FENNEC FOX CARE SHEET


 
 
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Welcome to Sybil's Den.  This site is meant for information purposes  on raising  pet exotics animals based on my experience.  There are care sheets for black bears, foxes, raccoons, emus, farm animals and domestic animals.   Also please find a very informative message board with a lot of great members.

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Main Care sheet

 

FENNEC FOX CARE SHEET

written by:  FENNEC FOXTamanduaGirl
Mod/Admin of sybil's Message board

Disclaimer: This is copyrighted material.

This information comes from decades in the fennec fox community, sharing information with breeders and owners and from scientific papers and research into fennecs and nutrition. This is not some quickly tossed together "care sheet" copied from other sites. I hope for this information to help better the lives of fennec foxes everywhere and even extend their lives.

If you are looking at a care sheet for the fennec fox then you likely already know what they are but we'll cover the basics anyway. Fennecs are the tiniest of the fox family. They weigh around 3 pounds. They currently live an average of 9-12 years in human care but have made it to 15-18 years as well with the right diet and care. These are exotic pets and are much more care than a ferret but less care than larger foxes.

Legalities

As an exotic you need to check your legalities before bringing one home. If not in USA check your countryís laws first but in USA on a national level they are allowed. You then must check your state, county, city and other local laws. Being a fox they are often banned under the health statutes or rabies laws as the laws will just say fox and not differentiate. A seized fox that is illegal may be killed or sent to a zoo or sanctuary where they will not be kept as they are accustomed to and may suffer from depression and fade away due to the change.

 

Legally you must buy your animal from a USDA licensed breeder or your fox is not legal.

Diet

I am starting with diet because it is important and because it is a topic I feel strongly about.

 

Fennecs are NOT omnivores

“They are wrong. They are repeating what they have heard from others who were also wrong. This is a terrible detrimental myth. You may be thinking surely the majority must be right but no they are not and I have science on my side. Raccoons are omnivores. Fennec foxes are carnivores!

I was taught an omnivore was an animal, like a raccoon, that got a large portion of its diet from both plant and animal matter. Now it seems the definition is anything that eats both in any amount. This seems too broad to me. If you use this definition then deer and other ďherbivoresĒ are now omnivores. Donít believe me, then search for articles on deer eating birds. Anteaters eat some fruit sometimes too. This definition would mean 99+ of all animals are omnivores. Cats are excluded as omnivores under this broad definition because they only eat plant matter for herbal reasons and not dietary reasons. But even if you use this definition Fennecs still fit as not being omnivores in this case since they eat plant matter for water reasons rather than dietary. So cats and fennecs are both carnivores.

The above does not mean they need the same exact diet as a cat however, and cat food is not an ideal diet for them but they are carnivores none the less. A cat is an obligate carnivore because it can not survive on a plant based diet. A cat is an obligate carnivore because it needs the taurine from its meat based diet to live healthy. Lack of this taurine causes heart problems and blindness. All of the above is true of fennecs as well yet people still call them omnivores and feed them as if they are.

Another obligate carnivore is the ferret. Ferrets can not be fed plant matter as it can kill them with impactions and other issues as they can not digest it. Fennecs and cats however can eat some plant matter and are fine. Foxes, including fennecs, differ from cat as well in that they can get some nutritional benefit from plants but it's not much. As an example they can convert carotenes to retinol but at a lesser efficiency than real omnivores like raccoons and humans. I bring this up as you should not feed them only meat but feeding them a lot of vegetation like you would a real omnivore is also bad. Maybe what we really need is a new term for carnivores that do need a little bit of vegetation but I will never feel comfortable calling them omnivores.

Iíve seen an owner give their fennec peas and tell their dogs they can not have any because they are not omnivores. Dogs are not considered omnivores by their owners but they have developed simple grinding molars in the back to help them with eating veggies since being domesticated by humans, which their wolf counterparts do not have. Know who else does not have these grinding teeth? Thatís right, Fennecs.

In fact, fennecs have notably weak dentition. This weak dentition is associated with a highly insectivorous diet. Look up insectivorous species they have weak teeth or even no teeth in some extremes. Insects are soft and require little tooth strength to eat. Plant matter on the other hand requires strong dentition.

Foxes including fennecs have been known to get sever gout if fed ONLY meat and nothing else. In the wild fennecs eat 88-98% insects, mammals, birds and lizards. 2-12% was vegetation mostly tubers and some fruits and varying amounts of dates based on availability. Insect protein is going to be less likely to cause gout than meat protein because it is what their body is made to digest and break down. So the more insects that you can feed the better. Rabbit is a very low purine food(the protein that causes gout).

Bare in mind wild desert dates have much less sugar and much more fiber than domestic dates. Sugar consumption can also contribute to gout as it inhibits the body's ability to remove uric acid. So a good rule of thumb for pet fennecs is to feed about 5% low sugar vegetation like squash and sweet potato as this is the median amount they eat in the wild and try to include many insects in the diet. A wild fennecís main motive for eating vegetation is water. The high water content in the desert succulents and tubers of seasonal desert plants give them the water they need. Nutrition wise there is not much there, itís mostly water.

