Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pet Fox Enclosures: Choosing The Location

The first two things to consider when building a fox enclosure are size and location. For a red fox, an absolute minimum of 100 square feet is needed. If multiple foxes are to be kept in the same enclosure, start with a base of 100 square feet, and then add an additional 50 square feet for each fox in the enclosure (so an enclosure to keep 3 foxes should be a minimum of 250 square feet.) Keep in mind that these are the absolute minimums. If at all possible, your fox’s outdoor enclosure should be much bigger. The more room you can give them while keeping them safe and secure, the happier they will be.

The enclosure should be in a safe location. Ideally, it should be protected by a privacy fence, and invisible from the road, to discourage curious passerby or those with bad intentions. Inspect the area you’re considering turning into a pen. Avoid marshy ground or standing pools of water, as these indicate drainage issues that will not be easy to fix. If you build the enclosure on a slope, keep in mind that foxes love to dig in well-drained, sloped soil, so you will need to take even more precautions against dig outs.

The last thing you need to consider about location is exposure. Your pet will need to be sheltered from the elements. Consider if your chosen location has a windbreak and a source of shade; if either of these things is lacking, you will need to come up with a means of providing them.

Now that you’ve got your location picked out, it’s time to build! Be sure to come back next week when I start to discuss the actual construction of the enclosure.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pet Fox Enclosures: Why You Need An Outdoor Enclosure

“Do I really need an outdoor enclosure for a pet fox?” I get this question quite a bit from potential fox owners, and the answer is always the same. Yes, yes you definitely do. Having an outside area for your fox to safely play is as important as feeding them.

Foxes are extremely high-energy, intelligent animals, so they need a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Having an outdoor enclosure helps to work their muscles as they climb and explore, gives them a wide variety of mental stimulation, and perhaps most importantly, gives them exposure to sunshine and outdoor air.

Furthermore, you cannot leave a pet fox unattended in your house. If they are not contained, they need constant supervision. Obviously, you cannot watch your pet 24/7, so you need to have a place you can contain them when you can’t keep an eye on them. A well-built enclosure gives your pet an exciting, engaging place to play and relax when you can’t be there to keep an eye on them. Otherwise, you need to lock them up in a dog crate, or allow them to destroy your house. In that case, neither you nor the fox wins.

Fortunately, a good enclosure isn’t difficult to design or construct. Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles on the construction of high-quality enclosures to keep both you and your fox happy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pet Fox Behavior: The October Crazies

This is a warning for those of you with new foxes.

A lot of you brought home a fox this spring, and are by now head-over-heels in love with your affectionate little ball of fur. He or she is clever, inquisitive, lovable, and all the things you had hoped for. Perhaps you still have a bit of a problem with food aggression, or using the litter box, but overall things are moving forward at a good clip and you're feeling confident.

There's good news and bad news. The good news is, yes, you are doing well and your fox is shaping up to be a fine animal. The bad news is, the October Crazies will soon be upon us.

During a kit's first fall (Usually in October, but it can be as early as August or as late as November), they go through a series of temperament changes. These changes are temporary, but very dramatic. The kit becomes aggressive, fearful, hyperactive, destructive, nippy, and prone to frustrated tantrums. It will seem as if you have lost all progress with them, but it's important to remember that this is a temporary phase. You may feel like you've done something horribly wrong in raising your kit, or be worried that there is something terribly wrong with them, or think that you're not cut out to keep a fox. Don't worry, this is a normal part of your kits development, and it only happens the first year.

So what causes the Crazies? In the wild, this is the time that your kit would be driven away by it's parents to fend for itself. Other foxes, meanwhile, have no desire to let these young intruders into their territory, so they attack and drive off the newcomers. The kits have to struggle to establish their own territory and fend for themselves. Their hormones kick into high gear, so at the same time they're fighting to carve out a place in the world, they're dealing with internal chemistry they've never had before. The fear and aggression you see in your pet is a remnant of this--as their surrogate "parent", they are concerned that you are going to attack them and drive them away.

The key to surviving the October Crazies is to stay consistent with your training, be patient, and above all remember that this is only a phase. By the time your kit reaches one year of age (usually considerably earlier. Gizmo was back to normal by mid November), they will have settled back into being a reasonable animal again. The hormonal effects die down as the fox gets more used to them, and they start to realize that you're not going to bite them and chase them away. It'll be hard to believe that the temperamental monster you had in October is the sweet pet you have curled up in your lap in January.