Pet foxes are cute, comical, and sly little escape artists. They tend to form strong bonds with their owners. As members of the canine family, they look a lot like domesticated dogs. Generally, their personality is more like an aloof cat. They are the only member of the canine family that can adeptly climb trees. Most pet foxes are not domesticated (only one type is). A majority of foxes kept as pets have been socialized or hand-raised since birth.
Pet foxes have basic needs that you should consider before adopting: Exercise and enrichment, habitat considerations, special diet needs, and regular care by an exotic animal veterinarian. Most foxes have high energy levels, mark their territory with urine, and have demanding enrichment needs. A poor fit for the average pet owner, they require an extremely dedicated owner who can meet their specialized needs and tolerate their natural behaviors.
Foxes can be trained to use litter boxes, however, females have more success than males. Foxes love to dig, which can cause damage indoors to carpets and potted plants.
All states have different laws on the books about exotic pets. A pet fox may be considered "a wild canine, small canine, non-domesticated species, exotic animal, or native wildlife," so make sure you are allowed to own one where you live.
Take a look at 10 fox species that have been kept as pet foxes and why some make better companions than others.
Big-eared fennec foxes (Vulpes zerda) are the most popular type of pet fox. Fennec foxes are privately bred throughout the U.S. and are readily available for several thousand dollars. Its small size, long life expectancy, and sweet personality make it a good choice as a pet fox. It may not be suitable for households with small children or other pets since they tend to get nippy. As the world's smallest fox breed, it is delicate and needs protection from rougher housemates. It also has a large repertoire of vocalizations: Whimpers, growls, shrieks, wails, whines, barks, squeaks, and howls.
Length: 12 to 16 inches
Weight: 2 to 4 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long, thick hair cream or fawn in color; extremely large bat-like ears; hairy feet
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is not as popular as a fennec fox for a pet, but those who have them say that they are as sweet as house cats. They are not domesticated and have a few drawbacks. Perhaps their worst offense is that they have the smelliest urine of the fox breeds. Spaying or neutering may help reduce the odor a little bit. They also have a propensity to dig and need much more room to dig and play than other breeds. Silver foxes are a domesticated variety of red fox that has been bred exclusively in Russia. This domesticated fox program has reduced the fox's urine odor and improved upon their overall temperament.
Length: 36 to 42 inches
Weight: 8 to 15 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long snouts with large pointy ears; red fur across the face, back, sides, and tail; grayish-white throat, chin, and belly; black feet and black-tipped ears; fluffy white-tipped tail
Silver Fox (Domesticated)
Also called the tame Siberian fox, the tame Arctic fox, Sibfoxes, the domesticated fox, and other names, the silver fox is a true domesticated fox. Also classified as Vulpes vulpes, it is a different color variation of the red fox. Through a selective breeding program in Russia, these foxes have some different characteristics and slight genetic differences from red foxes. A true domesticated silver fox is only available from Russia. Trying to acquire one can be difficult and can cost up to $10,000.
These foxes have a dog-like disposition and very little smell. Some dog behaviors bred into silver foxes included tail-wagging when happy, barking and vocalization, and ear floppiness. Care for these foxes is not any different than other breeds of foxes. If you are looking for an easier fox to care for, you may want to consider a fennec or gray fox.
Length: 36 to 42 inches
Weight: 8 to 15 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long snouts with large pointy ears; black to bluish-gray to silver coat with a white-tipped tail; silver hairs may be scattered all over
The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is very similar to the red fox but is typically smaller and not as commonly kept as a pet. An animal that has adapted to life in the Arctic, it is sensitive to hot temperatures and may overheat easier than other foxes. Measures to keep it cool may be necessary. Due to a small breeding stock in the U.S., Arctic foxes are overbred and some possess genetic problems.
Like red foxes, its urine and scenting glands make it a smelly choice for a pet. It is not well suited to life indoors since it scent marks its territory. It also loves to play in sand and dirt and may make their litter box more of a pleasure sandbox than a bathroom spot. As far as foxes go, it can have a pleasant disposition.
