Fennec foxes are amazing animals, but not many people know what they eat. Pet owners might feed their fennec fox cat food and dog food without knowing how the nutritional content of these foods impacts fennec fox health.
Fennec foxes eat insects, small rodents, lizards, birds and birds’ eggs. They hunt at night, and are 90% carnivorous, but supplement their meaty diet with foraged roots and fruits, meaning they are technically omnivores.
Fennec foxes are instantly recognisable for their large and distinctive ears. But they are more than just a set of hearing aids! The fennec fox is the world’s smallest fox. Its thick fur keeps it warm during chill desert nights, and protects it from excess heat during the day. Its large ears also help to regulate body temperature.
Fennec foxes are not the most common household pets, but they are surprisingly popular. If you are wondering whether you can feed regular dog food and cat food to your pet fennec fox, you have come to the right place.
Fennec fox diet in the wild
Fennec foxes are opportunistic hunters and foragers. This means they will eat whatever they can get their hands – or paws – on. They hunt at night, using their large ears and sensitive noses to sniff out their next meal. They eat about 90% animal, 10% vegetable, which means that technically they are omnivores.
Because they are very small, fennec foxes are undetectable to smaller animals living underneath the desert’s sandy surface. Treading lightly, they listen out for any underground rustling, and dig with all four feet as soon as they hear something.
What is available to them in their habitat?
- Fennec foxes forage for fruits, roots and leaves. These help fennec foxes to stay hydrated in the hot, dry desert landscapes they call home. In dry habitats, fruits and roots can provide essential water that is otherwise scarce.
- Fennec foxes hunt small and small-to-medium sized desert-dwelling animals, such as rodents, lizards, insects, birds and birds’ eggs.
- The fennec fox is not a fussy eater. It cannot afford to be in its harsh desert habitat. It will eat just about anything it can get its jaws around.
- Fennec foxes have been known to catch and kill prey larger than themselves, for example, fully grown rabbits.
It can be hard to match this diet in captivity. For this reason, most owners feed their pet fennec foxes on what is known as a ‘commercial wild canid diet’. Many zoos use this optimal diet as a basis for all their omniverous, doglike wild mammals – of which the fennec fox is one.
It is especially important to ensure that a fennec fox’s diet contains adequate levels of taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is key for many metabolic processes in the body. Owing to its high metabolism, the fennec fox requires a higher taurine concentration than many other animals.
Can fennec foxes eat dog food?
If you have a fennec fox as a pet like I do, you must have definitely tried including dog food in your fennec fox’s diet. And they absolutely loved it.
In fact, commercial dog foods are suitable for fennec foxes – whether it is kibble or canned – as long as they have good ingredients and are primarily meat. But do check in with your veterinarian on the right type and amounts for your fennec fox.
Kibble, or dry pelleted dog food, often contains a proportion of grain or some other binder. This reduces the taurine count for the dog food, so make sure to check the ingredients before you buy a big bag.
If a canned dog food is too expensive, you can buy supplementary bags of taurine. Simply adding a small amount of taurine to your fennec fox’s food mix will keep it fit and healthy.
Can fennec foxes eat cat food?
Fennec foxes can eat cat food, too. If you include cat food in your fennec fox’s diet, be sure to rotate the meats. Give your pet fox a range of meats and styles, for example, raw, dry and canned. Here are a few cat food brands you can try:
- Prairie (Nature’s Variety): This is available as dried, frozen raw and canned. It is rich in taurine and is therefore a great base food for your fennec fox.
- Azmira: Naturally rich in vitamins and good quality.
- Mazuri Wild Feline: This is also especially rich in taurine, making it ideal for fennec foxes.
- Wellness: This brand has a special formula that contains 8% fat and 2% taurine. Its ingredients include salmon meal, herring meal, menhaden fishmeal, deboned turkey and straight-up salmon. It has zero artificial preservatives, so don’t buy huge stocks of it, but your fennec fox will love it!
What other foods are suitable for fennec foxes?
Fennec foxes eat all kinds of foods. Here is a non-exhaustive list of other meats you can feed to your fennec fox. You can alternate between these and dog-/cat food, or mix them in together.
- Mice and pinky mice
- Raw lamb muscle
- Raw lamb kidney
- Raw pork muscle
- Raw pork liver
- Raw chicken muscle
- Raw beef muscle
- Raw beef kidney
- Raw codfish
- Raw oysters
- Raw clams
- Cooked scallops
- Cooked moule (mussels)
- Cooked octopus
- Cooked squid
- Cooked tone
- Cooked crab
- Pasteurised milk
Of course, some of these are cheaper and more readily available than others. See how many you can fit into your fennec fox’s diet!
Is there anything you shouldn’t feed to a fennec fox?
Veterinarians warn canine owners against feeding grapes to their pets. Dogs often develop kidney issues from eating too many grapes. So it is best to avoid those.
How often do fennec foxes eat?
Twice a day, though you should follow your veterinarian’s recommendations on this. You can feed your fennec fox by simply putting food in a bowl. Or, to make things a bit more fun, hide some tasty morsels in a ‘treat puzzle’ to give your pet some mental enrichment. Fennec foxes are mentally agile, so rewarding puzzles go a long way to fulfilling their desire for stimulation.
A bowl of clean water is essential, too.
How much do fennec foxes eat a day?
If you opt for an insect and rodent-based diet, you should feed your fennec fox several dozen mealworms, crickets silkworms, or other insects per day. Add a chicken egg for good measure, and your fennec fox should easily have enough sustenance.
Add a couple of heaped teaspoons full of vegetables (frozen mixed vegetables, fresh broccoli, tiny tomatoes, or whatever else you have in the cupboard) per day in order to provide a broad nutritional spectrum. A smattering of treats will be welcome, too!
Fennec foxes are awesome animals and make great pets. They are sociable and agile, and can bond well with dogs. You can feed your fennec fox a diet that includes both dog and cat food, as long as it is rich in taurine and primarily meat-based. A variety of roots and vegetables can supplement your fennec fox’s diet. Avoid grapes, and you should have a happy, healthy fennec fox.
Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below. Share this with your friends, and happy pet keeping.