DOMESTICATED PET FOXES AND YOU
If you own a pet fox, then you’ve probably already become well-adjusted to your individual fox’s personality; but if you are aspiring to be a pet fox owner, then you’re probably wondering how you and a fox might get along if you choose to bring one into your family. Whether you are a fox owner or want to be fox owner, I hope this article helps to inform you more about foxes and their behavior.
HOW TO GET ALONG WITH YOUR PET FOX
Owning a fox can be exhilarating or frightening if you are not an animal person. I would assume only those who are comfortable around exotic animals would own a fox; however, this is not the case. Many inexperienced pet owners purchase for the cute factor only; then when the fox grows and becomes harder to handle they give up and try to sell or rehome them. The best way to get along with your pet fox is to be kind, patient, unafraid, and an animal lover at heart. Animals can sense fear, and they will know that they can buffalo you if given the chance. It’s just like when a person is nervous while riding a horse, the horse can feel the vibrations from your hands shaking through the bridle reins, they then might try to disobey you. The same goes for a fox they can tell when you are afraid of them or hesitant. You must be firm but kind. When you reach for them, and they try to nip your hand or jump toward you, do not pull your arm back in fear. By jerking your arm back, you can accidently hurt yourself by getting your hand caught on a tooth or nail. Be confident in your actions and you will notice that your fox responds better to that confidence. You are the alpha of their pack, and you must present yourself as such.
The more time you spend with your fox, the better you will be able to see the changes in his or her personality. As with any animal, foxes have different moods at different times, picking up on these small changes can help you better understand and get along with your fox. Is your fox hungry? Is your fox tired? Is your fox overly excited? I have seen all these mood changes in my pet fox along with much more and each day his mood varies. One day he was quite talkative and loud; the next day I could barely get him to react vocally at all. By knowing that he is more playful and interactive on one day as opposed to the next will aid me in not pestering him at the times of the day when he does not want to be overly active. You may want to play with your fox but if you sense your pet is irritated do not force him or her to play or be touched or handled if they do not wish to be bothered at that time. Respecting your animal is important, and their needs come before yours.
Typically, foxes are very active so it may be rare when your fox portrays these moods but if he or she does, respect their space. My fox loves play time, but once he tires from all the excitement, he will start getting grumpy and sometimes he will even put himself up in his isolated area. I find that he enjoys a varied schedule. He spends the mornings inside playing with our dogs. He then takes a break and enjoys his alone time in his air-conditioned room with his toys and treats. Later that evening he then goes out to his outside play area, where he spends most the evening or the entire night if weather permits.
ARE DOMESTIC PET FOXES AGGRESSIVE
It is possible that your fox could be aggressive at some or many points in its life. It is a living, breathing animal after all. However, if they mishandle them, then their aggression may be just. In my experience, my fox has only ever nipped my face once, and it wasn’t with his full force. It was more of a slightly irritated “back off from me” nip. This case is an example of why being attentive to your fox’s mood changes is important. If I had realized from his early actions that he didn’t want to be hugged or kissed at that moment, I could’ve saved myself a bite. The fault was on my end not my foxes.
If your fox does show signs of unwarranted aggression, try to take steps to deter it. Anytime my fox acts naughty or misbehaves, I treat him like a toddler, tell him no and place him in timeout. The timeout has been the only punishment that I have found that will not increase my fox’s bad behavior. However, it may not work for every fox, but it’s shown great success in mine. After being put in timeout, he resumes his play time without any problems. I wouldn’t advise you ever to smack or hit your fox when trying to correct his or her behavior. Doing so would only antagonize your fox and possibly make its aggression worse or cause your fox to become afraid of you. Fox discipline differs from that of cats or dogs. They might see your scolding as an attack and react in self-defense. You want to correct bad behavior, but you also want to reward good behavior. I give my fox treats every day when he is good; his favorite treat is mini marshmallows, but he prefers to steal them straight from the bag.
QUALITY TIME MAKES A DIFFERENCE
If you do not have any extra time in your life or you cannot make time, then don’t get a fox. You won’t fully enjoy them if you can’t spend quality time with them and it’s not fair to them. That quality time is what will be the deciding factor in how your fox acts around you and others. Each fox is different but the chances of them being more manageable grow with the increased amount of quality time spent with them. Every day I spend a few hours with just my fox either playing with toys or just relaxing. Of course, he gets his regular bath time and leash time but some other activities we engage in are playing with a rolling weasel ball, pouncing a pillow, hide and seek with marshmallows, and he will even try sitting on my head. He has also picked up on sitting on command for a treat. I never knew I could get a fox to sit on command when I still can’t get my dog to complete this trick. He also enjoys throwing his toys high into the air and catching them as well as hiding them throughout the house. Foxes are very smart animals; my fox amazes me every day, and I’m always learning something new.
