are important, their diet should consist of mainly meat. Like cats, fennec foxes need taurine, so make sure that you have an adequate source of it in their diet. If you're unsure how to feed your fennec fox, consult experts or a veterinarian about how to keep your pet fox healthy.

Do Fennec Foxes Need to Be Vaccinated?

Like any pet, responsible vaccination is key to keeping your fox healthy and happy. Just like cats and dogs, all fennec foxes should be vaccinated against rabies regularly. Foxes can also be vaccinated against distemper and parvovirus, but check with your vet to make sure the correct vaccine is used, as live vaccines can potentially be harmful for foxes.

Not all vets will see exotic pets like foxes, so make sure you have a trusted and knowledgeable vet who's willing to help keep your new pet healthy.

Get to Know the

fennec fox relaxing on sand

Shipping a pet across the country is usually not the greatest idea, and it's no different for foxes. Find a reputable local breeder if you wish to adopt a healthy fennec fox.

They might be the smallest fox, but they also have the biggest personalities. You'll want to crate train them, as foxes are nocturnal animals and they may be unpredictable if they're allowed to roam freely while you sleep. In addition, when you have them out for a walk, they should wear a harness because it's easy for them to slip away if frightened.

The fennec fox is a wild animal, but can also be considered a good pet given the right environment and care. They are social animals which make them a great candidate for a house pet as long as their needs are met properly. Fennec foxes can even be litter trained with enough patience!

Fennec foxes typically give birth to one litter of pups per year, with between two and five young in a litter. The gestation period lasts between 50 and 53 days. During the four to six weeks of rutting or breeding season, males can become extremely aggressive and will mark their territory with urine. This alone is a great reason to get your fox spayed or neutered, as even the females can display some strange behavior during mating season. Just like cats, you don't want strange foxes howling at your back door in the middle of the night!

Use your best judgment when considering taking in a fennec fox as a pet. Exotic animals may not make the best pets, especially for the price it takes to make them comfortable; these small mammals cost as much as $1,500 upfront, not including vet visits, food, and housing costs. Granted, many people spend as much as a used car on the most expensive dog breeds. If you love foxes, that high price might be worth it. Just make sure to be responsible with your new family member!

Looking for your next pet? Find inspiration at our Wide Open Pets Instagram!

This article was originally published May 28, 2019.

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