Rest in Peace Henry "Lynn" Hall. June 1, 1924 - October 9, 2012.
Fennec Foxes In The Wild:
Conservation Status: Fennecs are rare to begin with, but they are hunted by native desert peoples for rodent extermination and fur. They are also a CITES Threatened Species. A Fennec may NOT be brought in or out of the continental United States without thorough investigation.
Fennec Foxes In Captivity:
Domestication: The Fennec Fox is classified under CITES as an Appendix II species: "species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival (CITES website)." In the United States however there is a small community of Fennec Fox owners and breeders, and you can view the list under the BREEDERS + EXOTIC VETS tab. Fennecs are becoming more and more common, and the demand is too low with not too many new breeders. Due to more breeders retiring than new breeders beginning, the supply is much lower than the demand. Very few Fennecs having been imported with a new gene pool outside the United States in the last decade. Some people believe the Chihuahua was a relative of the Fennec, but they are more closely related to the modern day dog than a fox. The lower number of chromosomes in foxes - 39 in dogs vs. 32 in the Fennec - makes it impossible for the two species to breed and produce hybrids.
As A Pet In Captivity: Although Fennecs cannot be considered completely domesticated, they can be kept in a domestic setting similar to dogs or cats, though several things make it important to ensure that they do not escape. Their speed and agility (they can jump four times their own body length) combined with their natural fleeing/chase instinct creates the risk of a Fennec slipping its harness or collar. They should ALWAYS be in a harness rather than attaching the collars to their neck, because if they pull, they could snap their fragile necks. Further, since they are adept diggers (they can dig up to twenty feet a night in their natural environment), outdoor pens and fences must be extended many feet below ground. It is said that Fennecs appear to disappear into the sand since they dig so fast. Wild instincts make Fennecs more of a handful and more enjoyable than a domestic cat or dog. As with all exotic pets, Fennecs have more personality, and are substantially smarter than domestic dogs or cats. This also makes them ten times as stubborn and harder to train. However some wild instinct will influence their actions, such as hiding caches of food in case of famine, as well as attempting to burrow into furniture to build a nest, hiding food in the cushions, and other instinctual behaviors.
Diet In Captivity: Any diet in a domestic setting should reflect their natural wild diet. Food sources used should include high quality meat-rich dog food, wild canine food brands, cat food, meats, insects, mealworms, custom dietary mixtures, or any combination. However it is suggested NOT to feed them raw meats, as this will make their stools smell unbearable.Blue Buffalo Wilderness and Taste of the Wild are amazing stable kibble diets with fruits and vegetables mixed in about every other day sparingly. A cat kibble would also be fine as a stable kibble, since these foxes need more of the vitamin Taurine than canines do. And remember, if the ingredients don't have an actual meat (such as 'deboned chicken' like in the Blue Buffalo) listed as the first ingredient, don't buy it. All these commercial dog or cat foods that have corn in them are not good. Cats, dogs, and foxes would not be eating corn in the wild. Blue Buffalo Wilderness and Simply Nourish Source are 100% grain free. I would feed my Fennec Blue Buffalo, monkey biscuit treats, cereal, meal worms, and vegetables, fruits and lettuce. Never feed them too many fiber-rich foods, otherwise this will harm their digestive system. They get EXTREMELY excited sometimes when fed certain foods, so make sure you stamp out food aggression from a young age. It has been said Mazuri Wild Canid diet foods have high amounts of preservatives - more than your commercial kitten or puppy foods.
Litter Training: Fennecs either take very well to a litter box or do not like it at all. The best way to litter train them is to buy a potty training aid spray. I used the Petsmart Simple Solution Potty Training Aid Spray. Spray this on the litter, or puppy pad. Some Fennecs like puppy pads and some like litter boxes, it really depends on the personality of your fox. If you do use a litter box, make sure you DO NOT buy clumping litter.
Since Fennecs have fur on their feet, this will form hard pieces that will be difficult to remove. I would suggest either paper pellets, like Yesterdays News, Corn or Pine (which is also flushable), or Blue Buffalo's cat litter, which I have heard is amazing. Otherwise the clay litter clumps and forms hard rocks on your baby's pads, which will hurt to be removed. Always bring the Fox to the litter box/puppy pad frequently and whenever there is an accident in the house, take them immediately to the litter box. Always give treats and praise for using the litter box or puppy pad. My Fennec loved monkey biscuits as treats especially for going potty.
Make sure you take frequent potty trips to the pad or litter box after they eat/drink, much like you would take a puppy outside to their toilet area.
