Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about:
Fennec Foxes
as Pets
Fennecs are the smallest breed of fox in the world, and are native to the Sahara Desert in
Africa, in the wild they eat bugs, worms and very small animals such as baby birds & tiny
lizards and occassionally fruits. They live in dens in colonies somewhat like condominiums-
each to themselves, sometimes in families, but linked together. They live 10-15 years and are
about 4 pounds full grown. Their large ears are designed to dissipate the desert heat, and to
listen for their tiny underground prey.

Fennecs have been bred in captivity for several decades in the U.S., no fennec fox currently as a pet
in the U.S. has been wild caught.
They have not been tamed however to the extent that the Russian Silver Foxes have which were  
bred specifically for that quality for 50 years.

Fennecs are adorable, enchanting creatures that many people think they want to own.
However they are challenging pets and often owners are unprepared for their needs and

The following information is based upon Critter Camp's extensive experience actually caring for several
fennec foxes. There will be some unusual exceptions but this information is true for the majority of pet
fennec foxes. However each fennec has its own personality, all 5 that we have had so far have been
completely unique.

Fennecs are very shy, they do not seek out attention. Occassionally they will dart up to their person and
want to be petted, but it will be fleeting.
Fennecs like to have their ears stroked as well as the top of their head and back of the neck. Generally
they do not want to be touched below the waist or on the tummy. They do not like to be held for more
than a few moments.  They often like to be near you but not touched. No matter how much the owner
wishes they would, they simply do not cuddle.

Fennecs are happy kept alone, or interacting with the family cat or dog ( as long as the dog is not a
hunting species- the dog's reaction to the fennec will be the same as it would be to any small prey
animal, not to another dog.) They do not need to be kept in pairs. As a matter of fact they may not even
acknowledge another fennec's presence, let alone play with it, unless they are a bonded breeding pair.

Foxes are not pack animals like dogs or even pride animals like cats therefore they
do not respond to 'training' methods. They can be conditioned to expect certain
things like opening the refrigerator means food, but they will not come when called
although they may recognize their name and look up when it is spoken. They will
not learn tricks or walk on a leash. They may walk you on a harness but they can
escape easily and if they run off they are gone, they do not return home nor
respond to being called.

Fennec foxes must be kept indoors in all but the most temperate of climates. They should
stay between 65 and 80 degrees all of the time. If they are allowed outside in an pen it will
have to be completely enclosed sides, top and bottom, as they will dig or climb out of
Some owners keep them in their own room, some keep them in a large "Ferret Nation" type
cage when unsupervised (such as when the owner is gone or asleep) and then allow them to
be free range in the house the rest of the time, as we do. They need to be out of cage and
with people as much as possible for them to become and stay somewhat friendly.

Fennecs do not "play' interactively like dogs or cats do. Once in awhile they will carry off a cat
toy to hide in their bed, or chase around another pet like a cat or dog, but they don't fetch or
play tug or chase a string. They will often beg for treats though, which truly is adorable.

Fennec can and do bite. They have sharp needle-like teeth and do not hesitate to use them
when startled or simply want to be left alone.
In general they do not scratch people, but they do like to dig. They will dig up carpets,
floors, and into furniture. They dig more when they are bored or anxious, so the more
interaction you can give and free range time the less likely they will dig destructively.

Fennecs make a few vocalizations and they can mean different things at different
times. The 'bark' is a low gutteral barking sound reserved usually for when they are
upset or threatened. A happy well cared for fennec will rarely bark. Male fennecs will
make an very odd sound that is similar to the raptor calls on the Jurassic Park movies,
kind of a chirping trill only deeper as a mating type call. Neutered males will not
usually make this sound. They will also make a sound that is like a cross between a
purr and a growl, and it usually means they are about to bite. They make this when
they are being held and want to be put down for example. The most common sound is
the squeal or 'eeeeing' . This generally means “yay! I am so glad to see you!”It may
even mean they want to be petted. But occasionally it means go away. You have to
learn to read the individual fennec to be sure.

