So you’ve decided you’d love to add a fennec fox to your family.
First off, congratulations!
Second, there’s a lot to know about these little guys, so before you run out and adopt one, let’s go over some information you’ll need to ensure your fennec’s health and happiness.
Fennec Fox Basics
Fennec foxes are the smallest type of fox in the world, weighing in at 2.2–3.3 pounds in adulthood. These foxes are native to the Sahara desert.
They have thick fur everywhere — including in their ears and on their paws — that’s designed to protect them from the blistering sun and keep them warm on cool desert nights. They tend to be cream-colored, with black-tipped ears and tails.
The fennec’s most distinctive trait is their large ears, which enable them to hear prey digging around under the surface of the sandy desert. They are a burrowing animal, making their den underground with other fennecs.
In the previous section, we learned some key factors: Fennecs hail from hot climates, and they are burrowers. These factors are important to remember when building your fennec’s habitat.
Fennec foxes are extremely curious animals. They are capable of wreaking havoc with your furniture and your possessions if you’re not paying attention. Your fennec can be loose in the house with you, but when you are not home, you’ll want to crate them for their own safety.
A large dog crate will work well for your fennecs when you’re not around. You can put blankets, toys, water and any other items your fennecs love in the crate with them when you’re not home or unable to supervise.
Outdoor habitats should be specifically constructed with your fennec’s abilities in mind. Fennecs are diggers and excellent jumpers — and once they escape they are almost impossible to recapture due to their keen ears and speed. When building an outdoor enclosure, you’ll want to create a space that won’t allow them to either dig under the fencing or jump over it. This means the enclosure should have a “floor” of some kind, as well as a covering.
Fennecs can be housebroken or litter trained, but it takes a great deal of patience. As wild animals, they are not as domesticated as dogs and cats. Toileting habits will need to be continually trained throughout their lives.
The fennec’s training is very similar to that of dogs or cats. Be vigilant about their toilet habits. When your fennec goes in the litter box or outside, give lots of praise and a treat or 2. If you happen to catch your fennec toileting outside their box or indoors, immediately move them to your desired toileting location. You’ll need to repeat this constantly, but they usually will get the hang of it.
Never use violence to intimidate your fennec. This often has adverse results, making the fennec urinate in either aggression or fear.
Note that males will use urine to mark territory, particularly during mating season.
Fennecs are social in the wild; living in a pack of around 10 individuals. They mate for life, and their usual breeding season is in January and February.
The only thing fennecs do alone is hunt. While not an overly aggressive species, the male fennec will become aggressive during mating season, and the female will become aggressive when she has young. Like many other species, fennecs will also bite if they feel threatened or cornered.
Socialization is very important from the minute you bring your fennec home. If you want a pet who is going to allow handling and gets along with other animals in your household, you’ll need to spend a great deal of time helping them socialize and getting them used to being handled. A well-socialized fennec will be inquisitive with strangers and want to play with your other pets — probably more than your other pets will want to play with them.
These foxes love to dig. If you have the outdoor space, a great project would be to build a deep outdoor sandbox and make sure it’s enclosed so your fennecs can’t wander off. Remember, they are curious and fast. If they escape, it is highly unlikely you will ever see your fennec again.
Fennecs are omnivores. In the wild, they will eat fruit, leaves, small rodents, birds and birds eggs, insects and lizards. In captivity, zoos will feed fennecs canned protein products, crickets and other insects. You should discuss your fennec’s diet with your chosen veterinarian and the fennec breeder before bringing your fox home.
Hailing from the desert, fennecs’ bodies are designed to be excellent at water conservation. “Food [in the wild] provides fennecs with the small amount of water they need to survive,” explains Kristin Petrie in Fennec Foxes. At home, you’ll want to provide your fennecs with fresh, clean water, but don’t be alarmed if they’re not prodigious drinkers.
Watch these buddies pal around:
As a fennec is an exotic pet, it can be difficult to find a veterinarian who is comfortable and qualified to care for your fennec’s medical needs. This is not the kind of pet you can assume that anyone in the phone book will be OK with. Spend some time calling around to local vets to see who is available that will be a good fit for your fennec.
Fennecs need care that is similar to what dogs need, but there are some differences in the amounts and types of vaccines. Rabies is the most important vaccine that must be given to your fennec — they are susceptible to the disease.
You will also need to have yearly exams as well as heartworm and flea preventative. Because the fennec is so small, this is a conversation you must have with your veterinarian to determine safe dosages.
As a relatively new type of pet, fennecs are a mixed bag when it comes to the laws:
- Some states allow them without permits.
- Some states allow them with permits, but the local municipality does not.
- Some states ban them outright.
- Some states don’t even list them at all.
Before acquiring your fennec, check with both state and local wildlife officials to make sure you are within the bounds of the law. A great place to start is your town’s animal control division — employees there will know where to direct your inquiries.
Fennec foxes are fun, intelligent and curious little pets with big personalities. Take the time to do your research and make preparations, and then enjoy adding these unique and clever animals to your family.