As such any vegetation fed to fennecs should be similar high water content and or tubers: Celery, boiled sweet potato, jicama root, etc. Not high starch and high sugar ďveggiesĒ like beans, corn, peas and other items found in the standard frozen veggie mix.

Vegetable matter in the diet should be 10% or less of the diet. 10% is the max allowed in my opinion. 10% is what home fed dogs are suggested to get and dogs are much more omnivores than the insectivorous/carnivorous fennec is. Fennecs eat about ĺís of a cup twice a day. 10% of that is 4-5 teaspoons twice a day. Thatís flat perfectly measured teaspoons so really only 2 rounded/heaping teaspoons twice a day and thatís Max. Ideal would really be a bit less 1 to 1.5 rounded/heaping teaspoons.

1.5 cups of wet food like meat is about 13oz or 368g

Now that that’s out of the way.

 

Basic fennec diet

90% rabbit and insects and 10% veggies and other items.

Other items do not include sugars and starches, like pasta and candy. Other items would mostly be things like the occasional egg or fish like smelt or herring, and the occasional fruits. Berries are top of the list and more sugary fruits like bananas and peaches at the bottom. Ideally feed about 5% veggies and fruit and 5% other items.

You can buy whole prey ground rabbit on line. Whole prey should include organs at least but some sell the whole rabbit ground up head and all. Wild fennecs eat insects, lizards and rodents but domestic rodents are way too high in retinol to be given regularly. They are too high even for cats to be a staple. Too much retinol causes spinal lesions, as well as liver and kidney damage(the most common cause of fennec death). A plus is that foxes can convert beta-carotene into retinol if needed but the body wont convert it if it doesn't. This means if the diet is a bit low in retinol you need not worry if the veggie portion is high in beta-carotene, like squashes and sweet potato, the best veggies to give.

 

These are whole fresh values not dry matter

Rabbit, domestic - 4,880IU/kg Retinol

Lizard, anolis - 1,708IU/kg

Chicken - 12,416IU/kg

Rat Neonatal, <10 g - 7,467 iu/kg

Rat Adult or >50g - 12,223IU/kg

Adult Domestic Mouse - 200,000-580,000/kg

Wild Mouse - 3,894IU/kg

 

Insects are very low in retinol some donít even have any. For example roach species can be as low as 670 IU/kg and African moth species even less one as low as 60 IU/kg. This is important as retinol is fat soluble and excess will be stored in the kidneys and liver and cause issues over time. Using nutrient requirements of red fox as a guide(100g/kg body weight) a three pound fennec would only need 135IU per day max. A fennec being 3 pounds only needs about 135IU per day, so per 368g, or that converts to 367 IU/kg of food. A cup and a half of whole rabbit would be 2,282IU total. So feeding some rabbit without organs would help bring that down and the feeding of insects and vegetables will help some as well. About 1 whole rabbit with organs and 12 gutted and skinned without head would bring it down around 375IU/kg. Once you add in the veggitation and some insects that will bring it down a bit more, or a lot more if you use a lot of insects. Say for the protein portion you do half rabbits and half insects, that would cut the retinol nearly in half meaning you could feed about 1 whole rabbit to 6 gutted and skinned to get the same IU/kg.

Again this low need is due to wild rodents, rabbits and insects having much lower levels than domestically raised specimens. Desert animals get a diet that is even less rich than field mice so their retinol content is even lower. Most of the retinol is in the liver, so if you really want to feed a mouse, I suggest, removing the liver first. It's good to remove all organs and the skin as well as those also have enough retinol to matter. This is still higher than the RDA by quite a bit but safer to feed as an occasional treat if you really want too. Better choices are anoles or de-yolked chicks.

Cat food is very high in retinol because cats can not make their own retinol from carotenes like other mammals can. It is also too high in fat for any fox species(except possibly arctics). If a dog food must be fed look for a rabbit based dog food that has taurine. They do exist. I found some freeze dried dog foods that are 90% whole rabbit and 10% veggies, which would be better than the kibbles. But also make sure any food you feed is low in retinol. The lowest kibble I could find is actually a chicken based kibble. Taurine is not destroyed in freezing like it is heat so there will be plenty of taurine in the freeze dried food and that brand had no added retinol. All the kibbles, even dog, are too high in retinol so should be fed as a last resort. The lowest kibble I could find is actually a chicken based kibble and it is still 55 times the RDA for a fox, check out the diet page for brand names of suggested foods.

I recommend ground fresh rabbit and insects. Having your own roach colony would be ideal. Dubia roaches are great for them. They love Mario/super worms. Other insects are great treats as well though some owners have found too many of certain insects like crickets can cause loose stools. See how your fennec tolerates them.

Rabbit is ideal as a staple for fennecs compared to other meats. Aside from the retinol aspect it is lower in other things that are hard on the kidneys than many other common meats like uric acid, while still being lean. I know of several cases where ailing and older fennecs rebounded once switched to rabbit meat. Even those with kidney failure were bought quality time with rabbit meat. Logically, to me, this means rabbit meat given as a staple should work wonders for overall longevity, though if you have the funds making the diet a majority insects should be even better.

