|Posted on January 1, 2009 at 1:36 AM|
Interview with Denis Bressler, Donna Fritz, Julie Reid, and Gabrielle Collins
Positives of fennecs as pets?
DB: I personally think they make one of the neatest exotics pets out there. They are simple to take of, and very small. I never met anyone who didn't think they weren't adorable and cute with those great big ears. Their food expense is relatively low, and even the smallest apartments have plenty of space for them. Fennecs are endearing, addictive, have cute little voices and very social little creatures.
DF: Julian is gorgeous, intelligent and graciously allows herself to be adored.
JR: One of the easiest to care for and most social of all exotics.
GC: Generally they are sweet and affectionate. They are very engaging, and pretty small, so they are easy to care for. They are also easy to feed and house.
Negatives of fennecs as pets?
DB: Their size is also their worst negative. They are so small and quick they can get under your feet-causing you to step on them, or jump from something high. Both of these have caused fatal injuries in fennecs. You have to be careful with young children so they don't drop them, accidentally causing them harm. Some foxes use your house as their bathroom, rather than a litter box. They startle easily and you have to be careful how you take them outdoors. They have been known to get out of harnesses, and take off.
DF: Unreliable litter box use; prefers sink, countertops, bookshelf, chair I'm on... etc. Does not get along with any animal I have except my Golden Retriever. Will bite me if I do something she doesn't like, such as pick her up or interrupt a nap.
JR: Challenge to litter train. VERY fast. A grown fennec can fit thru a chain link fence hole so one must plan enclosures, house or otherwise, accordingly. A fennec does not normally come when called. They can become disoriented fast when somewhere unknown and if you don't have them on a firm lead, they can run away and you'll never catch them. On the other hand I've had several escapes from my breeders and for the most part, they have never strayed too far from home. I've recovered all escapees but two. A thunderstorm helped with one who I never found.
GC: Not well litter trained. Actually he's 100% in his cage, but only about 10% out of it. Also, they DIG DIG DIG! Forget houseplants, woodwork and carpeting. Some are also very skittish around strangers.
Anecdotes/stories about your pet fennec?
DB: Candy was under my coffee table, and Spice (my coati) walked by. Candy bit her tail. So Spice tried to get under the coffee table to get her back, but couldn't fit. Every time Spice stuck her head under, Candy would bite her on the nose.
DF: She has a strange relationship with the Golden Retriever; she bites him, but also brings him biscuits. Caches food items in the sheets while I sleep.
GC: I got Loki at 9 weeks old. He was very friendly for a while, then suddenly became shy and skittish. Once he was neutered (at 7 months) he became much more sweet and playful again. However, he still hates my husband.
Do they have scent glands or an offensive smell?
DB: Fennecs are very clean and I find they have no offensive body odor.
DF: When very scared or very angry, Julian emits a sharp musky odor from the scent gland at the base of her tail.
JR: I've heard of one instance where a male marked with a scent gland. Otherwise no offensive odor at all.
GC: I've never noticed one, except when he pees outside of the litter box. It's strong sometimes, other times it's not.
What is their average life span?
DB: Fennec Foxes are the smallest of the wild canids, they live 11-14 years. °They are 10-16 inches long and weigh 2-3 lbs. The female being the smaller one. Their ears are 5-6 inches in height.
Do they enjoy interaction?
DB: Yes, they love their humans and other non human companions. They will give you a kiss, roll over for a belly rub, lay on the floor with their tail wagging, or bark for your attention. They get tickled and exited when you come home, and love to play fetch.
DF: Demands affection by sliding across what I'm doing, or throwing herself on her back or side in front of me wherever I am, even as I'm walking.
JR: Attention Craving Gremlins!!
GC: Do they ever! Loki will play with anyone or anything (except husband!) He especially loves my sons (ages 12 & 10). He will be alternately a ball of energy and race around playing tag, and then lay on your lap to have his ears rubbed.
What is their general personality, disposition, and attitude?
DB: Fennecs are friendly, lovable, feisty, and very social. They have great dispositions and are a blast to watch. When they kill their food (Don't care if it was never alive to begin with.), they pounce on it, run around and scream before they eat it. They are not quick to anger, and they carry themselves proudly as if to say "Look at me, I'm as cute as they come and just as perfect as perfect can be."
DF: Curious, playful, affectionate, lightning-fast, great sense of humor.
JR: Playful, excited, hi-energy, friendly, a general riot.
