Who Knew?! A Fox for a Pet
1 Jun 2009
Before we got married, my husband and I discussed what kind of pets we wanted. Both of us are dog people, but we wanted something a bit different. How about a fox?
Yes, a fox. They've been domesticated over the past 50 years with experimentation in the Soviet Union while trying to tame the silver fox. Not only did they become more tame, but more dog-like as well. They lost their distinctive musky "fox smell", became more friendly with humans, wagged their tails when happy and began to vocalize and bark like domesticated dogs.
So, we began our research. What were they like as pets? Were they trainable? Were they good around children? How do we find a breeder? There was also the question of which states are domestic (otherwise called "ranch bred") foxes allowed in? After a bit more digging, we got all our answers, and eventually found a breeder in the state of Indiana.
Most states allow these domestic foxes as pets. Some require permits and licensing, but others don't even bother regulating it. Of course we called just about every organization dealing with exotic animals, and they all told us the same thing: you need an exhibitors permit. Well, that's all fine and dandy, but there's a problem. With an exhibitors permit, you are stating that you plan on "exhibiting" your animal and making a profit. We just want it as a pet. More phone calls were made, and we got in touch with someone who asked us if it was a ranch bred fox. Apparently they mistook the words "domestic fox" with a fox we caught in the wild and decided to keep. When we explained everything, they told us that we didn't need any kind of permit. They don't even bother regulating it anymore because it's so common. All we needed was a vet saying they would take care of her. Imagine that! We contacted the breeder, told her what we found out, and began the waiting process.
We picked up our new friend during Memorial Day weekend. Her name: Kenti. She's a Marble Fox, which is in the same category as a Red Fox. When we picked her up, she was about 8 weeks old and very curious about her surroundings.
Generally, a fox is very similar to a dog. You can feed it just about anything, be it table scraps, or just regular dog food. The only thing you can't feed it is anything with fish in it. Apparently, when you feed them anything with fish in it, their adrenaline gland gets bigger and they return to being feral and aggressive. We've decided to feed her regular dog food instead of table scraps. We don't want her to start begging, especially since she's already shown that she knows when we're eating. They're also very similar to cats. They tend to be very independent, they HATE water (giving her a bath is quite the adventure), and like to knead on just about anything. When they're young, it's good to cuddle with them constantly and play with them. Foxes are standoff-ish creatures in the wild, so if you don't play with them and cuddle them, they will not want to be cuddled when they're older.
They're also supposed to be more trainable than dogs. You can use the same commands as you would a dog: sit, stay, lay down, come, etc. Potty training is interesting too. Unlike a dog, who has to go outside to go to the bathroom, you can train a fox like a cat, and have it go in a litter box. Who knew? We've been working on this constantly since we brought her home, and she's starting to get the hang of it. She still goes on the floor occasionally, but I think it might be because she's picky about her litter box, and likes it very clean. This doesn't happen very often now, so I would venture to say she's just about done with potty training. She understands where her litter box is, and that she needs to use it.
She's very good around other people and animals too. When we went to pick her up in Indiana, we stayed with some of my husband's family, who had small children. They were very eager to help take care of her and play with her, and she seemed to enjoy the attention. One of the uncles that stayed the weekend as well brought along his huge English Mastiff named Booger. Another great opportunity to see how Kenti would react to other animals! And she passed with flying colors. At first she was so scared that she peed all over my husband, but after that she started getting braver and curious. She of course wanted to show she was tough, so she would attack the grass, the nearby lawn chair, and Booger's tail. He was such a goober he didn't even cast a glance at her. I was so glad I had my camera with me, because watching them was absolutely hilarious.
We also recently took her to one of my husband's work-related events where there were quite a few people. She was okay for a while and wanted to just play and explore. I think there were too many people, however, because she got a little scared and wanted to hide.
Now, foxes do like to get into as much trouble as possible, so strict discipline is a MUST! For a while we used a squirt gun (because of her hatred of water) and that worked fairly well. We would also give her a sharp rap on the nose if need be, but that wasn't nearly as effective. Instead, all it did was make her upset and angry. She wouldn't come near us and would literally throw a hissy fit. Now that she's old enough and started to listen a bit better, we've gotten one of those shock collars. Yes, I know a lot of people frown down on them, but they really do work. It doesn't take much, mostly we use the beep on it to warn her that what she's doing is not okay. She quickly walks away, and that's that. It's a much better method than hitting her nose or the squirt gun because she can't do anything about it and she doesn't throw a fit and try and bite if you go to pet her.
I constantly keep my camera battery charged now. There are just so many opportunities to shoot pictures of her, though the easiest time by far is when she's asleep. I would like to document her growth and behavior so that I can share them with others who are thinking of getting a fox for a pet. This way, those that haven't done all their research can be at least slightly prepared for what they're getting into. They require much more effort than a dog or a cat, making it a bit more frustrating. It is worth it though. As she grows, Kenti becomes more responsive and friendly and wanting to cuddle more.
Currently, Kenti is nearly 5 months old and growing fast. Not even three weeks ago she was half the size she currently is. I know I'll have so many more opportunities to photograph this little bugger as she grows, and I can't wait to share them and our experience raising her. It's definitely a learning experience and training for the future. I know she'll grow to be a fun and loving companion.