Meet Sterling, our marble fox.
I’m so excited to officially introduce you all to Sterling here on the blog! I’ve posted a few pictures (and restrained myself from bombarding you all with the fluffy cuteness that is our mini marble fox). And yes, you read that right, he is a fully domesticated fox.
I was getting tons of questions about him, probably because a pet fox isn’t that common. So that is what today’s post is all about. A real look at fox ownership and a little bit about Sterling. And P.S. you can follow him on Instagram @SterlingTheFurBaby and I always snap videos of him on Snapchat @chicstreetstyle.
Now, to the beginning of the story of how we ended up adopting a fox.
When Zach took me on our very first date, he even told me he wanted to get a pet fox. I remember being super intrigued and a bit confused because I had never heard of anyone having a fox as a pet before. Zach had done so much research and even knew what breeder he was going to go to. But things got put on hold because of our whirlwind romance followed by us getting our cat, Daisy.
Fast forward to a few weekends ago, we were down in Portland with our friends Sasha and Andres. We had talked to them about wanting a fox before and Sasha had mentioned that she always had wanted one too. She had owned sugar gliders before and was no stranger to exotic pets.
We were spending the night on their yacht in Downtown Portland. We all woke up and got off the boat in search of coffee. As we were sitting there sipping on some joe, all of these cute dogs kept walking by. Zach had made a comment that foxes were still cuter (in his opinion) and that sparked a discussion about how we all really wanted foxes.
We are all very all-or-nothing type people. When we want something, we just go after it. So Andres said, “If we are getting a fox, we are getting it this weekend.” Keep in mind, this was early Saturday morning and they had to be back by early in the morning on Monday to get their kids to school. We had a two hour boat ride to their house (which we managed to cut down to an hour and a half). Sasha and I drained our phone batteries making endless calls and extensive Google searches trying to find a breeder. All the ones we found were in Ohio, Indiana or Florida (where the laws are basically non-existent about exotics). We found one in Santa Barbara, but they were only selling grey foxes. I managed to get a hold of a lovely couple who breeds wolves and foxes in South Dakota and we reserved two, sight unseen and simply hopped in their car and started the (super draining and long) drive from Portland to South Dakota (non-stop!).
The 18 hour drive was insane. We were so tired from driving through the night (or rather having the guys drive while we tried to sleep). We arrived in South Dakota as 5 a.m., welcomed by a beautiful sunrise overcoming the Badlands and the adrenaline of meeting our kits (i.e. baby foxes) keeping us going. We really didn’t know how many options there would be, we just knew there was one for each of us.
We got there and Mark walked us through all of the cages. We met Sterling’s mom – a very small red fox – and his dad – an arctic fox. They then lead us into the building that held the kits. We walked in and saw 10 kits! A few were grey and most were marble. We knew we wanted a marble because of laws (I’ll get to that later) and I personally like the look of them better. Immediately, Zach picked out Sterling, because he was the calmest one inside of his cage. To be honest, the rest were so hyper they seemed borderline nuts. Mark handed Sterling to me and I immediately bonded with him. I couldn’t believe we were actually doing this, it had all been such a whirlwind. But Zach said, “say hi to our fox, Sterling.” We had decided on that name for a boy on the way there for a few reasons, but it was really appropriate because within minutes of having him, he popped a metal button off my leather jacket. He loves anything metal, so his name is oddly fitting.
We headed to Walmart and picked up the necessities (cages, milk replacer, a harness, leashes, a chew toy and cat food). Then we headed back with Sasha and I carrying out new kits in the backseat. We learned quickly that they love being swaddled and wrapped them up in “Fur-itos” on the drive back.
Did I mention how cute Sterling’s sister, Luna is? Her Instagram is @LunaMiaZorra for those of you who love foxes. She is adorable but she had a bit more spice to her from the beginning. She started her relationship with Andres by biting on his scruff (and therefore his face) and peeing on him. Welcome to the family initiation? They were both born on April Fools Day, so the big joke is that they are dogs – April fools!
On the drive there, Sasha and I had watched endless fox videos on YouTube (because it was “educational” and really cute) and read tons of articles on foxes so we knew what to expect. Now, this is all based on my experience, but what I read online and what Sterling is was pretty alike. I would say that we lucked out with him, because his temperament was pretty tame from the get-go (relative to other foxes).
As I had mentioned before, he is a “mini” marble fox. Now, as people have (kind of rudely) have pointed out on Instagram, there is no such thing as a “mini.” Both his mom and dad are abnormally small. Marble Foxes are 100% domesticated and do not occur in the wild. This is crucial to know because that detail is what makes them legal in many states, in comparison to a red, grey or arctic. Look up the laws for your state and get the proper permits. In most states they are considered an exotic, domesticated or not, so this is really important. If you don’t, your fox can get seized and euthanized. So do your research and prepare accordingly if you are considering getting a fox.
We adopted him at 4 weeks old, which in dog standards is very young. But for foxes, 4 weeks is when you can typically bring them home. You need to get them before 7 weeks because during 7-10 weeks is when they permanently bond to whoever they are with. They are born in the spring, so their is really only a small window of opportunity to adopt for the year, we just got really lucky. Because of the way their bodies are, they are very light. He only weighs about a pound and will be about 15 when he is full grown. Some foxes can be up to 30 pounds. He will be the size of a medium sized dog (or a bit smaller).
