Here are some frequently asked questions on having Fennec Foxes as Pets:
Do Fennecs make good pets?
Many fennecs are a wonderful exotic pet. They are very friendly and can be enjoyed by the
whole family - especially if you have a lot of energy! Do remember that they are exotic
animals and can't be treated the same as any domestic animal. Please do your research and
get to know others who own fennec before making your decision.
Are they like a dog or cat?
Though fennecs really cannot be compared to domestic animals, they are in some ways
like a combination of a cat and a dog - the size of a cat, and sometimes the aloofness of a cat, but the energy and
playfulness of a dog. Some say that they are more cat like in personality -
Independant when they want to be and cuddly when they want to be. Also their agility,
and the height they can jump is more akin to a cat.
What kind of personalities and habits do they have?
They are a ball of energy 15% of the time, snuggly
20% of the time, and sound asleep the rest. They do not calm down with age!
They do indulge in mutual grooming, or nonaggressive nibbling. It's similar
to what a dog does, it's with the front teeth and not meant to break skin.
In fact, this is what they do with each other in the wild, it strengthens social bonds.
Horses do this as well. Yes, sometimes it's uncomfortable, they may nibble your knuckles while you
scratch them, but it's actually a good thing. It means you're accepted.
Is a male or female better? Does it make a difference if they are
Some say that neutered males are calmer than females and tend to cuddle more. The
females seem to be little more hyper and fast. The males seem to be much more docile,
less territorial, and more cuddly when neutered. Also, the urine doesn't smell as strong.
Spaying the females doesn't seem to make any difference in their personalities.
Do they smell?
No. The only time you notice any odor is if they get realy scared. In this case they will
let off a sharp, musky odor from the scent gland located on the tip of their tail.
This is barely noticable and only lasts for a moment. But just like any other animal, their feces and urine do smell,
so keep their litterbox clean!
Are they hard to take care of?
They are very time-consuming in the form of playtime, feedings, and
socialization, but spend a good deal of the time sleeping and resting in
general. Clipping nails is easier with two people. They are not hard to take care of, but you must
be very careful with them. These are exotic pets, and no matter how tame they may seem,
they are still wild animals. Fennecs also love to run between your feet
when walking, and most of the time you don't realize he's there - either
because he's so tiny and quiet, or because he's so fast that one minute you
see him across the room and the next, he's standing in front of you. So be VERY careful with these babies,
as they are often underfoot and can suffer severe injury if you step on them!!!
Are they messy? How well do they litterbox train?
Most do fairly well with a litterbox when confined in their kennel but in general they are
never completely litter trained and have accidents when out loose, especially if they are excited.
Many people have had great success with puppy pads. Some foxes will use them consistently if left
in one place, but will still have occasional accidents.
Are they noisy? Do they bark a lot?
They get noisy at night, so it's best to have them in a cage that's not close to your
bedroom! Some are very quiet and will only make excited noises when they see you first
thing in the morning. Some people let them loose in their house or bedrooms at night to play, though
this is not recommended! They could swallow something or choke, as well as run over you
in the night, scratching you with their sharp claws. Some will adjust to your schedule if they
are played with a lot during the day and evening.
When they have been alone for a long period of time, they may bark.
Some don't bark at all. They yip alot when excited (when they first
comes out of the cage, playing with a favorite toy or person) and this
sounds a bit like a squeaky toy.
What sounds do they make?
They have a bark that is kind of like a dog. It is very muffled, and their mouths
may not even move. They also have a purr/growl sound
They also snarl in "fierce play." The most wonderful sound is a trill or bird-like sound that some
make at night. It sounds like a bird call or an owl. It sounds lonely. They can wail piteously when
left alone or if they miss you. And they will squeal with pleasure when you come back
Do they require a lot of time? Can I take good care of one if I am
away or traveling a lot? Do they travel well? How are they in a car?
