Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Of Foxes and Teenagers

Miehiera the arctic fox.
The following was written by a friend of mine, Alynn, who writes a blog about her fox Miehiera. I get a lot of e-mails from teenagers who love foxes and want to get one for a pet, so I wanted to give you guys the perspective of a teen who has been there and gotten her fox.





Hold off.

I am about the same age as you (I turned 14 this year) and in the same situation. I got my fox the summer that would between my 8th and 9th grade year (I skipped a grade).

To be honest, if I could do it all over I would have waited until I was out on my own or at least had a job. I had to pay for everything, and without a job this was incredibly hard. I am taking her to the vet and spending all my savings to do that just to get her checked up.

I have to rely on my parents a lot for additional expenses and for transportation. Rather than be able to expand her kennel right away, I have to slowly save up. This would be so much easier if I had a job.

I'm a full time college student. I just finished a semester with 14 credit hours.
We have a lot of financial strain that I didn't foresee when we put down the deposit.
None of this I have any control over.

I just really don't have control. I can't go out and just get her more panels. I can't just drive her to the vet if there's a problem. I do get very busy and I have to admit Miehiera does not get as much attention as she deserves.
There's also the problem that I don't know where I'm going to be in the next five years, meanwhile Miehiera is probably going to live for another 15.

I say you need to wait until you're AT LEAST 16 and you can pay for the expense of the fox.
I would not get the fox unless your parents pushed for it first. If your parents are like mine, they're not going to spend the money unless they absolutely need to. You're going to have to pay for everything.

You might be looking at my post and think, "Yeah, I can pay for things! I can handle this!" Well, that's what I thought. I love Miehiera to death, she's my world. Nothing more uplifting than after a long, hard day going outside to see a fox screaming, wiggling, wagging their tail and running all up and down their pen in sheer joy just to see you. However, I have a lot of stress in my life and Miehiera is suffering because she doesn't get the time or the immediate care she deserves. I definitely admit I was not ready for her in hindsight. But I have her now, and by getting her I made her the promise that I would take care of her.

Please, wait until you're at least 16. It would be a lot better if you waited until you're out of college or at least to a point in your life that you know where you're going to be for the next 20 years. I don't know where I'm going to be in five.

I'm not saying it won't work out for you because I am having a hard time, but if you're really determined I would save up at least $5000, not including the expense of the fox itself. The vet bills, the food, the toys, the kennel - it adds up quick and you need money for a rainy day, because things do come up.

If you REALLY want to work with foxes, I would recommend finding a sanctuary with foxes. That will give you invaluable experience. You may even be able to find fox owners near you, or find a breeder. Find an exotic vet to volunteer for. There are lots of zoos that will have summer camps for kids your age. I found one here in Michigan, I think you could find one in Lousiana. I even believe that going to an exotic animal swap meet/auction (I think there is one in Lousiana) you can see some foxes and perhaps talk to breeders.

I spent a year researching, saving and so on and that didn't even prepare me totally!
I do take good care of my girl and love her to death, even if she doesn't get all the attention she deserves. For her sake and mine though, I wish I had waited until I was absolutely sure of where I was going to be in the next 10 years.

If you have to get a permit, that can be tricky too. Because I am not old enough to own an animal, legally Miehiera belongs to my father. All of her health records and documentation is in my name. This was confusing to work out with my breeder and my vet. And if anything ever happens to cause us to get in trouble with the law (say, she bites someone, which I don't allow her to be visited by many people anyway), my dad's head is the one on the table. I legally can not take responsibility and that bothers me. If you get a permit, your parents are going to have to be the ones to apply for it. It's really frustrating to have to have someone represent you like that, and it's best to wait until you're old enough to take direct responsibility for the animal itself.

Overall, unless your parents really want the fox too and are willing to pay for every expense and help you care for it, I wouldn't go for it. Spend the next couple of years getting experience, mulling things over and saving up money.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pet Fox Enclosures: Fencing

As a small forward, sorry for this post being so late. We're in the middle of a major move, and I haven't had time to update.

After you have the location and flooring decided, the next major component of a fox enclosure are the walls. Any material that is safe and strong enough to keep the fox in (and curious or malicious strangers out) will do, though some work better than others. The enclosure should also be tall enough for you to enter and exit easily.

One of the best enclosure wall designs are large, bolted-together panels. They're strong, made of fox-safe material, weather-resistant, and very easy for one person to take apart and re-assemble. Due to their modular design, it's very easy to move or alter your enclosure if you need to. The same panels can be used for flooring under a layer of mulch, and for an escape-proof roof. This is what I made both Gizmo's indoor play-pen and outdoor play-yard out of, and I have never had an escape or injury.

One such kennel set can be purchased here. Please note that if you do go this route, you will need to buy several of the sets to make an enclosure big enough. Also keep in mind that the roof that comes with the kennel set is not sufficient to keep a fox enclosed. To create a minimum 10' by 10' enclosure for one fox, using panels for both flooring and roofing, you will need to purchase 3 sets.

Another alternative is to use chain link fencing for an enclosure perimeter. This is a cheaper option, though they are generally less portable and more difficult to construct, so keep that in mind. They do manufacture chain link 'dog kennel' sets similar to the metal panels I described above, but buyer beware. Some sets come with rounded doors on them as opposed to squared-off ones. Your fox may try to escape through this "corner" and get caught--I know of at least one dog who suffocated this way. If you do go with chain link, find a set with a door that closes flush with it's frame.

I would advise against using wood to build fox enclosure walls. To be safe for the fox (they chew everything), the wood would have to be untreated, and untreated wood for an outdoor enclosure would have a relatively short lifespan. Once it starts to weaken and rot, it becomes both and escape and a splinter hazard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pet Fox Enclosures: Flooring

Special care must be taken when deciding what sort of flooring to use in your fox's outdoor enclosure. They are natural diggers, so it is up to you to make sure that they do not dig out. Don't assume you'll be able to catch them at it or spot any holes before they get big enough to escape through.

For a non-portable, permanent enclosure, I have heard of some people using a poured concrete floor. If you do choose to go this route, be sure to account for drainage or your enclosure will quickly become a swamp. Concrete can be very rough on a pet fox's paw pads, so plan to cover it in either dirt, mulch, or some other soft "diggable" substrate.

Another common and highly effective floor strategy is to bury chainlink or similar fencing under a thick layer of mulch. This allows for great drainage, but also prevents dig-outs and escapes. There are many variations on this theme that can be explored--for Gizmo's outdoor enclosure, we have buried heavy paving stones under a thick layer of dirt and mulch to prevent dig-outs. This leads to a more natural look when he does happen to dig deep enough to uncover one. If stones are used, they need to be spaced very closely together to prevent the fox from digging between them.

For the mulch covering, it's best to use natural, untreated mulch spread in a very thick layer over the entire area. Treated mulch can have questionable dyes or pesticides meant to discourage termites in them--not something you want to expose your pet fox to. I also strongly advise against using any of the new "rubber mulches" that have come out. Yes, they're long lasting. Yes, they look great. But they're also made out of the same material as most dog toys. By now, your fox has likely come to view rubber as something to put in his mouth and play with, and a swallowed rubber mulch chip can lead to blockages or worse.

Be sure to come back next week for more information on designing the ideal enclosure for your pet fox!