Foods to avoid

Avoid things generally considered bad for other canines like chocolate, grapes and raisins. Grapes and raisins affect the kidneys and fennecs are prone to kidney issues. So itís best to be safe and avoid such things. I did hear of one fennec being diagnosed with kidney failure due to grapes. Avoid foods high in retinol, like mice. Mice have more than 50 thousand times more retinol than they need. Avoid high sugar and carbohydrate rich foods, such as, pasta, most fruits, beans and grains.

Housing

Fennecs are almost exclusively housed indoors when kept as pets. In warmer climates they can be housed outside in secure enclosures that they can not dig or climb out of and that birds of prey can not get into. A roof is advised to keep rain out as well as the birds. I do know of a fennec lost to an owl in an escape proof enclosure that had an open top, so bird-proof any outside areas. Remember though if kept as a pet inside is ideal for more time together to bond.

Inside many use ferret nations but the largest ferret nation is the minimum acceptable size and the fennec should be kept in it the minimum amount of time possible. Think of a ferret nation as a crate rather than a home but do not keep them in crates.

You can make your own caging as well. I made mine from a couple shelving units and shelving wire and has more floor space than 3 ferret nations put together. I know of someone who built there’s into the space under the stairs, but it was a big space. Some get their own rooms. Wire spacing should be no smaller than 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch or 1 inch by how ever long you want bars.

A fennec's skull:

Skull Width: 1.73"-1.9"
Skull Height: 1.46"-1.6"

So any spaces larger than those minimums could see your fennec getting out or getting its head stuck. And that’s full grown fennec size. The kit you bring home will be smaller.

Fennecs like to get up high so tall cages with many levels are ideal. They enjoy hammocks and house type bedding they can hide in. Giving them an enclosed box with a mix of play sand and a bit of chinchilla dust to dig and roll in is a good idea.

Have ramps from level to level as many a fennec has broken a leg from jumping down wrong even from fairly short jumps like 6 inches.

They often pee and poop in their beds and do not mind sleeping in it so having extra bedding on had to change it will help.

These are desert animals so keep them warm. Conversely avoid letting them get to hot. Animals raised in captivity often do not adjust as well to temperature changes as their wild counterparts. For example wild penguins never get frostbite but captive penguins do due to living in different and more constant temps than their wild kin. Domestic life lessens their ability to cope with the natural climate. Also, most areas of the USA have more humid heat than their native lands and the humidity makes it harder for them to cool off.

Fennecs love to run so you may want to get several ferret nations and attach them side to side or make your own larger cage. They may even learn to run on a large wheel if worked with from a kit. Like a cat wheel or make one more fennec sized about 30” is ideal and fairly easy just by an 8 foot board and it will make a 30 inch diameter wheel when bent into a circle.

Fennec running on a wheel: http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/TamanduaGirl/FennecWheel_zpsrdlifvlx.jpg

 

Security

Many people want to take their fennecs for walks. Fennecs are very flighty since they are prey animals. When taken out they tend to keep crouched down to the ground in fear of predators like eagles. If they slip their collar or harness you may never see them again as their wild fears and  instincts take over and they will run. In their mind you may not be the same safe person now that they are free and scared in a different environment. It can even be hard to talk a domestic cat that got free into coming to you. Your chances of recapturing a fennec are very slim.

If you still want to walk your fennec then take precautions. Use an H-harness that secures independently around the neck and chest and you must make sure it is very snug. H style walking vests have also been used with some success but can still be pulled off by the animal as can any harness but H-style is hardest to get out of and easiest to put on. Adding a collar to attach a second clip to the leash is a good idea. Also keep this snug, much snugger than a collar left on around the house but don’t choke them of course. This way if one clip or containment fails there will be a back up

Now work with your fennec first. Get him used to the harness and lead. Work with him in a secure place and teach him to come when called as best you can. Work your way up. Start in a secure enclosure or escape proof yard once he is used to these things inside. Go slow.

At home to prevent escapes make sure there are no small holes to outside. This can include a drier vent as they could pull the tube loose and slip out. Double check everything. Then make sure your fennec is secure before opening any doors to outside. A screened porch can act as a double door entry to catch him if he slips by the first door. However it’s best to make sure your fennec is secure when left alone but if you go out briefly keep a watch he doesn’t follow.

In a similar vein insect screens that are standard on windows are not containment. They can be dug or jumped through easily. Your fennec may seem fine for months, even years but one day it could see something it wants to jump at and be gone out the window. Also screen doors can be pushed enough for your fennec to get its head stuck and choke.

They can jump up to 4 ft high so normal pet gates are not secure containment.

Be cautious of high furniture as they like to climb but as stated previously could break something jumping down. A fennec in Taiwan was put down when he broke his back from a fall. Another broke both it’s back legs from a jump from the cage top. Front legs are commonly broken from jumps.

Items: Keep the place tidy fennecs will steal things and play with them and stash them. While they are not big chewers they may chew rubber or be attracted to metal objects. There has been the odd fennec now and then that goes contrary to the norm and chews and eats all sorts of things even their bedding. Many times this has been remedied with diet changes but it means you will need to stay on your toes in case yours is an odd ball and chews and ingests things as well.

Behavior and socialization

Fennecs are often compared to ferrets. They are similar but they are much more active and hyper. They are kind of like ferrets on hyper drive. Fennecs can be messy, potty indiscriminately, steal and hide items, dig and damage things with their digging like wood doors and get into other trouble. This is why having a safe enclosure, even a room of their own, is advised.