Length: 28 inches
Weight: 6 to 10 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Dark gray to brown to bluish-brown coat in the summer; white or creamy white thick coat in winter; long, bushy tail; short nose; small curled-back ears; short, stubby legs
Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) used to be the most common fox found in the U.S. Over the centuries, human encroachment and deforestation have allowed red foxes to become the most dominant species. Gray foxes are the calmest and friendliest fox species. Usually, most foxes are wary of strangers, however, gray foxes are amiable and affectionate with most people. Grays and most other foxes will never be truly housebroken, even though gray fox urine is not as pungent as other species. They can be troublemakers in the house by digging up carpets, marking territory, and eating or chewing random things that they shouldn't.
Length: 31 to 45 inches
Weight: 8 to 14 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Peppery gray coat on top, reddish-brown on its sides, chest and back of head; reddish-colored legs and feet; long, bushy tail with a black stripe on top; pointed ears; pointed muzzle; long, hooked claws
A small species, the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is an uncommon species to find and to keep. These foxes are native to the plains of Africa. In the wild, they are primarily an insectivorous species with termites and dung beetles making up 80 percent of their natural diet. As pets, they can be fed meat, and vegetables. These foxes have been kept indoors by owners. But, similar to other fox species, bat-eared foxes need an escape-proof enclosure. Beware of digging and scent marking with this fox species, too.
Length: 18 to 26 inches
Weight: 6 to 12 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Unusually large ears; yellowish-gray coat; black face and legs; black-tipped ears and tail
Hailing from the North American grasslands, swift foxes (Vulpes velox) are a small species of fox that are a rare find in the exotic pet trade. This species is known to have a loving temperament and is less noisy and energetic than fennec foxes. Some reports claim this species is easier to train to use a litter box. Swift foxes are omnivores. Its diet includes grasses, fruits, small mammals, carrion, and insects. In the wild, this species lives up to 6 years. As pets, their life expectancy can increase to 14 years.
Length: 31 inches
Weight: 4 to 7 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Dark, grayish, tan coat coloration that extends to a yellowish-tan color across its sides and legs; pale yellow to white-colored throat, chest, and belly; black-tipped tail; black patches on its muzzle; large ears
The kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) species is closely related to the swift fox. It is about the same size and is native to southwestern North America. A naturally inquisitive species, it has little fear of humans and can form deep bonds with its owner. In the wild, it is an omnivore. As a pet, it should be fed a combo diet of high quality, protein-rich dog food, cooked or raw meats, vegetables, and fruits for variety. Special treats can include hidden crickets or mealworms to stimulate their foraging instinct.
Very rarely does this species make noise, but when it does, the sounds can include low barks or growls. This fox species is one of the easiest to litter or potty pad train. Being that foxes like to climb, get this species a cat tree or cat condo. Provide a sandbox for this fox to dig holes, which is one of its favorite activities.
Length: 12 to 20 inches
Weight: 3 to 6 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Big-eared; grayish orange topcoat with a white underbelly; black-tipped tail
Pale (Pallid) Fox
The pale fox (Vulpes pallida) is native to the Sahara Desert. This species is another rarity in the exotic pet trade. If you can find one, they usually need to be imported and can cost upwards of $4,000. Pale foxes are a low-odor species, easier to train than fennec foxes, and have a friendly disposition. They tend to be vocal and make loud, high-pitched screeches like fennec foxes.
Length: 15 to 17 inches
Weight: 4 to 6 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Pale, sandy-colored coat; whitish underbelly; long-bodied; relatively short legs; narrow muzzle; long ears and rounded at the top; bushy, black-tipped tail
Corsac foxes (Vulpes corsac) hail from northern Asia. Rarely kept as pets in the U.S., you are more likely to find them as pets in the U.K. This species is commonly compared to swift foxes in behavior, care, and appearance. Corsac foxes are much easier to potty-train than most foxes, however, they do tend to scent mark and their urine is pungent. If the fox is not bathed regular, its coat will be smelly. If you keep this species in the home, give it a climbing structure. Expect the fox to heavily shed its coat once a year in the spring.
Height: 19 to 24 inches
Weight: 6 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Thick, soft gray coat with silvery tones and whitish underside; black-tipped tail