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Foxes as Pets

Infoxicated By Cuteness: Tips for Keeping Foxes as Pets

Do foxes make good pets? Here are some things you must know if you plan on keeping this exotic animal as your pet.
Hrushikesh Oka
Did You Know?
Foxes practice caching by digging small holes using only one paw. Once the leftover food is safely stored in the hole, the fox will use its snout to cover it with mud.

Note: This PetPonder article is for informative purposes only, and is in no way meant to promote the sale of foxes as pets. Although legal in certain parts of the world, keeping exotic animals as pets is ethically wrong, and we do not support it.

Foxes are much more like dogs, coyotes, and wolves. They are virtually found in all the continents, among which, the red fox Vulpes vulpes is the most common species. Foxes are mammals, belonging to the family Canidae. They are smaller than wolves, jackals, and dogs. Unlike dogs, foxes have not been domesticated much, though some attempts have been made in this area.

Domesticated species has been defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity as: "species in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs." That being said, only two species of fox are considered domesticated by the United States Department of Agriculture. If you wish to go ahead and keep a fox as a pet, you should be prepared for some groundwork, care, and precautions.

Know the Difference Between Domesticated and Non-domesticated Foxes

Domesticated Silver Fox
The Siberian fox or the domesticated silver fox, a silver-colored variant of the red fox, is the only fox species to have been successfully domesticated through selective breeding. The Russian scientist Dmitri K. Belyaev, developed the domesticated silver fox as a part of a program initiated in 1959. The silver fox was developed after selective breeding of extremely tame red foxes (true fox). The result of the program revealed that the behavioral traits of the silver fox were similar to domestic dogs.

These foxes are claimed to be much more docile, calm, and dog-like because of years of selective breeding. A US company, The Domestic Fox, has recently made it possible to import a domesticated Siberian fox from The Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk for USD 8,000.

Domesticated Fennec Fox
Apart from the domesticated silver fox, the fennec fox is the only other species of fox which can be kept as a pet and is considered domesticated by the United States Department of Agriculture. Fennec foxes are the smallest species of foxes and are native to the Sahara desert and parts of North Africa. This small species of fox is bred commercially and is extremely popular as a pet, because of its small size, large elongated ears, and affectionate demeanor. Despite being categorized as a 'small wild/exotic canid', this species of fox is illegal in some states of America and requires special import, possession, class, and exotic pet permit to own one.

Tamed Non-domesticated Foxes
On the other hand, tamed native fox species such as the red fox, are considered as non-domesticated and are illegal in many states, barring a few. Even though tamed foxes can be friendly and docile, there is a possibility of non-domesticated foxes turning aggressive as they age. It is important to remember that foxes are wild animals and even tamed ones retain the instincts and traits of wild animals. So, if you are planning to keep a fox as your pet, you have to take proper precautions. They may be dangerous to strangers, and small pets and children.

Find Out Which States Allow Owning a Fox

First thing to check for is the legal issues involved in owning a pet fox. Even if the state you live in permits foxes as pets, every county has its own set of laws which may make it illegal to do so. You will need to inquire from the Department of Natural Resources as well as the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in your area and confirm the information given by them with the city hall. Some states differ on their stance about possessing a fox.

For instance, the state of Alabama strictly prohibits owing foxes, whereas, the state of Arkansas restricts the number of foxes that can be owned per household at 6 gray or red foxes. Some states demand a special 'State Veterinarian' permit before importing a fox from another state. Keeping a fox without permit would deprive the animal of the veterinarian support it needs as well as make it illegal for the owner to do so.

Contact a Vet That Treats Foxes

Many vets will simply decline to treat a fox, which is why, you may have to contact several clinics before you find a suitable vet who treats wild animals. You may need to contact your 'State Veterinarian' in order to find a certified vet for your pet fox. You must take this step before legally buying your pet fox, so that the animal can be given necessary medical support before it is introduced to its new environment.

Seek help from the breeder of your pet fox, as they are more likely to know vets in your area who will treat your pet fox. The breeder will also be able to suggest various ways to make the animal comfortable in its new home. The pet fox or kit will need to be given the right vaccinations and medications to prevent rabies, heartworm, and nutritional deficiencies.

Consider contacting the local wildlife center near your area, in case you happen to come across an abandoned or injured wild fox or kit. They will provide the necessary care to the wild animal and return it into the wild, once the fox is strong enough to look after itself.

Take Steps to Begin Training the Pet Fox

After you decide to keep a fox as a pet, you need to prepare a pen of 10'x10' or more for it to live in. There should be ample hiding space inside the pen, and its living space should be easy to maintain and clean.

Even though foxes prefer their den to be dark, the pen must receive ample sunlight. Therefore, keeping this fact in mind, you may place the pen/kennel in a partially shaded area of your house.

Foxes are good diggers, climbers, and jumpers, so make sure the kennel is enclosed and placed on sold ground so that the fox cannot make its way out. A separate place must be provided for the fox to dig, as it is in their nature to do so.

Keeping the fox indoors, would make it feel cooped and aggressive, thus it must be given plenty of exercise on a daily basis.

Foxes have mannerisms and abilities that make them behave both dog-like and cat-like. They can also be trained to move around on a leash. Make your pet fox wear a harness instead, as it is possible for most foxes to wriggle their neck out of a normal dog leash.

Place an ID and rabies-free tag on the pet's harness, so that strangers do not treat the fox as a threat in case it gets lost or escapes into an unknown neighborhood.

Your pet fox can be trained to use a litter box and this habit must be inculcated from the moment the fox is brought home. Unlike dogs and cats, foxes do not cover their waste and thus require less litter in their box.

In case you are wondering about the type of food to feed you pet, remember that foxes are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. Most fox kits are weaned from the mother after 4-5 weeks of age. However, if you happen to look after a fox kit from its infancy, you will need to bottle-feed it for a few weeks.

Their diet consists of high quality dog food with some cat food occasionally, with additional thawed vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries. Ideally, its diet should be on par nutritionally with its natural diet, which means more meat (cooked). Pork, onion, and chocolate is toxic for foxes and must never be fed to this animal.

Furthermore, you have to socialize the animal so that it can live successfully with a family. Do so by increasing human contact with the fox.

Give it plenty of chew toys and play with it as often as possible. All these activities are needed to keep the fox healthy and happy.

If you do not intend to breed your pet fox, consider getting it neutered or spayed when its 6 months of age, as this will help reduce its smell and aggressive behavior.

Some Facts About Foxes
  • Foxes are small to medium-sized canids, i.e. members of the family Canidae.
  • Foxes are found all over the world in almost all continents, with the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) being the most common.
  • The red fox weighs about 10-15 lbs. The female foxes or vixens weigh a little less.
  • Fox characteristics include the distinctive snout which is long and narrow and a bushy tail.
  • Foxes can live up to 10-15 years in captivity.
  • Foxes are omnivorous and eat insects, rodents, small reptiles and amphibians, eggs, fruits, and berries.
  • Unlike many other canids, they are not pack animals, but live in small family groups.
  • Foxes mate for life, thus their mates should never be forcefully taken away or switched with another.
To conclude, remember that a fox is primarily a wild animal and may become unpredictable and unmanageable. On the other hand, it is an exotic pet and can be a playful and loyal companion. Bear in mind that a pet fox cannot be released into the wild because it will not be able to fend for itself or survive for long.