Some will claim to have success with potty training but this is not the long term norm. They often do better as babies than adults. All adults will mark even if fixed though they may do it slightly less if fixed. They often drop poops without even thinking about it while playing or even sleeping. These fennecs may need bathed due to sleeping in their mess but be sure to dry them thoroughly to avoid skin issues like fungal infections from staying moist too long. If your fennec is not this messy then playing in their sand may be enough to avoid all but a rare bath.

They may bite if you try to take something away from them though they are not as bad about this as other foxes. They are still nippy animals. They may nip to let you know not to bother them, when playing to hard, over food or things they think they own, like their cage. Ideally trade them something they want more, unless it’s urgent you take the item from them for their safety and have no choice. You still may find it hard to catch them in order to take the item.

As stated earlier, fennecs tend to be skittish. Try not to leave them for overnight stays in the first year. They need this time to bond. Your vacation could mean the loss of that bond in a sensitive animal. They will not bond as well with you if you are gone all day at work. This will be made even worse if they are then caged away from you at night as well.

Most fennecs love to be petted but you will need to learn their language. Sometimes that whine can mean they want more petting, sometimes it means go away, I want to sleep in peace. There are differences. You will need to learn the nuances of your fennec’s vocalizations and body language. This can’t be taught well in text. A fennec won’t stay to be petted and held if they do not want to be and you should not force them but most will enjoy time being pet and playing with you on their terms.

When young you should work on picking them up frequently and setting them back down or picking them up and holding them briefly. Being able to hold your fennec can be important for his health, like being able to take him to the vet. They won’t want play interrupted so pick them up and play more in your lap but let them go if they want. Pick them up and move them. Pick them up and give them a treat.

Some fennecs love to meet new people but many do not. These are skittish animals. Start socialization when young and keep it up. Spend as much time as possible with them. If you want your fennec to interact with friends and family then expose the fennec to many of them frequently when young as well. To use one as an exhibit animal for shows you will need to take it out and about meeting people a lot from the beginning as well. Even then each is different. Some may love meeting people and some will hate it no matter how much your work with them.

Bear in mind anyone who meets your fennec could report a bite or a scratch. Bites and even scratches can get our fennec taken away for rabies testing. Be extremely cautious about letting others interact with your fennec. Most advise if petting is allowed of an exhibit fox to only allow petting of the rump while you hold them securely with the fox’s face away from them. Foxes naturally communicate with bites and nips so the risk is real but it is yours to take or not(except where laws state no contact with the public then you have no choice).

Male vs Female

Males are often most recommended and kept for a pet but it is rarely stated why beyond females being a bit moodier. Females are the leaders of the wild groups this means once they grow up fully they become more serious, territorial and possessive. This most commonly sets in between 1-2 years of age as they still have some maturing left to do after puberty. They tend to be nippier and won’t be inclined to seek out your company even if bonded. They are much more likely to be cage aggressive but it can happen in males too. Females often are less noisy and less hyper than males but this may not be enough of a bonus to outweigh the aggression issues for most.

Some examples of female aggression. A female who decided it owned the floor and would attack the cats it grew up with if they touched the floor. A female who was aggressive to her owner but calmed down once she was no longer allowed to be higher than the owner. Several cases of females who began attacking other animals or human family members with no provocation. Spaying does not calm an aggressive female back down.

Since males let the females lead they tend to be more happy go lucky. They usually still enjoy playing as adults and may even seek out your attention and they tend to enjoy being petted. Males can become aggressive over female fennecs and sometimes over other animals they decide are their mates like the family cat. An example of male aggression is linked to in the breeding section. Many intact males are kept without issues but if aggression issues do arise neutering does solve the problem in the majority of cases and they go back to their sweet selves.

There are no guarantees though you could wind up with one gender with behavior opposite the above. I do know of cases where females were kept safely as adults but they still were not as playful or attention seeking as males and they seem to be rare.

 

Other Pets

Fennecs tend to do well with other animals larger or the same size as them. You should not keep them with prey animals like rodents, obviously. They almost always like dogs and often cats but sometimes a fennec, will turn on the animals they have been raised with and this happens more often with cats than dogs but it can happen with any animals. They play similar to ferrets and are a similar size but ferrets are stronger and fennec bones break easily so only let them play supervised and only if your ferret is not inclined to play rough. Similar precautions should be taken with dogs, cats or other exotics as well. You do not want to risk them having a tiff that may escalate if you are not there to break them up.

So while they can play with others they should not be housed with them, like in the same cage. Big clumsy dogs can potentially step on a fennec and break bones by accident. In fact you could do the same. This is one reason people keep a bell on their fennec’s collar when out and shuffle their feet rather than pick them up. Even though many fennecs like to nip toes bare feet is good so you can feel if the fennecs is there.

Fennecs have a tendency to bond to other pets more than you. This is especially true of dogs. For this reason it is advised to limit their interaction with other pets while young. They should spend most of their time with you and just enough time with them to get to know and hopefully like them.

