The fennec fox, also known as the desert fox, is a beautiful, small member of the vulpine family. Fennec foxes can be kept as pets, although they are not very common. They are petite, save for their enormous ears. They behave much like dogs, but since they are not domesticated, they do require careful socialization as well as precautions against escape. As always, before deciding on adopting one of these beautiful little animals, be sure you are legally allowed to keep them where you live.
Fennec Fox Characteristics
Fennec foxes have a mature weight of just 2 - 3.5 pounds, with a soft, thick, short coat that is off white on the underside and reddish or tawny on the back, with some black markings on the back and tail. They are very active, quick and agile, and have a high pitched yelp. These foxes are nocturnal in the wild although pet fennecs adapt somewhat to their owner's schedule. They are clean animals and can be litter trained, although owners have varied opinions on how easily.
Fennec Fox Diet
In the wild, fennec foxes are omnivores, eating a diet of insects, rodents, plants, fruit, and reptiles. The ideal diet for pet fennec foxes would probably be a commercial wild canid diet (such as zoos would feed), but most owners will feed a mix of dog food, cat food, vegetables, and fruit with good success. Some breeders will alternatively recommend a diet of raw meat, vegetables, and a vitamin mix.
Keeping a Pet Fennec Fox
Fennecs are very active and need an outlet for their energy. They are curious and will get into anything and everything. They are also known for their digging. Outdoor enclosures must be designed to prevent them from digging under or climbing over the fence, both of which they will do quite readily.
Burying a significant portion of the fence and turning the fence in at the top (or completely covering the enclosure) should prevent escape. Some owners have taught them to fetch like dogs, and this makes a good outlet for their energy. If out of a secure yard, however, they must be leashed. They are extremely quick and if they run after something as they would in the wild, they can be very difficult to recapture. As long as adequate shelter is provided, they are fairly tolerant of both hot and cold weather. One of their favorite activities is basking in the sun.
Fennec foxes are quite similar to dogs, and hand raised pups are usually docile, only biting if feeling cornered or threatened. They can be trained to a leash and to come when called (still, they should always be leashed when out of the house/yard). They are also generally not afraid of strangers and are friendly to everyone. They may bother other pets in the household, if only because fennec foxes will want to play with them all the time.
Fennec foxes generally should be kenneled when not supervised simply because they will get into everything; when supervised can be out in the home with their owners. Use a dog crate indoors; outdoor pens are fine as long as they are escape-proofed (ideally a pen with fence continued underground several feet and completely covered).
Litter Training / House Breaking
Since fennec foxes are wild animals, house training is sometimes a challenge. Some may take quite well to using a litter box, although a covered box works best due to their tendency to dig. Others may continue to have accidents in the house or eliminate where they want. The process for house training involves taking the fox frequently to the litter box or secure outdoor pen and giving lots of treats when they succeed in going in a litter box or outside. Never punish for accidents in the house, but if you do catch your fennec in the act of urinating or defecating, simply move him to the litter box or outside immediately.
You will need to find a veterinarian willing to treat your fennec foxes and they need preventative care similar to dogs. They should be routinely vaccinated for rabies (using a killed vaccine only such as Imrab), canine distempter virus, parvovirus and adenovirus.
Your vet should be able to recommend a safe combination vaccine for the standard canine diseases. There is some concern over using the "typical" MLV vaccine for distemper in fennec foxes, but there are vaccine lines available that are safe. A yearly exam is recommended, and your vet will advise you on deworming, heartworm preventative and flea control, if necessary.