Fennec fox behavior is also individualized. Usually when they roll over on their side or back they
want to be petted- but still only touch them on the head & ears & neck in general. Some do want a
belly rub, again you'll have to learn the individual fennec to know what they want. Sometimes when
they are excited they will swish their tail, and flatten out like a pancake, often this is accompanied by
the squeal.

Fennecs are naturally nocturnal, but they can be conditioned to be awake during the
evening and even daytime with enough interaction, similar to a house cat. The more they
are entertained in the daytime the better they will sleep at night. If they do not have
enough exercise during the day they will dig and make noise all night.

No matter what any breeder or fan says fennec foxes cannot be potty trained. A
small percentage will instinctively use a litter box or puppy training pads nearly
all the time. However the vast majority simply go wherever and whenever they
want- in their bed, on the floor, on the couch, on your keyboard, in their food,
then they will walk through it and then walk all over their cage. To foxes their
waste is a marking technique to show ownership and they do not hesitate to use
it. Both urine and feces are used in this way.
Most fennec foxes' urine smells like skunk spray. Some owners claim that certain
diets can change that, however it depends more on the individual fox's personal
chemistry than anything, and most smell like skunk.

Fennecs are also prone to heart, liver and kidney diseases and failure. They can require
extensive veterinary care. At the minimum they should be vaccinated for rabies and
distemper, but you will need to use an experienced exotics vet in order to use the safest types
of vaccinations.  Some fennecs have had serious reactions to such shots and there are none
that are officially approved for fennec foxes.They should also receive a safe prescription
flea/tick treatment just as you would a cat or dog. Revolution (kitten dose) is the safest for
them and it also prevent mites and heartworm as well.  They should also be spayed and
neutered for their health, to reduce the strength of their odors, and to calm their
temperaments. However they do not take anesthesia well and must be monitored closely for
adverse reactions , they also need to be kept extra warm while they recover as they naturally
lose heat rapidly.
Fennec foxes generally do well on a diet of cooked chicken, cooked egg, mixed
fresh/ frozen vegetables, and supplemental superworms or silkworms and crickets.
Some will prefer tuna or turkey or canned cat food (Friskies Prime Fillets are a
favorite) instead of canned chicken. Some will eat a commercial exotic feline or
canine food as well. They can be picky eaters and care must be given to be sure
they get proper nutrition. They also must have supplemental Taurine which can be
sprinkled in powder form onto their food. Some will also eat commercial Ferret food
which is already supplemented with the amino acid Taurine.

They must never eat the usual foods that are toxic to animals- chocolate,
caffeine, etc. but also be careful that they cannot get into artificial sweetener or
raisins which will shut down their system very fast. They may try to eat plastic
such as plastic shopping bags, which will block their intestines.

Whatever area they are allowed in will have to be fennec proofed similar to how you
would baby proof an area. Nothing they can eat but shouldn't, outlets covered,
cords covered or put up, no plastic or tiny items accessible, etc.

Fennec foxes cost approximately $1500, and generally people will be placed on a waiting
list for a year or more to obtain a kit from a breeder. Fennec foxes do not rehome well as
they tend to bond with their first owner if at all and may not re-bond with subsequent
owners. Prospective buyers must realize that buying a fennec fox is a 10-15 year
commitment. The best pet/owner relationships are those that begin at an early age, just
weaned, and last the pet's entire life. This is true for all animals but especially for fennec
foxes and other exotic pets.
There are virtually no 'rescue' fennecs available for adoption. Once a fennec has been sold
and rehomed more than a couple of times they are no longer pet material, as they become
highly aggressive and/or fearful and they must be given sanctuary at a safe rescue facility.

The most important thing to do before someone makes the decision to become a fennec
owner is to visit one or more that are pets to see firsthand if you truly are ok with the
smells, the cleaning, & the behaviors involved.
Links to meet fennec fox owners here:   http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/FennecFox/    


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