 

Children

The tendency to nip is one reason breeders are reluctant to or even won’t sell to people who have children less than 6 years of age. Older children can do well with fennecs but younger children are not capable of understanding and respecting the fennec and a fennecs light nip or actual bite can more easily break a young child’s skin.

Back to basic behavior: Fennecs are hyper and need a lot of play time though they will also spend a lot of time sleeping. Some say fennecs sleep 80% of the time but the other 20% or so is running full throttle. This is said to be divided up approximately 4 hours sleeping to 2 hours running around time. It is best you can be there during the day to let them get out to play and give them the attention they need to bond and you must be there for them when young.

Fennecs are often rehomed when older because they did not get the socialization they needed. As such buying an older fennec is trouble for a new owner. Also it should be noted that these sales are actually illegal due to the owner not being USDA. An owner who is not USDA licensed can only give their pet away for free. Your fennec is a lifelong commitment, not something that can be sold when you tire of it. It’s the law even.

While this is law for sellers it is law for buyers as well. Buyers who buy from non-licensed breeders risk having their pets confiscated should the seller ever be busted and they choose to track the buyers down. They do not do this often, due to funding, but tracking buyers down is sometimes done. Keep your fennec legal for its safety.

Instead of chewing fennecs dig. Give them an outlet for this. They like digging at cardboard so a cardboard scratcher might help some fennecs. Giving them a sand box is recommended. They may still choose to dig at doors or walls or the floor or your furniture. Positive reinforcement is better than negative. Fennecs may lose their bond with you if you discipline them with force. Instead direct them to something appropriate to dig at when they start to dig something they shouldn’t. Example, move them from the couch and into a sand box.

Adults only

Fennecs love to hump. They love to hump things. They love to hump other pets. And they LOVE to hump you. Similarly try from the start to move them onto a large stuffed toy to hump instead each time. This may not work but it’s worth a try. If there is anything they will hump other than you consider giving it to them and redirecting their amours attention from you to it.

Fennecs are loud

Some will say their fennecs are not that loud but they are lucky. Fennecs are loud. They scream like a skinned cat when excited and happy. They will do this when you come back into the room after being gone awhile, awhile can be 15 minutes. They squeak and whine and growl and generally are quite the talkers. Females may be a bit less vocal but not always.

Happy and excited fennec fox noises (he was just kept there temporarily and has a nice sized enclosure):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su3ovMsFXMg

Watch many of his other videos and he is quite the talker but the above is his most excited.

You might get lucky but do not count on it. Count on a noisy fennec. Count on a messy fennec. Count on a destructive fennec. Then you will not be disappointed only pleased if you get lucky.

Do not get a fennec in an apartment. Most breeders will not sell to you if you rent, even a house. The reason is even if you get it in writing from your landlord that the fennec is allowed he can kick you out later for it being noisy or messy or destroying things.

Training

Some of the above touched on training. Cage training is one thing needed to avoid aggression. A big cage will also help lesson cage aggression. When putting your fennec in his cage it will help to get him to go in himself. You don’t want to have to chase him down and force him in. Avoid using the cage as a punishment. Fennecs do not respond well to punishment and the cage should be a positive place the fennec can feel safe and happy. Done right some owners find their older fennecs spend most of their time sleeping in their cage instead of out, the older they get the less active they get but that’s true of us all.

Use special treats to get them to go in their cage, like Mario worms. Maybe something super special they don’t otherwise get but go crazy for. Mix things up so they don’t catch on and decide play time is more fun than the treat. Lure them in with a toy for example. Roll a ball they are chasing into the cage. If you have time just wait for them to go in and then close it. Get creative. Use different treats and toys and enrichment items. Rarely an owner has even trained them to go into the cage on command this takes special treats and a dedicated owner.

Finally do not always lock him in when you ask him or lure him to go into his cage. This will help avoid his associating going into his cage when you want with being locked in. Ask or lure him into his cage at random times when you will not need to lock him in then it will seem more random to him and not as likely be associated with the command or being lured.

Unlike dogs fennecs will not learn to do things just to please you. If you want them to do something it will have to please them. If a fennec knows going into his cage or sitting on command gets him a treat he might just do it but not if not doing it pleases him more.

While things like tricks or coming when called are less likely some have accomplished this. Clicker training helps. Fennecs won’t perform for praise but the click meaning they will get a treat can help a lot. Clickers can help with potty training too.

Any training you want you need to start from young. Keep any training short as they do not have long attention spans but keep it frequent to reinforce the behaviors.

Harness Training


Even if not walking your fennec, a harness is good to be trained too just in case, like for vet trips. H-harnesses are great. You can have your fennec eat treats while you latch it on. Start with the chest and then the neck. Never use one that slips over the head. They hate this due to their big ears and it is easier for that kind to slip off.

Do not leave it on all the time to “get used to it”. They need to get used to you taking it on and off. However you may need to leave it on a bit longer at first for them to get used to the feel. Take it off after they calm down. Some fennecs will never get used to it however. They are prey animals and the feel of a harness around them sparks instincts of the feeling of talons gripping around them but it’s worth a try as some do accept them with proper training and patience.

Please read up on positive reinforcement techniques with animals. This is the best way to train a fennec. Avoid negative as much as possible. They will not respond well and it can hurt your bond. Never hurt or hit your fennec but I should not have to tell you that. You should not do that with domestic pets either.

