Fennec Fox Characteristics: Is This The Right Pet For You

The fennec fox is a popular exotic pet. Being familiar with the fennec fox characteristics in the wild will help you raise a healthy fox and provide them with an environment that’s closest to their natural habitat.

What Is A Fennec Fox – Natural Habitat And Wild Habits

fennec fox characteristics

The fennec fox, also known as Vulpes Zerda, is the smallest fox in the world. Male fennecs are known as reynards and females – vixens.

Normally, these tiny foxes live in deserts. To be more precise, they inhabit the Sahara Desert and the Sinai Peninsula. However, the largest population is located in northern Morocco regions.

Their features have highly evolved to suit the desert environment they live in. Their coat, large ears and kidney functions are just a few of the fennec fox characteristics that have adapted to the harsh desert environment such as

  • High temperatures during the day
  • Low temperatures during the night
  • Little to no water

Another way these animals have adapted to the mentioned desert conditions is by becoming nocturnal. Being nocturnal not only helps them keep cool in the high desert temperatures, but also keeps them safe from predators during the day.

Housing In The Wild

In the deserts, fennecs live in small dunes with some vegetations such as grasses and bushes. However, their actual “house” will be in the dens they dig. The fennec can dig a den up to 4 feet deep to stay cool.

These dens consist of long tunnel systems with a few entrances. This is so the fennec can escape in case a predator tries to invade. The den is usually located under a bush and the roots of the plants are used as support walls for the tunnel.

During the day, the den is used to escape the desert heat and for sleep as fennecs are nocturnal animals.

Lifespan And Reproduction

fennec fox characteristics

Fennec foxes live up to 10 years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity. Yes, these unique looking foxes are also kept as exotic pets.

The reason they live longer in captivity is that when kept by humans there is less chance of the foxes being killed by predators or starving to death.

Reproduction is an interesting one of the fennec fox characteristics. Once the fennec finds a mate, it’s a partnership for life. The couple would live together in the same den until babies are born but more about that later.

Fennec foxes mate between January and March, after roughly two month long gestation period. Then the vixen gives birth. The litter is usually anywhere between 2 and 5, and they are known as kits.

A baby fennec looks greyish and weighs around 50 grams at birth. Until they reach 5 weeks of age, the kit will feed from the mother.

In the first two months, the babies would remain in the den as they are still vulnerable.

During that period the male fennec vacates the den and only the kits and the mother stay in there. However, the father continues to defend the family and returns in the den once the kits are older.

Fennec foxes are considered matured when they reach 11 months old.

Fennec Fox Appearance

fennec fox characteristics

An important part of fennec fox characteristics is their unique appearance.

The Fennec fox’s appearance consists of the following:

  • Thick fur that coverers their whole body, even the bottom of their feet. The fur on the bottom of their feed is to protect their pads from the hot sand. The excessive hair on their feet also helps them when digging their dens
  • They have a light creamy color coat, black nose and black tip on their tail
  • Ears – Probably one of the most unique of all the fennec fox characteristics is their ears. Fennecs have abnormally large, pointy, bat-like ears. They are covered in darker reddish color on the back and are white on the edges
  • Size – An adult fennec fox is smaller than a regular house cat

Size And Body

fennec fox characteristics

As mentioned above, the fennec is not only the smallest of all foxes, but they are also smaller than the average house cat.

Female fennec fox size consist of the following measurements:

  • Average body length is 13.6 to 15.6 inches (34.5 – 39.5cm)
  • Tail length is average of 9.1 – 9.8 inches (23 – 25cm)
  • Ears length is average of 3.5 – 3.7 inches (9 – 9.5cm)
  • Weight can reach up to 1.8 pounds or 0.8kg

However, male fennec foxes are slightly larger than the female. The male fennec’s size measures are the following:

  • Body length is 15.4 – 15.6 inches (39 – 39.5cm)
  • Tail length is average of 9.1 – 9.8 inches (23 -25cm)
  • Ears can reach up to 3.9 inches or 10 cm
  • Weight can reach up to 3.3 pounds or 1.5kg

Fennec Fox Coat

Fennec foxes have a thick coat that’s a sandy/straw/creamy color. The color of their fur helps them stay camouflaged in the sand.

Another purpose of their coat is to keep them warm at night and cool during the day by reflecting the sunlight.

Fennec Fox Personality And Behaviours

fennec fox characteristics

The personality of fennec foxes in the wild is known as solitary. However, that is not entirely true. These foxes live in small communities of 10 and position their dens near one another.

Usually, the fennecs community include one breeding couple, a litter of kits and maybe a few older siblings.

Not only that, but these foxes mate for life. For these reasons, fennec foxes can easily be classed as sociable animals. Moreover, this is a unique personality trait amongst wild canines.

