What Do Fennec Foxes Eat?

Written by Andrew Attilio
Published: December 26, 2021
Image Credit DONGSEUN YANG/Shutterstock.com
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The fennec fox (Vulpes zerda) is a small canine native to the Sahara Desert and surrounding areas. They are the smallest canine species and have abnormally large ears to help them deal with the desert heat. The fennec fox is the national animal of Algeria and their national football team is called “Les Fennecs.” The species is closely related to the Cape fox, the Blanford’s fox, and the Bat-eared fox.

Fennec foxes live in intricate underground burrows that are sometimes over 1,000 square feet in size with over a dozen entrances. Entire families will reside in one burrow, and connections are often made between the burrows of different families.

The fennec fox has a light-tan coat that blends in with the surrounding desert landscape. They weigh anywhere between two and four pounds, and are around 15 inches in length with an additional nine-inch tail. They reside in sand dunes and other desert regions without much vegetation.

The fennec fox is kept as an exotic pet around the world, although it is not domesticated and does not behave like a typical dog or cat. Many foxes are taken from their mothers in the wild and raised by humans in an attempt to tame them. Breeding programs also exist in some countries, including the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies the fennec fox as a “small wild/exotic canid.”

The Fennec Fox Diet

Fennec Fox

Tim Parkinson / Creative Commons

The fennec fox eats an omnivorous diet consisting of rodents, reptiles, plants, insects, and whatever else they can find. They seem especially attracted to grasshoppers, lizards, eggs, fruit, and locusts.

One collection of fox scat from Algeria was found to contain over 400 different types of food, including insects, dates, birds, mammals, and more.

They receive most of their moisture requirements from their food, but they will drink from a water source when available. They are usually found hunting alone, digging in the sand to find insects and other prey.

Fennec foxes are often kept as pets, in which case it is not always practical to feed them their natural diet. Close substitutes can be made, such as raw or cooked beef, lamb, chicken, and pork.

They can also eat seafood like clams, scallops, and crab, but it should be cooked first. Greens and vegetables can be added to their diet as needed, as well as fruit and eggs. Mealworms make for an excellent treat due to their high protein content, but should not be fed as a staple of their diet.

What Should Fennec Foxes Not Eat?

A close-up of a Fennec Fox (Vulpes Zerda) at Colchester Zoo, UK.

Millie Bond – Copyright A-Z Animals

Fennec foxes should never be fed dog food, cat food, grains, sugar, or any other processed foods. They should only consume natural, whole foods that simulate their wild diet, such as meat, insects, leaves, vegetables, and eggs.

When wild fennec foxes live near human civilization, they often find their way into trash bins and scavenge whatever they can find. This introduces poor foods into their diet, and also leads to them relying on humans for a food supply.

How Much Food Does a Fennec Fox Eat Per Day?

A fennec fox will eat the same amount of food as a similarly-sized dog or cat. And just like these pets, fennec foxes will begin to beg for extra food if allowed. It is recommended to keep foxes on a once-a-day feeding schedule to discourage gluttony.

Do Fennec Foxes Like Tuna?

Fennec foxes should never be fed canned tuna. They may enjoy the taste, but tuna contains high levels of mercury that can be dangerous for humans and potentially deadly for small animals. Other seafood can be substituted, such as octopus, crab, squid, clams, or scallops (all of which should be cooked before feeding).

Can Fennec Foxes Eat Dog Food?

A pet fennec fox enjoys a nap.

Chill Chillz/Shutterstock.com

Fennec foxes should not eat dog food. They should only be fed a natural, whole-food diet. Dog food is highly processed and can wreak havoc on the fox’s digestive system. When necessary, only the highest-quality of dog foods can be added sparingly into the diet of a fennec fox.

What Animals Eat Fennec Foxes?

Fennec foxes are able to evade most predators using their agility and underground burrows. However, many horned owl species prey on unsuspecting pups. Jackals and hyenas are also known to prey on the fennec fox.

Humans are a danger to fennec foxes as we continue to encroach on their habitat. In addition, they are often captured for the pet trade or poached for their fur.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the Lifespan of Fennec Foxes?

In the wild, the average lifespan for a fennec fox is 10 years. Captive-raised foxes can live longer—the maximum recorded age was a 14-year-old individual. Most females give birth once per year to a litter of up to four pups. The young foxes are weaned onto an adult diet after a few months.

Are Fennec Foxes Dangerous?

While fennec foxes are increasingly being kept as pets, they are still wild animals with an unpredictable nature. They are not typically aggressive towards humans. However, males can become territorial, especially during mating season. Females may attack if someone comes between her and her young.

Fennec foxes do not take to training or taming like a typical dog—their natural personality will show whether a pet owner likes it or not. They may prey on small pets like rodents or reptiles, but they generally get along well with cats and dogs.

Are Fennec Foxes Nocturnal?

Fennec foxes are crepuscular, not nocturnal. This means that they are most active during the twilight hours around sunset and sunrise. This pattern allows them to stay out of the heat during the day and avoid dangerous nocturnal predators like owls.

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