They require alot of time - they are wild animals and need more play
time than cats or dogs to keep them interested in humans. It is not recommended
to take a lot of time away (such as a travelling job), as they need to
bond (unless you take them with you). As fennecs are wild animals, you need to
spend A LOT of time with them. Otherwise they may tend to act more wild, they may
even forget you if you are gone for too long. Many like to travel in the car - most curl up and sleep -
but some hate their cat carriers. Others enjoy it, as it means they are going out. It is illegal
to carry them onto a plane.
Do they like to be touched, scratched, and held? Are they high
energy, or a lap pet?
Most love to be petted and held - eventually. But they need time to adjust to a new home first.
For some it may take only a few days before they start to warm up to you, while others may take more than a year before they will finally beg to be pet.
Most of them love to give chase when you try to touch them and pick them up, but will often come to you if you lay on the floor and call
them - they know this means cuddle time --but if you are up and walking it is
chase time! After all, you may be just be trying to put them back in the cage, and they are much smarter than that!
Food is a wonderful enticement. They are both high energy and lap pets - they have periods of high energy and periods of time just
being dead-asleep in your lap!
The best thing to remember is that when they first get out of their cage, they need plenty
of time to get their energy out. Then, when they've calmed down, they will come to
you and cuddle. They especially like to sleep in your lap while on the computer. Some absolutely
LOVE to have their bellies scratched, while others prefer a good ear rub.
Are they destructive? Do they chew a lot or rip things up? Is there
anything in particular that they are attracted to, chewing-wise?
Most love to dig in the litterbox, and if they take a liking to a certain piece of furniture or the carpet - watch out!
They rarely dig anywhere else. The best idea is to give them something that is "theirs" to dig on.
Anything lying on the floor is fair game for them to steal, but they aren't usually destructive
except with certain things. They love to chew on metallic things and will snatch them off of you or the floor if you are
not careful. (foil, buttons, earrings, glasses, necklaces, pennies,
electrical plugs) This is very dangerous and wherever they are should be
free of things like this. They also like to chew on things made of rubber
like elastic, rubber bands, bottle nipples, nose guards on glasses,
etc... These they try to eat which could be disastrous! They WILL eat leather, or try
to. This is NOT good. You may end up in the emergency room with your fennec
if they get access to any of these things!
Do they bond to just one person, or to the whole family? How are
they with strangers?
Many fennecs love everyone in the family. Some will take a dislike to certain
people without any apparent reason. Some won't take to strangers at all, while others
will fall in love with just about anybody. Most will love anyone who has food at the
moment. Never leave small children alone with them. Always be in the same room and watching
closely! If a child hurts the fennec, the fennec may bite and injure the child.
Are they finicky eaters or do they eat whatever you give them? Do
they get bored of one food so that you have to switch their foods a lot?
Some love to try any new food. Others are extremely picky, so start them on the diet
that you are going to keep, and introduce new food slowly and patiently. As snacks, they love fruit and most any kind of breakfast cereal. They also have
quite a sweet tooth and will try to get candy, sodas, iced tea, cookies, kool-aid, etc. These are
not very good for them, so they should be avoided. Most will scarf down anything that is put in front of them.
They do like some things more than others, and yes, they can get bored of some foods, so it's advisable
to add new things once in a while.
Do I need to get more than one?
This is not necessary, though they are like ferrets in that they
have even more fun with a playmate. This also makes them even more fun to watch.
Will they still be a good pet if I breed them?
Yes, but they may be more bonded to their mate than to you. They will also have periods
of protectiveness (mostly when breeding or with new babies) when they will bite if you approach the "nest."
How do I clean them?
Fennecs usually do not need a bath as they self-groom. Occasionally they may
get into something extremely messy (like honey or peanut butter), and will need a
bath in the sink. Avoid running water, as it scares them. They can be washed with any dog or cat shampoo. Cat shampoo makes their coat
ultra-soft. The milder the better.
Do they shed? If so, how much?
Many fennecs never shed, but some do go through a period of shedding, much like a dog or cat,
if they are in a climate that changes a lot. It will only happen once a year, around
midsummer. The amount depends on how much of a "winter coat" they
have put on. If it is a lot, the shedding will be quite heavy for a while. Brushing
definitely helps this along.
