Would a Domesticated Fox Make a Good Pet?

Fox in my backyard

Took a picture of this cute fox in my back yard.

I admit it – having a domesticated fox as a pet seems like it would be pretty awesome. Their light, playful demeanor, beautiful fur and manageable size fit some of the key criteria of what I look for in a pet, not to mention they just seem so cuddly and fun. These very surface level qualifications (combined with the sheer novelty of it all) are what shape my desire to add one to my animal family, but would a domesticated fox really make a good pet?

If you are looking for a pet that acts like a dog or cat but looks different, you may find some of those behavior aspects in a domesticated fox. However, don’t forget they are still an inherently unique species, even after making them more “human-friendly”. So if the fox has always intrigued you as a potential household pet, it’s important to understand the domestication process and the real deal about taking good care of them.

How the Domesticated Fox Came to Be

According to an article from Popular Science titled, “Can I Have a Pet Fox?”, domestication efforts of the fox began in 1959, when a Soviet geneticist named Dmitry K. Belyaev began somewhat secretly experimenting with breeding domesticated foxes. More than five decades, thousands of foxes, and one collapse of the Soviet Union later, the program continues at The Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk, Siberia. Belyaev wanted to unlock the secrets of domestication, the links between behavior, breeding and physical traits.”

The article went on to say that the Institute picked fox to experiment with because they are canids, like dogs, so it would be easy to compare them to a domesticated species, yet, they are not particularly closely related to dogs, so there’s enough separation to see how forced domestication effects a new species. The fox they chose to domesticate were also already “lame”, picked up from fur farms in Siberia, so they would be more easily adaptable to connecting with humans.

“Domesticated foxes can only be found at this Siberian facility and will run you over $8,000. You will also need the approval of Kay Fedewa, the exclusive importer of domesticated foxes in the United States. The domesticated foxes from this facility have between 30 and 35 generations of selective breeding in their history and they’re not even close to wild–in fact, they probably wouldn’t survive in the wild.”

Playful fox from Russian National Geographic

Playful fox from Russian National Geographic

What you Need to Know about Owning a Domesticated Fox

Domesticated fox are allowed as pets in some states, but Colorado isn’t one of them. If you are interested in owning one (and are prepared to move) there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • They are crazy curious, very smart and need to be mentally occupied consistently with lots of toys or activities
  • Fox urine is extremely pungent and very difficult to remove from carpet
  • They require an outdoor enclosure with double-chain link fencing and a place to dig (filling the enclosure with sand can help fulfill that instinct)
  • Some fox can be house-trained to use the litter box
  • Fox are not trainable like a domestic dog — but can learn some commands
  • You may be able to leash train them, but it’s difficult
  • It’s critical to find a vet willing to work on a fox — most aren’t cool with it
  • They have a natural musky smell (trust me, I’ve smelled it first hand and it’s strong).
  • Their dietary needs are very complex
  • Fox require the same vaccines as a dog according to The Domestic Fox 

Remember, domestication is a genetic process, not a learned behavioral process. That means you can’t just take a baby fox from the wild and try to make it into your own pet. If you are interested in finding out more about how to get one legally (and don’t live in Colorado) you can check out more details on The Domestic Fox site as well.

It’s Already Been Done, but Should a Fox be Kept as a Pet?

According to a domestic fox owner the answer is no, and here’s why. Rabies.

The author for the blog Mypetfox shared the following:

“There is no proof that the current rabies vaccine works on foxes. Even if you find a vet that will give your fox a rabies shot, if that fox /ever/ bites anybody, the law states that it will have to be euthanized. In fact, all your pet fox has to do is get its saliva on another human and it will have to be put down.”

This echoes the same advice from Bob Nightwalker, a local wild animal rehabber at Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center  in my post called Helping Injured Wildlife. “In Colorado it’s illegal to keep wildlife. The animal will need to be tested for rabies, which requires killing it. So now you have this animal you’ve grown to love that’s going to have to be euthanized.”

Freddy the pet fox

Freddy the pet fox

Diet is another important factor. Nightwalker also mentioned in the previous blog post, “There is no way to know if you are giving them the right nutrition, and the animal may have developmental problems as a result.” In my limited research, domesticated fox require a very specific diet including a mix of high-grade dog food, fish, live mice, eggs, raw chicken and other supplements, especially when they are young — and that’s a lot more complicated than putting some food in bowl and calling it good.

Personally, as much as I love fox, and I really do, I still don’t think it would be fair to have a domesticated one as a pet. Some of the things I truly love about them would be bred out of them in the domestication process, and they just wouldn’t be the same. I would rather continue to enjoy my run-ins and chance encounters with this beautiful, enchanting little critter in the years to come than own a filtered down version of it’s awesomeness.

And if you want to get your pet fox fix, you can always check out Ron the pet fox on YouTube. He’s not domesticated, but super tame and so fun to watch!

So what do you think? Would you still want to have a domesticated fox if it was legal in Colorado?

Photo credit for last photo of Freddy the Fox, Ron Lee 

Facebook Twitter Email

  • http://www.KevinUdy.com/ Kevin

    I feel like you wrote this post specifically to educate me – thank you! I am a little bummed that I will need to illegally smuggle and house a fox in order to actually have one, but it might be worth it. Thanks for writing such an educational post :)

    I know you’ve basically attempted to discourage people (me) from getting one, but now I just want one even more!

    P.S. Ron the fox is AWESOME.

    • Katrina Pfannkuch

      Ha! It was a really fun post to write. I’ve always wanted to know more about what it would be like to have a pet fox, including what’s involved in getting and caring for one. You can still totally get one, but I’m not sure if it’s in your plan to move out-of-state : ) After the research, I am leaning towards letting them be what they are, wild animals, but it was great to see the few that are well-adjusted and taken care of by very conscientious owners.

      And yes, Ron the fox is beyond awesome, and will be something I visit first thing when I’m having a bad day! How could you not smile after watching him?

  • Jack

    yo bro il kick your ass

  • Devan Jenkins

    <|:^)

  • bob

    you’re right Kevin.

  • loren

    jack shut up you ass hole

  • Gracie

    How much money one you do foxes usually cost?

  • Savannah

    Foxes can be trained just as easily as dogs actually :)