Foxes are part of the canine family along with other animals such as dogs, wolves and coyotes. Foxes therefore share similarities with dogs, and so it is no surprise that some people try and domesticate them and make them ‘pets’. The similarity foxes don’t share with dogs is that foxes remain wild animals, where dogs are domesticated.
Despite the globally divided opinion on what can and can’t be a pet, which will differ based on culture, we believe wild animals should be left wild, foxes included.
Foxes living in urban areas have become noticeably tamer, due to increased human interaction. 'Like early dogs, urban foxes would need to overcome their fear of humans to get close enough to eat our trash. And that may have been the spark that led to a host of other biological changes'.
Research reveals that domestication of animals such as foxes can happen naturally over time from small things like human interaction. This is even without the involvement of humans feeding them.
In an article in the Somerset Live, a fox expert states;
"The main issue with regards to feeding foxes is them becoming dependent on you for food. If for whatever reason you have to stop – i.e. you move house, or go on holiday, the fox which has until then been used to being fed daily, suddenly has its regular food supply cut short and can therefore struggle.”
Wild animals source their own food. So, providing these wild animals with their source of food by leaving out leftovers not only removes that element of being ‘wild’ but can also lead to dependence, which can be dangerous for a fox's livelihood, as the fox expert suggests.
Subsequently, feeding foxes should be kept to a sporadic and minimal amount, rather than a regular meal which will create a relationship of dependency. Some would argue it is ‘cruel to be kind’ in this instance, as foxes are being put in a sort of limbo being half-wild half-domesticated.
The RSPCA does not advise keeping foxes as pets. They report that ‘even the most experienced fox experts have had difficulty in keeping adult foxes successfully in captivity as they have very specific needs. Rescued fox cubs can be reared and returned to the wild, but they need to be reared in a way that doesn’t habituate them to people, otherwise they would not be able to fend for themselves or may run into trouble when released.’
In some situations, in recent years, we have seen foxes domesticated because of being orphaned or abandoned, some of these returned to the wild and some remaining domesticated. Once a young fox cub has been separated from its mother, although it is advised to return it to the wild, it can sometimes be difficult for it to be reintroduced into the wild. Because of this there have been a few stories of foxes being adopted by humans. An example of this is The Story of the Real Life Fox and the Hound.
Marley, a young fox cub, was found alone and in distress; she had been either orphaned or abandoned. She wasn’t in a good state, covered in ticks and throwing up worms. If she had been found just 15 minutes later, it’s believed she wouldn’t have made it. Pauline was called and took her home to nurse her back to health. Marly the fox has now become a permanent member of her family, living alongside other dogs. Pauline states;
“It is important to emphasise that foxes are wild animals. In this case, Marley was so young and needed to be on medication for such a long time that she wasn’t able to be released. If she went back into the wild now there is no way she would survive. I definitely don’t think foxes should be pets. I don’t want people to see that I have a fox and think they should do the same.”
Marley is a key example of an exception when it comes to domesticating foxes. It’s without doubt that when tame, these creatures will share similarities with dogs which makes them desirable to some, but that doesn’t mean they should become pets.
Fox facts can be found on our website here.