Potty Training

If clicker trained, potty training will be more likely to be effective. Any time he uses the right spot give a click then treat quickly. If not clicker trained then praise and treat quickly. Fennecs are very difficult to potty train, much more so than any other fox species. Assume potty training won’t happen then any success you have will be a nice surprise that you can be proud of.

In the wild a fennec can go anywhere and the sand will suck it away, even in their own dens. Poop can be dropped anywhere because the sand will blow over it. This means a fennec does not naturally think about their waist habits. Potty training is against their nature. This is the root of the difficulty.

I have seen more success with pee pads than litter boxes but some fennecs do better with litter boxes. Try offering both at first and ask the breeder if they started them on anything. Some will start them with paper in the bottom of the cage for example so you might have luck starting there and progressing to what and where you want. Though, bottom of the cage is actually really good. If your fennec will go back to the cage to potty you’ve done great.

You will have better luck as well if you have hard floors. They will be a bit less likely to go where the pee does not absorb away. If using pads, washable pee pads may be preferred. They are large, soft and very absorbent. They also won’t get chewed up and tossed around as easily. The crinkly nature of disposable pee pads make them prime play things.

If you use litter, use non-clumping and something that won’t be harmful if ingested since they may stash treats in the box like they would sand.

If you want to hope for some luck of potty training around the house you can try placing boxes or pads in numerous places around where they have access and try putting them especially in places they like to go, but this won’t work if a place they like to go is the couch. You can try lessening the number of pads or boxes later by moving each slowly closer to another till they touch then removing one.

To recap fennecs as a rule do not potty train well but that’s no reason not to try. Even partial success will mean less cleanup than never using a potty spot at all. Do not punish for potty in the wrong places. Only use positive training.

On the plus side fennecs have no real body odor and most owners say their pee and poop smells minimally as well. Some say cherries may help decrease the smell. I would refer you to the diet section when considering this option.

Proper sanitation will decrease any odor. Change pads or clean boxes and change any soiled bedding immediately.

Toys

Fennecs seem to love cat toys, though some fennecs do not take to toys at all, most love cat toys and little balls. They like to toss and chase small toys and chase cat teasers. They may not be interested in laser lights but it’s worth a try but most don’t seem interested. They also like your stuff so keep anything you don’t want them to play with put away.

Since fennecs like to run around, sometimes running super fast circles on your furniture you might want to consider a cat wheel for them though cat wheels are rather large. If you are handy you can make them a smaller version of one. We have a post with links to how to instructions in the housing and enrichment section of the forum.


Health and Veterinary Care

With a good species appropriate diet and safe housing hopefully your fennec will rarely need to see the vet. I personally have had much better luck with my exotics going to a vet I trust and work with well rather than going to the local “exotic” vet but I’m sure some are great. It is more important that you know your animal and species. It is advised that older fennecs get annual blood tests to check for kidney and liver issues. The earlier you find the problem the longer you can keep them feeling well. Get your fennec’s blood tested at least once while young, so you have a baseline healthy value to compare too. Fennec fox blood averages can be found online and I added a copy to the end of this sheet. These are as close to normal values as we have. Tests from apparently healthy zoo animals have been gathered with mean max and min values. Comparing your fennecs results to dog or cat norms will not give you accurate results so comparing to the fennec averages is best.

 

Vaccines

Talk to the breeder to find out their recommendations on vaccines. I know one long time breeder recommended only giving a small portion of a vaccine rather than the standard dose due to their size and their being very sensitive to the vaccines and medications. Ideally you would only want killed vaccines or recombinant vaccines. Recombinant vaccines are preferred as they will have fewer side effects due to how they are made. However some needed vaccines like parvo are not currently offered as killed or recombinant. They do best with dog vaccines. Avoid ferret ones.

Modified live vaccines have the potential to give the fox the disease they are being vaccinated for so are seriously discouraged. Fennecs have gotten distemper from Modified live. Fennecs can die from combo shots with modified live elements like Toxo. But as stated for parvo your current choices are MLV vaccine or none. Ask your breeder, talk to other owners and your vet and decide for yourself on that one. But never give the MLV distemper. There have been cases of fennecs and other foxes getting distemper from the shot on that one and you have other options.

Fennecs are similar enough to a dog, since they are canines, that in most ways they can be treated like a small dog. They are sensitive though so always go with the lowest recommended dose to start, maybe even start with the cat dose since they are often smaller than for a dog of the same size. But again talk to your breeder about health issues. If they have encountered it before they may know a safe and effective dose already.

Parvo: There is currently no killed or recombinant parvo vaccine so most give the modified live or do not give the vaccine. There is a third option though. There are many parvovirus and they are all closely related. Canine parvo sprang forth from feline parvo, called FPV. Wild foxes can get either as well as fox parvo. Since there is no fox parvo vaccine you could give the recombinant FPV vaccine for cross protection against canine and fox parvo though this method has not been widely used like giving the canine parvo vaccine has.

Rabies vaccines are optional since it will not protect your pet from being killed to test if there is a bite. On the other hand it tends to make people more at ease with your pet. So if a friend does get nipped they will be less likely to talk to their doctor, who is by law required to report it. The only way to save your fox if a bite or scratch gets reported is if the victim agrees to rabies treatments, but in some locations even that isn’t enough. It’s a good idea to check your local rabies laws, just in case, so you can be prepared.

