The Fennec Fox
Fennec, Fennek, Wüstenfuchs
The Fennec Fox is the smallest of all foxes and is found in the Sahara of North Africa, from Morocco & Niger to Egypt and Sudan. Some of its defining characteristics are its very large ears (the largest of all canids) which serve to dissipate excessive body heat, and a long, soft, thick fur coat of a sandy to reddish colour. Their belly is a creamy white colour, as well as their feet, and they have a black-tipped tail. The soles of their feet are furred for protection from the hot sand and rocks in their native habitat and dark bristles cover the anal gland. Fennecs have very acute hearing and can pick up the movements of their prey or enemies at a considerable distance–even underground. Its coat, ears, and kidney functions are all adapted to high-temperature, low-water, desert environments. Fennecs are nocturnal animals, though they also love to play in the warm sand and bask on objects warmed by the sun.
Unlike other fox species, fennecs lack a musk gland, which makes them an attractive choice as an exotic pet, as they don’t have a strong odor. Though cute, furry, and non-stinky, fennecs are very avid diggers. In the wild they build dens by tunneling in the sand, and are capable of digging 20 feet in one night.
The fennec fox weighs about 1.5–3.5 lbs, with a body length of between 9–16 inches and is around 8 inches tall. It is the smallest species of canid in the world. The tail is 7–12 inches long, while the ears can be between 4-6 inches long. They live 12-16 years and reach sexual maturity at 9-11 mos. The female is known as a “vixen” and a male is known as a “reynard.”
Unlike many other foxes, fennecs are social animals and can live in colonies of up to 10 foxes. As a captive animal, they often cower when approached, laying on their side, yelping and wagging their tail. They have also been known to purr. Some fennec foxes can be taught to fetch, which allows for great exercise, though training can be difficult and time-consuming for the average person to accomplish, as fennecs are still a wild species.
The Fennec fox should be kenneled when not supervised. A large dog crate or ferret cage would suffice, but is not at all adequate for permanent housing. Fennecs need a bedroom-sized area of their own to play in if they are not to be given the “run of the house” or kept in an outdoor enclosure. They should be kept in an area with low humidity and good ventilation. Avoid dusty or strong smelling bedding such as pine or cedar as it can damage their lungs. They can be litter box trained and a covered cat box with a clay litter can be used.
As fennecs are strong diggers and good climbers any enclosure must be adequate enough to house them. They are also very fast, and can escape through a door and be impossible to catch, so if they are housed indoors thorough precautions must be taken at all times. These guys also love to bask in the sun, so they should have access to a sunny area. If they are in an area with cold seasons, any outside enclosure should be connected to a completely enclosed, heated building. If they are taken outside they should be on a harness and leash. Never use a simple collar with a fennec, as it will not hold them. Use caution even with a harness, because if startled they still may wiggle free.