I don’t believe wild animals should be kept as pets, the cuteness of the fennec fox notwithstanding. Here’s how I answered a question about the cute little creatures.
Q: I saw a picture of a fennec fox on Facebook. So cute! I’ve heard that some people keep them as pets. Is that a good idea?
A: There’s no doubt that fennec foxes are cute, with that tiny body (they’re about the size of a Chihuahua, weighing 2 to 4 pounds) and those enormous ears. Vulpes zerda (the scientific name) is the smallest member of the dog family. But small doesn’t necessarily equate to family friendly. I’m not a fan of keeping wild animals as pets, and despite their small size, fennec foxes are undoubtedly wild animals. While they might become tame, they are wired to live and behave in certain ways and can’t be domesticated.
Fennec foxes are crepuscular, meaning they are typically active at dawn and twilight. Those may be the times of day they are most energetic and playful. They enjoy digging and have been known to excavate deep holes, perhaps in search of the insects and rodents that those big ears tell them are underground. Their diet in the wild features insects, rodents, reptiles and vegetation.
Being desert animals, fennec foxes enjoy napping in the sun. They have scent glands that can cause them to have a musky odor. Although they are members of the dog family (Canidae), they have many catlike qualities, including making a purring sound and engaging in mutual grooming. But because they aren’t domesticated, their behavior can be unpredictable.
The tiny wild dogs live 10 to 14 years, so they are a long-term commitment. Keeping one may involve acquiring certain licenses or permits — or it may even be illegal where you live. And you’ll need to make sure a veterinarian knowledgeable about treating exotic animals practices nearby so you can have expert advice on health, diet and vaccinations.
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.