How Long Do Fennec Foxes Live?

Fennec foxes are adorable creatures with 6-inch high-standing ears- the smallest fox in the world with some of the largest ears you will see. While these ears help them to survive, you might be curious about what other components come into play for the lifespan of a Fennec Fox.

Fennec foxes live up to 14 years in captivity (ownership and proper care of humans), yet their life expectancy decreases in the wild coming in at an expected 10 years. Captivity helps with proper nutrition, mental and physical stimulation, access to medical care, and easier survival from predators.

While it is true that a Fennec fox’s lifespan is expected to be greater when in captivity, there are many components that come into effect in terms of the quality of care you provide having a direct effect on the quality of life and longevity of your Fennec fox. Knowing this, let’s take a closer look at some of these factors for giving your Fennec Fox a high-quality and long life. 

© Image by Mark Dumont on Flickr

Factors that Contribute to the Lifespan of a Fennec Fox

It is no coincidence that a Fennec fox that is living in the proper care of a human will experience a greater life expectancy than a Fennec fox in the wild. Still, this does not mean that you can just bring a Fennec fox into any environment and expect it to adapt automatically. To ensure a high-quality life and a longer lifespan for your Fennec fox, you need to ensure proper care for your exotic pet.

There are many factors that contribute to the lifespan of a Fennec fox, particularly in comparing the longer lifespan (14 years) of a Fennec fox in captivity versus in the wild (10 years). These factors include access to basic necessities (food, water, shelter), advanced components (like medical care, supplements, toys), limited nearby predators, and more.

This means that if you are planning on bringing a Fennec fox into your home, it is highly expected that you will have the means to provide these types of accommodations to help your pet to receive what it needs not only to survive but to thrive. And, with Fennec foxes being so irresistibly cute, you will want to keep your pet around for as long as possible- made much more realistic through access to proper care.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these factors and how you can incorporate them into helping to lengthen a Fennec fox’s lifespan.

© Image by Jungyeon Min from Pixabay

Food (Limited Search Requirements for Prey)

One of the major reasons that a Fennec fox can survive for longer in captivity than in the wild is that it has food readily available to it. In the wild, a Fennec fox uses its large ears not only to stay warm (it loses a lot of heat through its ears) but to hear the movement of prey underground. This can include insects to small rodents that are burrowing in the desert.

Contrarily, in captivity (whether with a rescue organization or as your exotic pet), the Fennec fox will not have to search for its own prey because it will likely be (or at least should be) provided for it. This means that not only will the Fennec fox not have to lose energy on the hunt, but it can rest assured that its next meal is coming and that it will receive all of the caloric intake required to maintain its 1-3lb weight.

Another point with this to consider is that most Fennec foxes in the wild live in colonies of up to 10 individual Fennec foxes, so there is always competition for food. Even though these animals are known to live in “families” (as in the mates and their litters typically stick together), they are still fighting for their lives through survival instincts, so if the food in the area is scarce, then they might not make it.

Contrarily, in captivity, most Fennec foxes are not in colonies of these numbers- at least not in your home- and even if they are, the rescuers or caretakers are providing adequate nutrition for each animal leaving little need for food competition among the group.

Finally, not only will the Fennec fox have adequate nutrition and not need to compete with its colony members, but when you keep a Fennec fox as an exotic pet, the animal will not have to relocate to access enough food. Instead, your pet will always know that the land it resides on will always have enough. This is not always the case in the wild, hence why the availability of food plays such a pivotal role in the lifespan of the Fennec fox. 

© wildlifesaving

Water

Not only will your Fennec fox have access to food much more readily available in captivity than in the wild, but the same will be true for water. Interestingly, though, you will likely find that your Fennec fox does not need a lot of water. 

In the wild, this animal is living in the desert, so relying on water has been eliminated from a survival requirement. Instead, the Fennec fox derives much (if not all) of its hydration from the fruits and vegetation that it consumes. Similarly, in captivity, the Fennec fox will likely do the same from the fruits and veggies that you provide for him or her. 

Still, you can (and should) provide a small bowl of water just in case your exotic pet is not receiving enough hydration from the food itself. Either way, you can rest assured that your Fennec fox’s lifespan will be greater in captivity with consistent access to adequate food and hydration.

Shelter

When you consider the shelter that a Fennec fox has in the wild, you really can only consider the shelter that the animal creates for itself. With the ability to burrow up to 20 feet, this creature is able to escape predators as well as the heat of the Sahara. Still, its shelter is limited considering the constant exposure that the Fennec fox has to fight off.

Alternatively, a Fennec fox in captivity will have shelter from harsh weather conditions as well as predators. Even more, this animal will have the ability to maintain its own environment and become less of a natural prey (considering its small size) as it resides in an enclosure. Increased access to consistent shelter helps to increase the life of a Fennec fox.

Medical Care and Supplements

Medical care is something that a Fennec fox in the wild simply does not receive. However, in captivity, an exotic pet owner or rescuer will take the Fennec fox to regular exotic vet appointments to receive vaccinations in regularity as well as to receive attention for any other medical concerns that the pet might demonstrate having.

This is simply unheard of in the wild. Because of medical care, from minor to major interventions, a Fennec fox’s lifespan is greatly increased. This can even be said about giving the animal supplements if it is in need of a particular nutritional aspect to help increase its lifespan. With regular appointments attended and the option to seek emergency exotic veterinary care, the Fennec fox gains a better shot at a longer life.

© greyloch on Flickr

Physical and Mental Stimulation

There are several components that are going to help a Fennec fox to survive, and there are more that are going to go into giving this exotic animal a high-quality life. The provision of physical and mental stimulation is going to keep this animal on its toes, and this will also help to keep your exotic pet healthy both mentally and physically.

Consequently, you will find that your pet demonstrates better behavior when its mental and physical stimulation needs are adequately quenched. In the wild, a Fennec fox would never be limited in terms of physical stimulation. It can roam about freely (as long as it keeps its eyes and ears open for predators). In captivity, though, you will need to be mindful that you are giving your Fennec fox enough physical exercise to keep its body moving.

Along with this, Fennec foxes will receive mental stimulation in the wild as they hunt down their prey and communicate (and play) with other Fennec foxes in their colony. However, in captivity, you will need to ensure that you are playing with your pet. This can be particularly difficult when your nocturnal Fennec fox is ready to start playing as you are ready to hit the hay. 

Still, it is important that if you are not around, your pet can still have toys or other supplemental equipment that can keep it entertained. If not, you may find that your pet becomes incredibly unhappy and lets out a loud shrieking or barking sound. With these factors in mind, you will need to input a bit more effort for a Fennec fox in captivity than you would for one in the wild. 

Limited Nearby Predators

Finally, the limitation of nearby predators is a huge component that factors on the lifespan of a Fennec fox. In the wild, tiny (1-3lb) Fennec foxes are apt at dodging predators, yet this does not mean that it always occurs. Rather, this is the most common way that a Fennec fox will perish considering the nature of these events.

However, in captivity, the Fennec fox is protected from natural predators because the exotic pet is housed in an enclosed environment that outside predators cannot enter into. Of course, this is why you will need to provide close supervision if you permit your Fennec fox to remain in an outdoor enclosure without a covering. 

Regardless, through the limitation of the Fennec fox’s natural predators, the animal naturally stands a chance at a longer life.

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