The Red Fox As a Pet? Sure, But It’s Complex!

You may have seen the photos of pet foxes on Instagram or those YouTube Videos that make having this unusual pet seem like a fun adventure.

However, like any animal we assume responsibility for, the Red Fox comes with its brand of “special needs” and some natural tendencies that this “wild animal” will retain no matter how hard we try to domesticate it.

In this post, we will explore the Red Fox as a pet, and what you need to know.

red fox lying on the grass

The Appearance of the Red Fox

The appearance of the red fox is a beauty to behold. With its gorgeous rich red coat, white-tipped, fluffy tail, and black ears and black legs, it’s no wonder this creature holds a high appeal to anyone searching for an unusual pet.


Physically the red fox can reach weights from 10 to 15 pounds (some up to 31 pounds) and stand about 15.7 inches at the shoulder. Length-wise, this Canidae measures from 36 to 42 inches, with a good portion of that being it's 14 to the 16-inch long tail.

Depending on the region the “red” fox is found in, coat colors can range into the silver and black with white banding. However, all of these animals still retain the soft fine undercoat with long guard hairs over top.

The Behavior of the Red Fox

The red fox is known for its cunningness, so you can expect this innate behavior to still be retained by the animal even when raised by humans.

The fox is a notorious scent-marker and pet parents with these animals report you can never fully housebreak a fox. Although they may “go” in a litter box, they will continue to urinate and defecate throughout the home to leave their scent behind (as they would do in the wild). This can become a problem when the animal chooses the furniture or bedding to leave its “brand” behind.

Some pet foxes have also exhibited digging in the home, ie tearing up the soft innards of the sofa or comfy chair. As one fox owner stated;


They love to bury their toys, then pee on it.”

The trouble with this action (aside from the very act itself) is that fox pee is very smelly, almost skunk-like, so you don’t want this happening in the home.

This species is also very territorial, so wherever they are, it becomes theirs.

Fox can also be choosy about whom they interact with, choosing one person as their “favorite” while growling at others in the home.

You will also have to provide this type of pet with both an abundance of physical and mental stimulation, meaning you have to have a lot of time to spend with this animal, walking, running, playing and generally keeping it amused and busy.

fluffy red fox

Housing the Red Fox

With all that you have read up to this point, you probably have already realized that having a full-grown adult fox inside your home is not wise. From their funky smell to their destructive (albeit totally natural) behavior, a pet fox is best left in an outside enclosure. This enclosure will have to be large and secure with a proper shelter to ensure the safety and well-being of the animal.

Feeding a Red Fox

Unlike a truly domesticated pet, the red fox will not be satisfied with a kibble-based diet placed in a dog dish a couple of times a day. Being a wild animal at heart, the red fox needs to be allowed to forage and hunt for its nutritional intake. This means live mice, rabbits, birds, etc.

One fox owner states:

They need to be stimulated through the feeding process and be given an opportunity to forage for their food. This could mean hiding food for them to find or even building something that fox needs to rip apart in getting to their meal.” {excerpt link}.

Fox, (like our feline friends) cannot produce taurine in their bodies, so you will have to supplement them with this mineral. Good sources of taurine include chicken gizzards, livers, and hearts.

red fox lying in the garden with flowers

Handling a Red Fox

The red fox is still a wild animal, so handling one should be done with the utmost of care and caution. Never try to pet a red fox (even one that is living with humans), as we stated before, they can be choosy about their “friends.”

Just like dogs, the fox can produce a nasty bite, so always be sure when handling this type of animal to read its body language for cues (stiffened body stance, ears flattened, bearing teeth) all say “leave me alone!”

Fun Red Fox Facts

Check out these fun facts on the red fox (you don’t have to own one to appreciate all it has to offer).

  • Males are called “dogs” while the females are called “vixen.”
  • Females can have from one to 10 pups between March and May of each year.
  • They use dens only when they have young.
  • The sight, smell, and hearing of a fox are exceptional, which makes them excellent hunters. They can also hear a low-frequency sound, which helps them hunt for food.
  • Fox doesn’t just eat meat, they also dine on fruits, berries, and plants.
  • Foxes will hunt food and store it away for a later time.
  • This animal catches prey by leaping high into the air and coming straight down on top of it.
  • Fox can climb trees. They do this to rest on the lower branches.
red fox pet

The Red Fox & You

If you are thinking about getting a fox as a pet, then you should check with your city’s bylaws, as this act is illegal in some regions. If you have found an abandoned baby fox, it’s best to call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to come to its aid.

The red fox is a beautiful animal, but the complexity of keeping it in one’s home as a pet, may not be the wisest decision for those that take the responsibility of keeping this animal happy and healthy lightly.

Further reading:

  1. J David Henry. (June 17, 1996). Red fox: The Catlike Canine. Retrieved from
  2. UMN Duluth. Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
  3. Wildlife Online. I have taken in an injured fox cub and would like to keep it as a pet – is this illegal?


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