Can I Have a Pet Fox?

From their sly personalities to their soft-looking fur, you may be tempted to get a fox of your own for a pet. The reality is they  don’t make great pets, and in some states it is illegal to own one. 

Foxes are wild animals, meaning they have not been domesticated. Unlike other species like dogs and cats, which have been bred to live easily with people, foxes don’t do well as indoor animals. 

Do Foxes Make Good Pets?

Foxes are small members of the family Canidae, which also includes dogs and wolves. Unlike dogs, no foxes in the US have been domesticated. All species of fox are considered wild animals, including red, gray, arctic, and Fennec foxes. While most species have adapted to live well in areas where people are common, they still have all the needs of a wild animal, including regular access to prey and significant daily exercise. 

This means that, in the US, the answer to whether you can own a fox is more than likely “no.” Only 15 states allow private individuals to own foxes as pets. Even in the states where foxes are legal, not all species of fox will be permitted. This is because foxes are undomesticated predators, which means they are considered “inherently dangerous” or potentially invasive in most states. 

Problems With Pet Foxes

Foxes have traits that make them bad pets:

High energy. Foxes are extremely energetic. If they don’t get enough enrichment, they can and will start to destroy their enclosure out of boredom.

Frequent marking of territory. All foxes have an urge to mark their territory, and their marking smells strong. Having a fox in your home will quickly lead to an animal smell in your house.

Extremely loud. Despite their reputation for secrecy, foxes are incredibly loud. They are known to scream like humans at night during mating season, particularly in January. 

Caring for a Fox

Taking all this in mind, if you have found a fox and are legally able to keep one, there are things you should know.

Foxes can be trained, but they are not trainable in the same way as a dog is. Dogs have been bred to value serving their human over almost anything else, while foxes have not. Training a fox requires serious dedication.

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Foxes are resistant to house training. While occasional foxes can learn to use a litter box, most will simply continue to mark territory wherever they please. Unless you start training them when they’re cubs, foxes are not willing to walk on a leash.  

Foxes eat a diet similar to dogs, but they benefit heavily from regularly eating fresh, raw meat. High-quality dog food may make up the majority of their diet in captivity, but offering them deer meat or whole fish several times weekly is important to keeping their diet well-balanced. 

Wild, red foxes will have a territory between one and three square miles large. In order for a fox to be happy in captivity, they need a significant amount of space. Research suggests that foxes need a large amount of enrichment and an enclosure of at least 25 square yards to thrive.

Safety Concerns

Foxes are a common carrier for rabies in North America. The animal rabies vaccine hasn’t been tested on foxes, so if your pet fox bites or is bitten by another animal, local animal control authorities will likely confiscate and put down your pet to test for the disease. 

Foxes may also attack other pets, particularly small animals. Keep foxes separate from other pets. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on June 28, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Kennel Club: “The Spectacular Spitz Breeds.”

Animal Welfare: “Structural enrichment and enclosure use in an opportunistic carnivore: The red fox (Vulpes).”

Business Insider: “14 animals that are surprisingly legal to own as pets in the US.”

Center for Disease Control: “Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control.”

Encyclopedia Britannica: “Fox, mammal.”

National Trappers Association: “About the Red Fox.”

PBS NewsHour: “Why domesticated foxes are genetically fascinating (and make terrible pets).”

Save a Fox Rescue: “Basic Fox Care.”

Vox: “The 25 worst mammals to keep as pets.”

Wildlife Online: “Rabies and the Red Fox.”

Wildlife Online: “Red Fox Behavior - Communication.”

The Wildlife Trusts: “Communal living and screams in the night: The secret lives of foxes.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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