GC: Sweet and affectionate, but also stubborn and selfish. They want what they want. What you want is beside the point. Also, he sleeps much of the time, like a cat - sleeping most of the day and night with occasional outbursts of manic activity.
Are they sweet and petable, or mischievous and playful?
DB: Fennecs are as sweet as any puppy out there. They come over, let you hold and pet them, and off they go. They repeat this every hour or so. They love to steal things from you, such as keys, paperwork, knickknacks, and other things. They run up and nip your toes or nose, tip your soda can/cup, take ornaments off your tree, and steal your food. Fennecs love to play with all kinds of toys (Watch out for toys that might strangle them.), chase you/other pets/their tails, and run faster anything I have ever seen, thru your house.
DF: All of the above, depends on her mood. But always highly aggressive toward prey items (i.e., rodents, rabbits, birds, etc.)
JR: Mostly mischievous and playful but will come up for a 10 second to several minute pet or snuggle. Rule of thumb with any exotic...What you put in is what you get out. In other words, how you treat them will have a lot to do with how they are.
GC: Both. Mostly sweet, and very playful. Less tolerance for quiet petting than rough housing. He prefers to wrestle and run most times - at least when he's awake.
How destructive are they for an average household?
DB: I don't consider them very destructive. They do dig, and can cause damage to your carpets, doors and window sills. If you have an outdoor pen, it'll need a bottom or they can dig out. They can dig up to 20 feet in one night.
DF: Not very, unless you count pee stains.
JR: Somewhat like a puppy can be. If they are bored they will get into trouble.
GC: Not terribly destructive - no chewing habits. Still, they dig a lot, and this can kill plants, scratch doors, pull up carpeting or wear down couch cushions.
Do they climb or tear up furniture?
DB: They don't tear up your furniture, but will bury their food in the cushions. Fennecs are quite capable of jumping up high or climbing. Actually I can't figure out how something so small can jump so high. Fennecs will climb wire cages to get at prey species.
DF: Climb, YES! Tear up, no not at all.
JR: Not really that I've head of
GC: No climbing but a lot of jumping and knocking things over. Also, as stated before, the digging can destroy things.
Are there any problems associated with their claws?
DB: Their nails need to be trimmed like a dogs. They are very sharp and can scratch you good, especially when they are spooked.
DF: Need to be clipped occasionally.
GC: Occasional trimming prevents scratches.
How messy are their droppings?
DB: They are firm and solid like a dogs.
JR: Depends on what you feed them. Generally stool is stiff and reasonably well formed. Veggies in Veggies out.
GC: About like a small dog. The bad part is the urine - it can smell bad sometimes.
Can they be litter box trained?
DB: Yes, but not all of them are. My little girl is 100% (I got her at 4wks), but my male is 0% (I got him at 3 mths-4 months), unless you count the whole house for him.
JR: VERY challenging.
GC: I've heard that many (not all) owners of females have better luck with litter boxes than with males. Loki keeps his cage fairly clean, but outside of the cage, anything goes.
Can they be trained?
DB: Yes, they come when their called, if your not trying to put them in their cage. They do dog tricks, understand no, and can walk on a leash (Be careful with this so they don't get away.), will listen most of the time.
DF: She will do things for immediate personal gratification, such as go in her cage for a cricket.
JR: Never say never.
GC: Somewhat. They like routines, so that can work for you. They are also very food oriented, so will do many things for treats. They also don't have a large attention span, so it's not like a dog.
How are they with other pets, larger and smaller?
DB: Fennecs are good with certain pets, like cats, some dogs, some ferrets, some genets, and some coatis. You have to supervise their play so the fennec doesn't get hurt. They can't handle rough play or they will be hurt. Now they do play rough their self sometimes, but they can't really hurt these animals. I just correct my fennecs when they get sassy so the others don't get mad at them. I don't allow my fennecs to play with rodents or birds, this is their prey in the wild. They will go after the even if they are bottle feed babies, it's only natural.
DF: Gets along with my 12-yr-old Golden Retriever because he tolerates anything.
JR: A kitten can make a wonderful best friend. Generally yes. But take into consideration what they might eat in the wild and plan accordingly.
GC: Loki loves the cat and chases (or is chased by) her. He also loves to watch our small rodents, though I'd never let him interact with them - they are his natural prey animals. Birds also would not be good as companions for a fennec. From all I have heard, fennecs like almost all animals their size or larger, even if that animal doesn't like them.