You will learn that the typical dog toy is not durable enough for a fox. They can shred squeaky toys of most kinds. The best toy for your fox is usually something without fabric, something that is hard and durable enough that it can’t be broken or tore apart. However, some of my fox’s favorite fabric squeaky toys he has left intact. The best and the only way to find out what your fox will like is to test multiple toys, but realistically most will not survive one playtime so be prepared to buy more.
Taking your fox out to the local pet store to pick out his favorite toy can also help them development much needed social skills and will become more adjusted to meeting new people. I believe introducing your fox to as many individuals and animals as possible is a good thing as long as you take precautions. These encounters can help calm your fox, but you wouldn’t want it to backfire and harm your fox, so be sure just to let those interested observe but not touch your fox.
ADAPT TO YOUR FOX
The best way to enjoy your new furry fox friend is to adjust to him. The sooner you stop expecting your fox to portray all the easy-going qualities of a dog or cat, the sooner you will realize just how unique your fox is. Foxes may look like a dog crossed with a cat, but they do not carry the same traits because they will never be as domesticated as a traditional household pet. However, that doesn’t make them any less amazing. You may even find yourself bonding with your fox more because you spend more time with them.
There are a few key areas where you will notice just how different foxes are from dogs. One area is chow time; when you offer your fox food, they will usually become aggressive if you try and remove the food, especially if it is something they like. My fox is okay with sharing his kibble with other animals, but if it’s something special, he will run away screaming. He has never bit me over food, but he does get very upset and scream. He even once stole a whole steak off of a plate and proceeded to shred and eat it in 30 seconds.
Another noticeable difference is that fox’s nails are much sharper than that of a dog. You can trim them often, but they will still scratch you by accident. It is worse when they are younger as their nails are smaller and more cat like but as your fox grows, their nails will grow; and eventually they will become more bearable, but you will still get scratched. I have changed the way I pick up my pet as to keep his nails from cutting my arms, but they will still catch you from time to time. When my fox was a baby, my arms constantly looked like I had been arm wrestling wolverine. I would advise wearing long sleeves or using gloves when you first get your fox kit until you become comfortable picking him or her up.
Foxes also differ in that you cannot let foxes play unattended as you can most dogs. You should always be monitoring your fox’s playtime and just because your fox may get along with one of your other household pets, doesn’t mean they will get along with all pets. My fox loves all our big dogs but acts too rough around the small dogs. Two of the larger dogs like playing with my fox but two others dislike him and tend to growl, so they are never allowed to play with him. Sometimes your fox or dog may play too rough with each other as well; so you will always want to keep them in your sight while they play. If left unattended there’s an endless list of trouble your fox could discover.
Although, there are many other differences, the last one I will cover in this article is, do not let your fox off his leash while outside. You must remember that foxes are not one hundred percent domestic. Even though your fox may listen to you quite well for a fox, it only takes one time and a split second to lose your fox forever. Your fox may be distracted by a noise and chase after it. Your fox could be mauled by a stray dog that sees him as something to be attacked. Your fox could even run into oncoming traffic, attack a smaller pet, or jump onto a passerby and cause them to take further legal action. It is important to keep your fox leashed and even when he is leashed make sure there are no nearby threats that could attack him while he’s leashed. Also, make sure his or her harness is tightly adjusted as not to be too tight but you don’t want it too loose either where it could slip off. Foxes will sometimes try to squeeze and wiggle out of their harness so prepare yourself with a snug harness.
The ways that fox ownership has had the greatest effect on me would have to be something I call the 3 S’s: Scratches, Schedules, and So much fun. When I sit back and think about what has changed the most for me since owning a fox, it consists of these three things. One, I’ve never had so many scratches on my arms in my life but I’ve adjusted my handling of my fox, and I have significantly reduced these occurrences. Two, my entire day is scheduled around my fox. I no longer sleep in or stay out all night because I must be here for my fox. I find that he thrives on a schedule and in return acts more well-mannered. For example, if one day he doesn’t get enough play time then the next day he is so overly excited that he acts naughty. And lastly, my fox provides me with many laughs and smiles throughout each day. In a lot of ways, I guess it’s like having a child just a furrier version that shrieks a lot and steals steaks and marshmallows. If you are lucky enough to get to own a fox, you will see just how much personality they truly have.
I hope your fox gives you as much laughs and smiles as mine has provided me.
Good luck in all your future Fox endeavors.