Caging Recommendations and Walks: What I used for my fox was a Ferret Nation Midwest model 142 or 182. Out of all the cages I had this was the best. If you add on another level, this 3 level cage would be ideal. Other recommended cages are Proselect Standard Foldable Cat Cages, Prevue Ferret Cages. If you have an outdoor enclosure, it must have a covered top and bottom, as Fennecs can dig and climb, being as agile as cats. And Fennecs always need toys and outlets for their energy in their cages/pens.
Fennecs should be in the cage when you aren't home, mostly because they can get into trouble if left loose and could hurt themselves. And if they escape outside, you will probably not recover them. That is why they NEED a harness if taken for a walk outside. If they just have a collar, it is easy for them to slip out if frightened.
That being said, like a dog, they should only be caged when you aren't home and supervised when you are. Getting a fox and keeping it caged all the time will affect it's personality - negatively. I personally know someone whose fox was kept isolated from other animals and people in a cage in it's own room. It was not a very happy fox and chewed all of the fur out of it's tail.
If you want a fox just to show off to people, then get a dog. There are plenty of them in shelters.
Legal Issues and Shots: The legality of owning a Fennec, as with many exotic pets, varies by state, so check the FOX LEGALITY & RIGHTS link. Unfortunately, because it is an exotic, not all veterinarians will treat Fennecs, so make sure to find a Vet who will provide vaccinations and any necessary medical care. They need similar shots as dogs do, such as Parvocine, Distemper, and Rabies. They MUST be killed vaccines or modified live, because if they are live the fox is too small to fight it off. An experienced breeder will already have shots administered before releasing the kit to you. More detailed information will be below.
Vaccine Info: At this time there is no approved vaccines for foxes. That being said, you should always use a killed or modified live virus vaccine.
Distemper. Do not give live virus vaccines. Foxes and even dogs have been known to obtained the virus from even modified live vaccines. PureVax Ferret, is one for ferrets but is chick cell (canary pox) oriented and is Not a modified live. It is manufactured by Merial.
Parvo. Galaxy Pv, (modified live virus), or use a killed vaccine if available.
Rabies. Imrab 3, killed virus.
Heartworm. Heartguard or liquid ivomec is suitable for the Fennec. (Be sure it is not the kind for cattle with the extra medication for liver flukes) Tape worms. Panacure and Droncit are approved for the Fennec. Remember, these are just guidelines, and your Vet can give you a better idea of what is best for your situation.
Shampoo and flea products. Be sure it is safe for a cat or kitten. Check the age and weight on the product as compared to your animal. Their systems are more delicate like a cat because of their size even though they are in the canine family. The fennec fox is in the 'dog' family and therefore are susceptible to all dog diseases. They can also harbor the same internal and external parasites as domestic dogs including worms and fleas. You should regularly check fecal samples for worm eggs and keep their area flea free.
Culture: Though the Fennec Fox in the United States might be a rare pet, and not heard of very often being considered 'exotic', some cultures find them to be an everyday pet you would see in the pet stores, such as Japan. In Thailand, they even have a pet cafe in which Red Foxes, Meerkats, and Fennec Foxes live where customers can interact with them.
Japan adopts out these little ones in pet stores with extensive manuals on how to take care of them. And while I do not agree with this money-making method, I believe foxes should be thoroughly researched before adopting one, so at least these pet stores give out information.
I know some breeders in the U.S. that do not give out info with their kits. However, I stumbled upon these photos while reading a delightful blog about someone who gives their foxes a great home. Unfortunately, Fennec breeders are becoming more and more rare. The amount of breeders retiring aren't matching the new breeders starting, and due to the low success rate of breeding (it is not uncommon for Fennecs to destroy their kits if not reared in complete silence) and the high demand, prices are going up.
Anatomy: While not too much information is out there on Fennec's anatomy, I was able to come across a few X-rays where you can clearly see their little hearts, ribs, etc. and felt they would be great to share. These X-rays really demonstrate the fact that any Fennec owner will tell you; underneath that fluffy fur is one extremely skinny and tiny fox! When you are giving them a bath you will see just how skinny they are. Their bones are extremely fragile, and extreme precaution should be taken to protect them from sprains, breaks, and other injuries with this world's smallest fox.
See left the picture of their teeth which are remarkably close to a canine, but you can notice the biggest difference between the teeth of a domestic dog and the fox. The fox has extremely larger two incisors on the sides of the mouth while in the front they are almost flat. Most domestic dogs have sharper, larger teeth between the larger side teeth. Fennec fox teeth also stand out completely from feline teeth, which have sharp serrated edges on each tooth. Notice that the four long teeth are utilized for grabbing hold of the pray and killing it almost instantly, and the smaller teeth in the middle are used for chomping the prey into smaller, bite-sized pieces.