Is there anything that I shouldn't feed them, like bones, onions, or
spiced foods? Can they eat the scraps off my plate?
It's best to avoid bones, especially cooked, as these are not terribly
safe even for dogs. If you do choose to give bones, please give them only
uncooked ones, as cooked bones are very brittle and can splinter and lacerate your fennec's
throat and intestines. Avoid things like spicy foods, chocolate, onions, peppers, and dairy.
Also avoid citrus, because of the acid content. Also, eating scraps off of your plate can create a very bad habit, so it's best to set limits
from the beginning.
How big do they get? Are the more the size of a dog or a cat?
They get to be 3 to 3 1/2 pounds and are (about) the size of a
chihuahua. Many people think he is some kind of a furry, bushy-tailed
What size cage do they need?
The larger, the better. Since your Fennec is a nocturnal animal and will be spending
the nights in his cage, a cage that they can play, climb and jump around in is best.
The three-story ferret cages with ramps are great.
What do I need to do to "Fennec-proof" my house?
Make sure small items that they can swallow are always off of the floor
and electrical outlets and plugs are not accessable. Do not put anything
breakable on low shelves or tables, as they can and will jump - even onto the
countertops! Don't forget to close the toilet seat! They can get tangled in the
handle of a plastic grocery bag. Keep the floors clean, close doors to other rooms.
make sure you have no cords or wire laying around, make sure they don't have
easy access to an outside door. If they get out, they're gone forever! Don't leave
harnesses on all night! They can wedge the harness over their neck and get it
stuck in their mouth, with another part stuck under their arms, so that it rips their
mouth every time they move. They could break a leg or strangle!
Can they be trained to do tricks or play games?
They can learn to sit, fetch and chase and the names of certain toys or people.
They can learn their own name. They know which cat will play with them and which
one won't. They know where they are fed and the sound of their treat bag rustling.
These things can all be used in training. Some will use a water bottle, others never
will Remember to be patient. They like to play with balls.
Also, if you have a stuffed toy that has a pull string they will learn to pull the string on their own.
Just be careful that they don't get caught up in the string and injured! They can also be harness trained, but
don't be lulled into a false sense of security! Many can slip the harness and be off in
I have a dog, a cat, and a variety of birds. How will they get
They get along with most any animal that won't fit in their mouth
and will try to play, though sometimes the animal won't share their excitement.
Never leave them alone with other animals though, as there's no telling what
may happen. Do not ever let them have access to your rodents or birds, because they WILL try to
eat them. Introduce new animals slowly, but don't make them forbidden, as this may cause
jealousy. Most get along quite well with dogs and cats.
What about shipping?
Finding a local breeder is highly recommended over shipping. If you absolutely have to
ship, pay the extra money and get the maximum amount for insurance during
flight, and make sure you keep records of everything, as accidents do sometimes
occur, and you don't want to lose all your money in addition to your heartbreak!
Is there anything else I should know about them before buying one?
They are a CITES II animal, so are not endangered. They are illegal in
some places, not in others. Check with state and city ordinances first
or they will take them away from you and euthanize them if you are caught. California is
one state in which they are illegal. Many states consider them
non-dangerous exotic animals so they are legal. Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska allow them within the state,
although individual city ordinances differ. Be sure you know which vaccines to give
your Fennec and that there is a vet nearby who will treat your Fennec. Again,
keep in mind that this is still a wild animal. Their habits and needs are to be respected in a home environment.
There is no discipline for their instincts. They are very hyper, they're
diet is a lot more complex than putting dog food into a bowl, and you must
be careful with them. Some will occasionally bite without hesitation, regret, or even visible
cause. Be ready for anything. They will blow you away with their inteligence, their
athletic ability, and also with their unpredictability.
Try clicker training! One fennec owner saw a special
on TV about "Clicking theory" -- where one tries teaching
them a trick while using something to make a clicking sound, and then
giving them a treat each time one clicks. He'd only been doing this with
his fox a couple of days, and the fox would lay down, roll over, and
when he kneels down, he can get his fox to jump on his shoulder and just stand there until he tells him to
get off! Definitely worth a try!