Rabies vaccine is also the exception to recombinant being preferred.The current recombinant rabies uses a modified live version of Adenovirus as the agent to get the rabies dna into the system. This is harmless to dogs but is dangerous for fennecs. Adenovirus has been identified as a cause of fennec death. The distemper and FLV use canarypox and that is proven safe for fennecs.

Fleas, Revolution (selamectin) in a cat/kitten dose is a good choice for exotics. Frontline is safe as well in the cat/kitten dose but some find not as effective. Revolution can help prevent other parasites as well. Foxes are susceptible to heartworm and Revolution protects against that too.

Neutering and spaying are optional. Neutering may help decrease aggression and marking in males and is recommended by most but many keep intact males as pets. Females do not tend to have hormonal issues like seasonal aggression but may tend to be more aggressive in general. If they change at all they tend to get a bit friendlier when in season. So spaying is not needed and does not help.

Breeding

Breeding of pets is not recommended. Fennecs that give birth in a household setting are likely to eat their infants due to stress. Babies have to be taken from the parents to bottle raise them to be good pets and the parents can turn on their owners for taking their children. Fennecs are usually pulled from their mother at about 10 days if there are not problems that force taking them earlier. Fennecs are very protective of their young and they can see this as a major betrayal. Plus, males will mark much more and get agitated and aggressive around intact females.

This is a sexually frustrated male during breeding season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBgzq8G8JQo&index=378&list=PLc768FwFUouLleU49pbxLlX9EKEgU5KxH

If you want pets then keep pets, not breeders. If opposite sexes are kept then neuter, preferably before sexuall maturity which is reached at 9 months.

On nuetering, they are built more like a cat than a dog in their plumbing even though the outside looks more dog. So the vet should keep that in mid for how the procedure is done.

That’s as deep as I feel we need to get into breeding as this is for the beginning pet owner not experienced owners looking to breed. Breeding fennecs is not for beginners to breeding or exotic keeping. Fennec babies asperate easily which can lead to illness and death. It can be difficult to get an unrelated pair. Many fennecs in the US are related and buying from different breeders does not ensure the pair is not related as those breeders may have gotten theirs from the same places and the breeders before them having done similar. Then you are breeding first cousins whos parents were also first cousins. Simply put, just putting two fennecs together does not make you a breeder, at least not a good one.

And a reminder: You must be USDA licensed to breed and sell fennec foxes or you are part of the exotic black market dealing in contraband animals that can be seized from their owners as illicit goods.


Getting your Fennec Fox

Most of the time we hear that younger is better with exotics, but this isn’t true with fennecs. Well it is half true. There is a window. Fennecs are one of the most difficult to bottle feed exotics. They are voracious eaters but that causes them to aspirate easily. An owner should not get a fennec that is still on the bottle for this reason. The chances are too high  that you could accidently kill it, even with experience feeding other babies. Everyone wants cute little babies but you should want a healthy animal that survives to adulthood more. For this reason leave bottle feeding to the breeders.

One caveat is that I have heard in some countries breeders refuse to bottle feed and instead pull and give right to the buyer. Then you may have no choice. Talk to a USA breeder for advice on bottle feeding them safely.

Fennecs can come home once weaned. The youngest for this is 8 weeks but some experienced breeders prefer to wait till 10 weeks.

As stated earlier in this article you do not want to bring one home too old either, at least not as your first one and not if you want a good bond. So what’s the max? That’s a little harder to pinpoint but 3-4 months is still good. I might go 5 max but at 5 months you are likely not getting it from a breeder but a rehomed animal, even if the ad uses wording like “raised in a loving home”. They likely raised it there after getting it from a breeder and are rehoming it now due to problems either from raising it wrong or not expecting a fennec to be a fennec. And as pointed out before these rehomes are not really legal since the pet owner is likely not USDA licensed. Always ask for that license number.

Once you have the number you can even look them up on the USDA database to see if they have had any meaningful citations. Some are not meaningful, such as not being home when the inspector arrives. https://acissearch.aphis.usda.gov/LPASearch/faces/Warning.jspx

Prices for fennecs keep going up but at this time is seems most are about 2.5-2.8K USD. They can be more in other countries where they are less common. The price reflects their difficulty in breeding and bottle raising them.

Important notes

  • Check all legalities and make sure they are met
  • Be prepared for potty indiscriminately and other messes
  • Make the cage and home secure against escape
  • Socialize and train from young, only positive training
  • Expect high energy, loud, demanding, potentially destructive and independent
  • Have time to socialize, bond, train, and clean up after
  • Be independently stable, own your home do not rely on a boyfriend or parent
  • Own your home, not for apartments and condos with shared walls
  • Have a vet, ask breeder about vaccines

 


 

Blood Chemistry and Counts

Vulpes Zerda - Fennec Fox

International Species Information System

Conventional U.S.A. Units

Physiological reference ranges calculated for: Both sexes combined, All ages combined, Sample results submitted by 37 member institutions. © I.S.I.S. - March 2002

 


 

Test

Units

Mean

St. Dev.