More fennec fox characteristics include:

  • Marking their territory by urinating. The more marking a fennec does, the more dominant their personality is
  • Fennecs are quite playful animals. Their personality is closer to a dog’s when it comes to playing, jumping and rolling around
  • Energetic

Hunting Behaviour

Although, fennecs live together in a community, they prefer to hunt alone. When hunting, they stalk their prey, then use their impressive ability to jump high to capture it.

Fennecs can jump straight up in the air up to 2.3 feet (0.7m) and up to 3.2 feet (1m) from standing position.

Fennecs are opportunistic hunters. Once they catch their prey, the fennec will stash some of it away to eat later on.

More fennec fox characteristics that helps their hunting include:

  • As fennecs are nocturnal hunters, their night vision has evolved
  • Enhanced hearing thanks to their large ears help them listen for prey buried underneath the sand

Are Fennec Foxes Vocal

If you’re thinking of getting a fennec fox as a pet, you might wonder if they are vocal. The answer to this is yes, fennecs are quite vocal but not in an annoying way.

The noises that fennecs will make include:

  • Chattering
  • Whimpering
  • Shrieking
  • Growling
  • Howling

Are Fennec Fox Aggressive

Another important question that new fennec owners have is – if they are aggressive. Fennecs can be aggressive in certain situations. For instance, during breeding and rearing, fennecs can become nervous which can lead to aggressiveness aswell.

As mentioned earlier, male fennecs as other canines, mark their territory by urinating and can act aggressively towards one another.

Another occasion when you might observe the fennec becoming aggressive towards each other is during mating season.

All of these fennec fox characteristics are important to know if you’re planning on getting a fennec as a pet.

Fennec Fox Health

Part of fennec fox care is knowing what health issues they are predisposed to.

Before getting fennec fox as a pet, you must ensure there is an exotic vet in your area. The reason for that is – fennecs need to be routinely vaccinated for the following:

  • Canine distemper virus
  • Adenovirus
  • Rabies
  • Parvovirus

In addition to the mentioned vaccines, you need to be aware of the following common health issues that fennec foxes might develop:

  • Kidney, liver and heart disease
  • Skin infections
  • Parasites such as worms, mites and fleas

Most of these disease can be prevented by providing them with the appropriate fennec fox case that meets their needs such as:

  • Regular vet visits
  • Nutritious diet
  • Regular exercise

Fennec Fox As A Pet And Human Interaction

Probably one of the most important things to know if you are planning on getting a fennec fox is if they make good pets and if they are friendly.

The fennec fox is normally found in the wild, living in deserts. However, they are also kept as exotic pets and bred commercially.

Fennec fox characteristics and personality can vary depending on the gender of the fox. For instance, male fennecs tend to be more friendly and sociable compared to the female fennec.

However, the males can become aggressive during mating season which can be unpleasant. This can be avoided if you neuter your fennec.

The fennec can adapt well to their environment. Therefore they can make for a good pet with good husbandry.

However, it should be noted that they are wild animals. Even when they are bred commercially and raised as pets from a young age, you should always be careful when handling them.

The fennec fox as a pet can be:

  • Social
  • Energetic
  • Playful

Final Thoughts

Fennec foxes are fascinating animals that live in the deserts. Although, they are the smallest of all foxes, they have become skilled, nocturnal hunters. The unique fennec fox characteristics is what they are most known for:

  • Size – These animals don’t grow larger than a house cat
  • Appearance – Fennecs have long, pointy ears and their coat is a cream/straw color
  • Personality – Social and energetic. Although, their diet is more similar to a cat, their personality is more dog-like

If you are thinking of getting a fennec fox as a pet, it’s important you know what are the fennec fox characteristics and what are their needs in terms of habitat, diet and overall care.

Related Topics

Fennec Fox Diet And Hunting

Fennec foxes are omnivores. Their diet in the wild includes the following:

  • Meats such as small rodents, reptiles, birds
  • Insects
  • Fruits and vegetables

In the wild, fennecs are opportunistic hunters. They will hunt even when not staving and stash the food away for later on.

The fennec’s appearance has evolved to help them become the skilled hunters they are. Their abnormally large and pointy ears are used to listen and locate their prey.

Another fennec fox’s feature that has evolved is their night vision. As fennecs are nocturnal animals and do most of their food hunting during the night, not only their hearing is impeccable but also their sight.

To get to their prey, fennecs use their sharp claws to dig and their small carnassial teeth to tear apart.

As fennecs are deserts animals, they have adapted to going for long periods of time on little or no water. Most of their water supply will usually come from fruits, leaves and roots – an important part of their diet in the desert.

Protein is an important part of the fennec’s diet. Therefore, if you keep this animal as pet, you must consider providing them with a diet as close as possible to the one they have in their natural habitat.

The perfect diet for a fennec fox kept as a pet is closest you can get to what they eat in the wild. A good option for your pet fox is a combination of the following:

  • Raw meats
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Live prey
  • Dry kibble dog and cat food

If you want to learn more about what’s the best food for your fennec fox pet click here Fennec Fox Diet: How To Pick The Best Food

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