What size cage do they need?
DB: You can use a kennel, triple deck cage, a room, or a carrier (for when your gone) if they have free reign. They need numerous toys, a den, they like hammocks (watch height), and have a fondness for blankets.
DF: I keep her confined in a giant-size dog crate with a shelf I added when I'm not here. Evenings, nights, weekends--her "cage" is my house.
JR: I feel like the large three story ferret cage works well. It all really depends on how much time they will be in it.
GC: Loki stays in a cat/ferret cage at night and when we are gone. It has shelves, ramps, and places for him to hide in and sleep (he especially loves the hammock). Otherwise, he has free roam of the house. He tends to stick to certain areas - living room, dining room, kids' bedrooms, and occasionally the kitchen to mess with the cat's food and look for dropped food.
What do you feed them?
DB: They should be fed Dry Wild Canid feed, with fruits, vegetables, crickets, meal worms, and eggs. They can also be fed live rodents, but this will cause their urine and stool to become strong smelling.
DF: Raw rabbit/squirrel/mice, pulverized with the bones and cut into fennec-bite-sized pieces, fruits & veggies, dry cereal, Ensure, people food, etc.; she also has dry dog food available, which she buries in my sofa but doesn't seem to actually eat, and occasionally I'll offer some canned cat food which she usually snubs. NO CHOCOLATE.
JR: I feed my breeding fennecs a premium brand puppy food and mixed veggies. A pet will eat what you give it and anything it can steal.
GC: Combination of dry puppy kibble, chunky canned cat food, and frozen (thawed) veggies. Occasional fresh fruit and cereal for treats. He loves sweets like candy, pop, marshmallows, etc and will steal them if at all possible. Of course, these are not terribly good for a fennec, so this should be pretty rare for those kind of treats. (We don't give him candy or pop, but he's pretty resourceful).
What vaccinations/vet care do they require?
DB: This should be discussed with an experience exotic vet. Normally recommended is dog distemper, parvo, and rabies. All need to be killed vaccines or they can kill your fox. Mine was dewormed with strongid-p. They should have yearly checkups, shots and stool samples. They can be spayed or neutered.
DF: I have my vet give her dog shots: Recombitec 4-way and Imrab Rabies.
JR: A lot of vets recommend distemper. This is something you should discuss in detail with your vet and arrive at your own conclusions. My rule of thumb is if they will not be exposed to it, don't vaccinate for it.
GC: Basically like that of a small dog. Loki gets Parvocene, Galaxy D (distemper), and Imrab3 (rabies). He also takes Heartguard to prevent heart worm. They need a series of 3 each of the parvo and distemper as babies, then once a year as a booster. Rabies is yearly and the heart worm preventative I give him every month, though it's probably only necessary in months that mosquitoes are out.
At what age would it be best to get one?
DB: A bottle fed weaned baby would be best for the first time exotic owner. Babies sold on the bottles to inexperienced bottle feeders can die. This due to their strong their strong sucking and the formula ending up in their lungs.
DF: I got mine at 11 months and she is wonderful--now. The first few weeks I needed leather gloves to handle her.
JR: With most exotic the earlier the better but I have had fennecs successfully bond as late as 5 months.
GC: 5 to 8 weeks would be ideal, though before 8 weeks it involves some bottle feeding. Still, it helps them bond with you if they are younger.
Other Consideration for owners of fennecs?
DB: Remember Fennec Foxes are exotic pets, and will have some wild instincts. Also please don't keep these cute little creatures locked up all the time. It's not fair to them and you would be missing out on so much. Warning, if your fennec bites someone, rabies shot or not, in most states they will take your pet and kill it.
DF: Her motto is, if something she does bothers me, that's my problem, not hers.
JR: Kids, regulations.
GC: They are not dogs or cats - though they have qualities of each. They are still wild animals and will act on instinct. Punishment doesn't work very well as a deterrent. You simply have to be patient and accept them if they are not exactly what you thought they'd be.
What kind of person should own these animals?
DB: I think most people who love animals would do fine with a fennec fox.
DF: PATIENT, TOLERANT, high pain threshold
JR: Again, this is one of the best pets in the exotic industry. My only comment here is "if you cannot abide poop in inappropriate places, this isn't your pet.
GC: Patient, not loud, vigilant, energetic, lightning quick reflexes would help (I don't have those).