The Thoughtful Animal has been writing about domesticated foxes and has pointed out that they are commercially available.
Dude! I want one right now! For the low price of $5,950, why not?
Let’s assume the cost isn’t actually an issue. (I want one of these guys badly enough that I would probably find the money somewhere.)
It’s just like a dog, and we know all about taking care of them. It won’t be like owning an exotic animal. It will be like owning an extra cute dog.
Well, it isn’t exactly just like a dog; they aren’t closely related enough to interbreed, for example. One thing vet school has impressed upon me is that species differences jump out at you when you least expect them. We have lived with dogs for a long, long time. In fact, I will hazard a guess that veterinary medicine was practiced on them very early. We know a lot about what makes them tick. We don’t know all that much about foxes.
Well, I live just up the street from a wildlife clinic. They could provide veterinary care.
Actually, in my case, this is true. However, the approach to veterinary care at a wildlife clinic is different from the approach at a small animal veterinary clinic. Ask me again after I have done my wildlife rotation, but I imagine they are not as used in that clinic to the kind of care we expect to give to our pets. For example, I had cardiology specialists caring for my cat when she was in heart failure. They knew all about how cats respond to heart failure (differently from dogs). Cardiologists wouldn’t have the first idea about species differences in foxes, but the wildlife clinicians would be much less skilled at reading a cardiac echo. Neither would be quite able to provide complete care for a pet fox. And the number of foxes a wildlife veterinarian sees a year is much, much smaller than the number of dogs a small animal veterinarian sees a year. It would just not be the same as getting veterinary care for a dog.
My guess is that your local vet would refuse to see the fox at all, with good reason. If you know someone who owns a bird or bunny, ask them how hard it is to find a vet to see one of those animals! And if you can only find one vet who’s even willing, you will have no choice of where you get care.
This will be a young, healthy animal, so I’m not worried about veterinary care.
Are you worried about behavior?
It’s domesticated. That means it’s just like a dog.
In this case, the foxes were “domesticated” by being bred to not be afraid of humans. They weren’t bred to be good house pets, though. They have been maintained as laboratory animals since their strain was developed, living in runs. They won’t bite you. But they may chew up your house, kill your cat, pee inappropriately — actually, a dog will do any of those things. Who knows what else a fox might come up with? We don’t have all the experience with their quirks that we have with dogs.
I’ll take him to a good trainer and make sure none of those things happen.
I’m betting you will have trouble finding a dog obedience class which will allow him in. You will have to shell out for private lessons.
Well, I’ll get him lots of exercise. A tired fox is a good fox.
Who will play with him? Will you take him to the dog park? Will his unusual smell and unusual body language (I’m just guessing here that a different species speaks a slightly different language) make it harder for dogs to accept him? Is it OK with you that he will never see another member of his species for the rest of his life?
And what will you feed him?
Dog food, of course.
There’s a lot of debate over what’s healthy food even for a dog these days. Again, we don’t know as much about foxes. And remember, they are only maintained in the laboratory for a few years, so the researchers don’t have experience with what is healthy for them as they get old. How hard is it to feed an animal right? Well, before we discovered that taurine was a required nutrient for cats, cats which ate commercial cat food tended to go blind as they got older. What might we be missing in a fox’s diet?
We take a lot of things for granted with dogs, and even so, they can be a big commitment. I really, really want a domesticated silver fox. But it is not a good idea for me or anyone else to have one. We have plenty of species of domesticated animals already which make excellent pets about which we know a great deal. We have a much better chance of providing good husbandry for a dog or cat. The foxes make for fascinating research animals, and I am glad that they exist (though I am sad that they have to live in a laboratory in order to be studied). But turning them into pets is not a responsible thing to do.