Foxes are adorable, elusive creatures – many of us could be tempted to keep one in our home. But with just a bit of background knowledge, you can learn why having a fox as a pet is a bad idea.
Many love foxes because they are unique, exotic, and beautiful animals. The rich and famous have open kept wild animals as pets (think Mike Tyson and his three “pet” tigers). The prevalence of social media and influencers only fuels these obsessions with having striking and eccentric pets to gain more attention
Foxes may be in the Canidae family (the same as dogs), but don’t let this fool you. Foxes are undomesticated animals and attempting to keep them as pets often lies closer to cruelty when done without the care they need. Furthermore, it’s illegal in the majority of states in the US.
While the idea of having rare and exotic animals as pets may stir many of our imaginations, it’s important to be realistic about these possibilities and carry out proper research before making a commitment that can drastically make our lives more difficult and create uncomfortable and even dangerous environments for these animals.
Before taking on the unrealistic responsibility before it’s too late, read on to delve deeper into why keeping a fox as a pet (and other wild animals) is inhumane, unsafe, and illegal.
The Fox Pet Trade and Legality
It’s currently legal in 16 states in the US to have a pet fox, however there are many restrictions on this. Depending on the state, you may be required to have a permit and it’s only relevant for specific kinds of foxes. It’s important to note that while most states require pet foxes to be obtained from fox breeders, none of the species of foxes that exist in the US are domesticated.
The majority of these states require those seeking pet foxes acquire them from certified fox breeders and do not allow the capturing of foxes from the wild. In Arkansas and Kentucky however, there are virtually no barriers to keeping foxes as pets. You can capture wild foxes and keep any type of fox in your home. In Kentucky, the only rule is that your fox must be from Kentucky.
In China, it’s illegal to keep foxes as pets, but that didn’t stop a surge in popularity in fennec foxes after the film Zootopia was released. Despite the law, it’s still possible in China to acquire foxes as pets, but fennec foxes are the most desired. Fox breeders and importers can be contacted in China that mostly sold to zoos, but are increasingly contacted by families with children that seek to have a fennec fox of their own. Responsible sellers in the fox trade deny these requests because of the demanding responsibility of caring for a fox, especially in a home with children.
Did you know that it’s legal to own pet goats in some states? Read more: Should You Keep Goats as Pets? The Benefits & Drawbacks
Fennec foxes reside in the Sahara and Sinai regions of North Africa. It is possible that the portrayal of foxes as cuddly companion pets, and especially the desire for fennec foxes as pets, has had a negative effect on these populations. The fox trade relies on the capture of wild foxes to breed in captivity. If there is an increase in the demand for fennec foxes, more of these striking creatures will be taken from their wild habitats. In the worst case scenario, this could decimate their populations and cause them to reach endagerment status.
Some of the lesser consequences could be that many of the people who end up with fennec foxes as pets will likely realize they are in over their heads and have to abandon their furry friend to a shelter, zoo, or some other potentially naive individual. This has also been the pattern when other exotic animals who have been featured in popular films such as the clown fish of “Finding Nemo” and owls as inspired by the Harry Potter series received increased attention.
Why Foxes Don't Make Good Pets
There are an abundance of videos of foxes being cute and cuddly on the internet, but these kinds of images perpetuate a bit of an incorrect stereotype of foxes as pets. In actuality, foxes make difficult animals to keep as pets because they:
- Are incredibly curious and high energy. Thus, they need a lot of room to satisfy their needs. Boredom can lead foxes to destroy the environment around them. They are natural foragers, diggers, runners, and players. Don’t even consider getting a pet fox if you don’t have a large outdoor space for them.
- Are nocturnal and will not adjust to your sleeping patterns.
- Frequently mark their territory by urinating. Unlike dogs, foxes cannot be trained out of this habit because they are undomesticated. They also cannot be litter trained, and trying to do so can frustrate both you and the animal.
- Are incredibly loud. During mating season in January, they are especially noisy with their screams at night.
- Can change their mood from hostile to peaceful very quickly. Just because they are relatively small does’t mean they can’t be dangerous. They are still capable of bites and scratches.
- Require a complex diet of meats and need to forage for their foods. Without taurine, an amino acid found in some meats in the wild, foxes can face health issues such as blindness, seizures, or premature death.
Why Humans Aren't Fit to Have Foxes as Pets
Not only do foxes make poor pets, but humans also likely make poor caregivers for foxes. It’s unrealistic for humans to be able to provide foxes with the proper environment, food, stimulation, and health requirements that a fox needs.
Often times, when people attempt to keep exotic animals as pets, they try to change the characteristics of the animal to fit their needs rather than providing for the specific needs of the animal. This can result in unsafe and dangerous situations for both the animals and the human.
Even if you’re able to provide a good environment for a fox, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to find a veterinarian that would take care of your pet fox if it comes across any health issues.
Because foxes need a high level of stimulation, a fox in captivity without a large outdoor area to play – and to mark their territory freely and abundantly – a pet fox would be quite sad. They need stimulation even when fed, because they are used to hunting and foraging for themselves, a natural instinct and behavioral characteristic of foxes.
All caretakers of foxes need to additionally be aware of their need for taurine. There are some taurine supplements that can be given to foxes and even fox dry and wet food on the market that has this amino acid present. Dog food on the other hand has no taurine and would cause serious health issues if given to foxes without a taurine supplement. Without taurine, foxes may suffer a variety of ailments.
The bottom line: Foxes are undomesticated, wild animals that are happiest outdoors with lots of space to be able to roam freely. They need an abundance of stimulation and do not adjust well to a captive environment. Just because an animal is cute doesn’t mean you should be allowed to keep it as a pet. Let’s allow foxes and other wild animals to live where they are happiest: free in their natural habitats.
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