Caring for Pet Foxes

tunisie fennec image by Arraial from Fotolia.com

Most types of foxes aren't suitable as domestic pets. One exception is the little fox with the gigantic ears. The fennec fox, a North Africa native, is the smallest of all the canidae species. Because foxes are considered wild animals, check with your state's department of wildlife to see if you can legally own one. If you're eligible for a permit, learn about caring for a fox before you make a purchase.

Fennec Fox

The fennec fox (Vulpes zerda) is considered threatened in the wild. In their native, desert habitat, fennec foxes dig dens to live in. Keep their avid digging instinct in mind if you have them as pets. At maturity, these tiny foxes weigh between 2 pounds and 3 pounds, and stand 8 inches high at the shoulder. That's about the same size as a Chihuahua or similar toy dog. Quite a bit of the fennec fox is ears, which can measure 6 inches long, and a long, furry tail. These foxes can live into their mid-teens.

Housing

It's not a good idea to give your fox the run of the house when you're not home. In the wild, these foxes lives in groups of 10 to 15 and mate for life. Take that into consideration when purchasing a fox -- you might want to get a male and female, even if you have them spayed and neutered. Fennec foxes will use a litter box, preferably one with a cover since they love to dig. They're as clean as cats, lacking the odor of other foxes. Because they originate in the desert, they don't do well in cold or humid environments. You can keep them in large cages designed for felines or ferrets, with shelves for climbing. Don't try to keep them in an outdoor dog yard or run, unless it has a concrete floor with an enclosed roof of wire or other material. Otherwise, your fennec fox will dig or climb out of it.

Food

While these little guys are omnivores, you get purchase special diets for exotic canids or feed them a quality canned or dry dog food or cat food. Give them treats such as fruits, eggs, vegetables and mealworms. Like any pet, fennec foxes should always have fresh, clean water available. In the wild, they eat rodents such as gerbils, so if you happen to have small rodents as pets, keep them and the foxes separated.

Veterinary Care

You might have a tough time finding a vet for your fennec fox. Some exotic vets might treat them, but you'll probably have to show the vet your permit for keeping your fox before she'll agree to care for him. If your fox desperately needs veterinary care and you don't have a permit, that's a big problem. Depending on the laws in your state, the vet might agree to treat the fox as wildlife but you might not get him back. Pet foxes should have many of the same vaccinations you would give your dog, even though their use would technically be off-label. These include shots for rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Foxes require testing for heartworm and monthly preventatives. The same holds true for flea and tick control.

Spaying and Neutering

If all your permits are in place, have your fox spayed or neutered at approximately 6 months of age or at least before it reaches puberty at the age of 9 months to a year. If you don't get them fixed, even fennec foxes can become aggressive.

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    Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.