The tame Russian red fox is the only domesticated breed of fox, developed from selective breeding experiments in Russia. These foxes behave a lot like dogs and can be wonderful pets for those who can afford to buy and care for them (they tend to be very expensive). A curious, intelligent, and animated red fox requires attentive supervision to keep it out of trouble, but its cuddles and companionship may make the challenge worthwhile. Foxes can live in your home, like a dogs, but they will require an enclosure for unsupervised periods of time. They also need daily time outdoors for exercise. Foxes do not need a special diet; high quality dog food works well, with supplemental fruits and vegetables. Grooming foxes can be one of the most demanding aspects of ownership because their long coats require frequent brushing, especially during shedding seasons.
Common Names: Russian red fox, Siberian fox
Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Adult Size: About 30 to 50 inches (head to tail); up to 30 pounds
Lifespan: Up to 14 years in captivity
Can You Own a Pet Russian Red Fox?
Before you buy or adopt a fox, it's important to know whether or not ownership is legal. As of 2022, most states ban foxes as pets. Sixteen states allow residents to own foxes, but each has a different set of regulations and requires unique permits. In North Carolina, for instance, residents can own a fox as long as they obtain an exhibition license and use the fox for learning programs in schools, libraries, or nature centers. Check with your state and local governments to determine the legality of owning a fox. Legal ownership ensures that you will be able to enjoy your pet without fear of confiscation and penalty, plus you will be able to secure proper veterinary care when your pet needs it. Even exotic pet veterinarians will not treat illegally owned animals.
Legally owning a domesticated Russian red fox does not pose ethical issues among people who understand that these are tame animals who have been bred to live with humans, not in the wild. Domesticated red foxes, specifically those of Russian descent, have been handled by humans for enough generations that they are content to live the domestic life of a pet.
Things to Consider
If owning a Russian red fox is legal in your area, then you may find this animal to be an enjoyable companion. These foxes are relatively well adapted to living alongside humans and behave similarly to domestic dogs, so their care is both familiar and manageable for people who are accustomed to owning dogs. All things considered, a Russian red fox makes a better pet than most other exotic species. However, foxes are intelligent, high-energy pets that need plenty of exercise and stimulation. You must be prepared to spend a lot of time with your fox to keep it occupied because boredom may lead to destructive behavior. A secure enclosure is a must when your fox is unsupervised since this animal naturally wants to urine-mark its territory.
Russian Red Fox Behavior and Temperament
Although they share the same scientific name, Russian red foxes have been bred to favor genetic characteristics that make them different from wild foxes, essentially rendering them domesticated. They have lower adrenaline levels and so less agitated in captivity and are rarely aggressive with humans or inclined to bite. Tame foxes tend to be friendly, and some will even wag their tails, lick, or whimper with excitement like dogs.
Like their wild relatives, Russian red foxes are athletic, nimble, and have lots of energy. They can jump over 6 feet high, like to dig, and swim exceptionally well. They can also run up to 30 miles per hour. To remain happy and healthy, these intelligent creatures need plenty of playtime and environmental enrichment. A bored fox will become unhappy and potentially destructive, digging holes and chewing up household objects. Boredom may also lead to an increased drive to scent-mark your house and yard with urine. This is natural territorial behavior, but it will be more prominent if your fox is ignored for very long.
Domestic foxes will enjoy being a member of a human family, kids included, and they will get along fine with other household pets, particularly if they've grown up with these animals. Many foxes like being petted, held, and snuggled, so they are much more comforting companions than many exotic species.
8 Things to Know Before Adopting a Pet Fox
A large enclosure (approximately 10 by 20 feet) makes an ample living area for a pet fox. The pen must be secured with a buried fence to both prevent your pet from digging out and predators from getting in. The fence must be a minimum of 7 feet high to contain these high-jumping animals. A roof is recommended for protection from the elements. The outdoor enclosure should also have a shelter or indoor area that has bedding, straw, or wood chips where your fox can nestle for a nap.
If you let your fox loose indoors, supervise it closely. Put away breakables and anything valuable (including car keys) because pet foxes have been known to grab small objects and hide them. Keep electrical cords out of reach, and consider using child locks on cabinet doors. If your house is toddler-proof, then it will be pretty safe for a fox to explore, too.
What Do Russian Red Foxes Eat and Drink?