Minimum

Value

Maximum

Value

Sample

Sizea

Animalsb

WHITE BLOOD CELL COUNT

*10^3/µl

5.860

2.545

1.700

16.40

299

127

RED BLOOD CELL COUNT

*10^6/µl

8.47

1.38

5.63

12.80

220

100

HEMOGLOBIN

g/dl

15.5

2.4

7.5

21.5

234

112

HEMATOCRIT

%

47.0

7.1

29.0

66.0

296

126

MCV

fL

55.6

6.7

41.3

95.5

217

98

MCH

pg/cell

18.5

2.3

10.0

27.3

209

98

MCHC

g/dl

33.3

3.3

19.7

42.1

231

110

PLATELET COUNT

*10^3/µl

416

168

210

1129

46

29

NUCLEATED RED BLOOD CELLS

/100 WBC

1

1

0

2

23

18

RETICULOCYTES

%

0.2

0.3

0.0

0.8

8

7

SEGMENTED NEUTROPHILS

*10^3/µl

3.078

1.924

0.656

15.00

287

121

LYMPHOCYTES

*10^3/µl

2.161

1.404

0.202

10.00

287

121

MONOCYTES

*10^3/µl

0.253

0.209

0.000

1.488

255

115

EOSINOPHILS

*10^3/µl

0.335

0.267

0.015

2.280

262

119

BASOPHILS

*10^3/µl

0.054

0.037

0.000

0.165

18

16

NEUTROPHILIC BANDS

*10^3/µl

0.156

0.246

0.000

1.260

49

33

CALCIUM

mg/dl

9.4

1.0

0.0

11.7

218

108

PHOSPHORUS

mg/dl

4.7

1.4

1.6

9.3

169

98

SODIUM

mEq/L

148

4

137

160

175

94

POTASSIUM

mEq/L

4.6

0.7

2.8

6.9

176

94

CHLORIDE

mEq/L

114

5

99

126

160

91

BICARBONATE

mEq/L

19.7

4.7

11.0

25.8

15

13

CARBON DIOXIDE

mEq/L

18.6

4.9

11.0

37.0

73

43

OSMOLARITY

mOsmol/L

306

5

300

315

10

4

IRON

µg/dl

174

72

83

314

9

7

MAGNESIUM

mg/dl

2.31

0.57

1.50

3.35

14

11

BLOOD UREA NITROGEN

mg/dl

22

8

7

60

238

113

CREATININE

mg/dl

0.7

0.2

0.2

1.5

231

113

URIC ACID

mg/dl

0.2

0.3

0.0

1.1

51

33

TOTAL BILIRUBIN

mg/dl

0.2

0.2

0.0

2.0

181

99

DIRECT BILIRUBIN

mg/dl

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.1

52

38

INDIRECT BILIRUBIN

mg/dl

0.2

0.2

0.0

0.9

52

38

GLUCOSE

mg/dl

126

39

0

261

226

111

CHOLESTEROL

mg/dl

204

74

0

641

209

107

TRIGLYCERIDE

mg/dl

62

36

16

233

100

55

CREATINE PHOSPHOKINASE

IU/L

419

475

25

3564

108

69

LACTATE DEHYDROGENASE

IU/L

248

220

30

1115

75

49

ALKALINE PHOSPHATASE

IU/L

58

59

3

382

214

104

ALANINE AMINOTRANSFERASE

IU/L

112

111

16

755

228

111

ASPARTATE AMINOTRANSFERASE

IU/L

69

44

16

340

193

105

GAMMA GLUTAMYLTRANSFERASE

IU/L

3

3

0

13

95

58

AMYLASE

U/L

285

141

48

1240

135

72

LIPASE

U/L

196

118

0

661

40

28

TOTAL PROTEIN (COLORIMETRY)

g/dl

5.5

0.6

3.9

7.4

221

109

GLOBULIN (COLORIMETRY)

g/dl

2.4

0.6

1.3

4.2

172

97

ALBUMIN (COLORIMETRY)

g/dl

3.1

0.5

2.0

4.5

178

100

FIBRINOGEN

mg/dl

101

141

0

300

5

3

TOTAL TRIIODOTHYRONINE

ng/ml

54.0

49.7

0.5

101.0

7

6

TOTAL THYROXINE

µg/dl

2.2

0.9

0.6

4.0

13

11

Body Temperature:

°F

100.8

1.6

96.8

104.0

102

59

 

 

a Number of samples used to calculate the reference range.

b Number of different individuals contributing to the reference values.

 International Species Information System

12101 Johnny Cake Ridge Road

Apple Valley, MN 55124

U.S.A.

www.isis.org 

 

References

 

I’ve been in the fennec fox community for decades soaking up information from fellow owners and breeders and have done much research on nutrition. So much of the info here is out of my head.

Much info gathered from the fennec fox Yahoo group but it is now abandoned.

http://www.naturalpetproductions.net/articles/npp.wholepreymodel.pdf

http://www.organicvaluerecovery.com/studies/studies_nutrient_content_of_insects.htm

http://www.jaaha.org/doi/abs/10.5326/0400501

https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/22023

Skull sizes found from looking at various skulls for sale.

 


 

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Mod/Admin of sybil's Message board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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