In the wild, red foxes are omnivores that eat small rodents, birds, raccoons, insects, reptiles, and plant material, including fruit. A fox's diet in captivity can include grain-free dog food supplemented with fruit and vegetables. You can purchase high-quality dog food brands at pet stores. Feed your fox according to the package directions for its body weight, twice a day. Adjust amounts accordingly if your fox is losing or gaining too much weight. You can use standard dog dishes for food and water.
Fruit and vegetables should only account for a small portion of your fox's total diet. Usually, 1/4 cup a day works well as a supplement. They love strawberries, blueberries, apples, carrots, and mushrooms. Some red fox breeders also recommend raw meat, eggs, and taurine supplements. Check with your breeder and veterinarian to determine the best diet for your fox.
Common Health Problems
Pet foxes are susceptible to most canine diseases, including rabies and distemper. Research vaccines carefully and discuss them with your exotics veterinarian before you decide to vaccinate your pet fox. Some domestic foxes can suffer from reactions to conventional vaccines. However, you will need to accept the risk and consequences if your unvaccinated fox contracts a disease or bites a person. Depending on the laws of your state, your fox can be euthanized due to the risk of rabies in an unvaccinated animal. Foxes can also catch livestock diseases like bovine tuberculosis, and they can transmit certain illnesses to both humans and other pets.
Pet foxes need a lot of exercise. If you have a large yard, daily romps and ball-fetching games may keep your fox fit and happy. If you don't have a lot of outdoor space around your home, you will need to take your fox for walks if it accepts wearing a harness and leash. Your fox will be happiest if you can take it to an area where it can run, leap, and play off-leash a few times per week.
As pets, foxes need occasional baths, just like long-haired dogs. Use a gentle shampoo formulated for dogs' skin and fur, and bathe your fox in a sink or tub. Only bathe your fox when it seems particularly dirty from outdoor play, or if its coat seems too oily. Over-bathing can dry out your fox's coat and skin, making it uncomfortable and more susceptible to irritation and infections.
Foxes have thick coats that require brushing, and this task becomes even more important in the spring and fall when foxes shed the most. You can use a dog brush for daily grooming, but you should also have a fur "rake" that helps you dig deeper into your fox's fur and remove loose clumps of undercoat that can become matted during shedding periods. Just be sure to handle your fox gently during brushing; try not to pull too hard at once because it can be painful and may make your fox distrustful or frightened of you.
A Russian red fox is about as big as a small to medium-sized dog with a large, fluffy tail. Females are generally smaller than males, which may weigh up to about 30 pounds. A fox will look a lot bigger in the winter when they grow their full coat.
Training Your Russian Red Fox
Begin house training your fox as soon as possible using dog potty-training pads. Ideally, you can train it to eliminate in a designated area. Both male and female foxes tend to mark their territories and their food with urine, so it may be a challenge to train this instinctive behavior out of your pet. Fox urine has an extremely strong odor, so be prepared. Do not leave your pet fox inside your home alone since separation anxiety may cause it to begin marking.
Pros and Cons of Keeping a Russian Red Fox as a Pet
Russian red foxes are beautiful animals that look wild but behave mostly like domestic dogs. They can be friendly and cuddly, and their lively antics can be delightful for the right owner. However, it can be tough to find (and afford) a fox, and it may not be legal to own one where you live. Owning a fox comes with the same responsibilities as owning a furry, active dog in terms of exercise, feeding, and grooming. However, foxes are inclined to mark their surroundings with stinky urine and may become destructive (chewing or digging) if they become lonely or agitated.
Purchasing Your Russian Red Fox
Importing Russian red foxes can cost over $10,000. There may be a few domestic breeders in the U.S., although you must verify that the breed you get is genuinely a tame Russian red fox. Disreputable breeders may capture and sell wild American red fox kits but call them Russian red foxes. These foxes will retain all of their wild characteristics such as skittishness, aggression, and compulsive urine marking habits. They do not make good pets for the average pet owner.
Similar Pets to the Russian Red Fox
If you are interested in the Russian red fox, check out:
Do Russian red foxes like to be touched?
These foxes are bred to be tame and well-adjusted to human contact, so they tend to be friendly and enjoy petting, playing, and even snuggling with people.
Are Russian red foxes the same as wild red foxes in the U.S.?
Although they share the same genus and species, these foxes are quite different as a result of selective breeding programs in Russia. Behavioral characteristics such as friendliness and trainability have been selected throughout generations of foxes so that they behave much more like tame dogs than wild foxes do.
Do Russian red foxes shed?
They shed a lot. Red foxes grow a thick coat of fur for the winter, and they shed it in the spring; they also experience a lighter shedding period in the fall as their winter coat comes in.