<< chewing on his favorite fox toy >>
What I personally (and many others) love about foxes is that they are kind of the best of both worlds. They can be litter trained like a cat, have a slightly independent nature to them and from above, look like a kitten when they are babies. They also eat cat food! Very easy for us. They are like a dog because they are so loyal, are incredibly smart, can learn commands, go for walks and I would say that their temperament is similar to a dog, with a few quirks.
Speaking of Quirks…
If you are expecting a golden retriever, you will be confused as heck. They are foxes after all. I vaguely knew what to expect thanks to 18 hours of research on the way there, but there are some quirks you have to experience to really understand.
First off, the noises. Our fox is very calm and quiet but many times, that is not the case. Foxes can make 160 different noises (yes, you read that right), and we’ve heard about 6 of those out of Sterling. If you are expecting a bark and meow, surprise – it’s not. They do this thing called geekering which is crazy to hear. They do it when they want to fight (like with his sister or when he gets too crazy with his fox stuffed animal that is the size of him). It sounds like a very loud chipmunk/clicking noise – thank god we’ve only heard it three times because it is kind of crazy. They can growl, laugh (no seriously, look at this video, it will make your day) and many more. The most common is a very quiet squeak/breathing in and out noise (that I think is adorable) when they get excited.
<< Laying on his absolute favorite Royal Scout & Co. throw blanket >>
This is one thing I really wasn’t prepared for. Just like skunks, they have the same gland that they let smells go when they are stressed. It can be intense but once Sterling got used to us and the environment (3 days) he only does it when he is scared or surprised. Smells a bit like rotten eggs.
To control it, we have him sleep in a kennel with a towel that we wash every other night. We also give him baths almost every day with a special flea and tick shampoo with oatmeal so it doesn’t irritate his skin (plus, it smells so good!). They are literally like babies and many people opt to put their kits in diapers until they are litter trained. We’ve been lucky in that department but give him baths (because he doesn’t know how to clean himself yet. We also use a fair amount of Febreeze.
<< eating out of the chicest Lazy Bonezz food bowl (Daisy has one in black) only $29! >>
Food and Diet
About food. They are crazy territorial. When they are born, they are separated from their Mother and bottle-fed right away. This helps to domesticate them. Everything I read said they should eat dog food, but the breeder assured us the dog food are filled with fillers and their foxes wouldn’t touch them. Cat food it was. We just put some water and milk replacer until his stomach can handle hard food. When he’s older, we can feed him carrots and blueberries too. When they are kits, you can actually tell when they have just eaten because they puff up like pears (it’s pretty funny!). This is one of the quirks that makes you realize it is indeed a fox. You can not touch them while they are eating or hand feed them (unless you feel like loosing some blood). They will growl if you try and pet them while they are inhaling their food. Just don’t do it, it’s nature more than nurture.
Like many baby animals, they are what Zach and I call “fluffy and sharp.” They can not retract their claws, so you have to be careful. If Sterling decides to run across our laps and I’m exposing some skin (like wearing a dress) – prepare to cringe. They learn how to control it as they get older, but for now, it’s preventative measures to make sure he doesn’t run across us. Like puppies, their teeth are sharp. When they are as young as Sterling, they don’t know how hard is too hard – just like puppies. You have to train them and let out a “yelp” just like another fox would if they bit to hard. Sterling learned this within a few days.
They are SO playful and happy. I’ve never seen anything like it. I could compare it to the enthusiasm to a dolphin, how they open their mouths and just smile. You can really see it in this video I posted of Sterling. They are genuinely so sweet, loyal and happy creatures. Also, they are so soft, much softer than any puppy. I would compare their fur to a bunny.
They are the cuddliest creature I have ever encountered, much more than any dog or cat. They naturally like to burrow, so Sterling loves to cuddle into our necks and law his head over our shoulder. But when they want to explore, you have to let them (they will squirm, you will get clawed and it’s bad news). I actually got scratched a lot in the first 5 minutes of having him because I wasn’t holding him close enough. They need to feel your warmth and contact in order to feel comfortable when held. On the flip side, they are very intelligent and are innately curious. They will get into everything because they want to learn. They need to be mentally stimulated almost constantly. This leads me to my next point…
<< In his Lazy Bonezz pet carrier >>
I truly do not believe that you can own a fox with a 9-to-5 job or without an outdoor inclosure. You need one or the other. We live in the city and we are with Sterling 24/7 because we work from home and when we have photo shoots, we just bring him with. They crave human affection and they really don’t do well alone. I would never have gotten a fox if I would be working a typical job.
That leads me to the next point, at their core, they are a fox and originate from a wild animal. You need to have all hands on deck, so to speak. Touching, holding and interacting with them constantly is the key to getting the tame and cuddly fox you want. I can compare it to barn cats. My Grandma used to have banshee barn cats that we literally used to use gloves to even get close to. You would have to work with them, touching and petting them constantly to train them. I would say that barn cats are even worse than foxes, but this is just my experience. The key is being stern, consistent and being super happy when they do something right and very upset when they do things wrong. They are very sensitive to human emotions. You simply can’t do that with a crazy work schedule. He travels really well so we will just take him with us most likely (or drop Sterling off with our friends who also have a fox). For those of you who can commit to this, they are outstanding pets.
Like I mentioned before, they are extremely smart and curious, which can make them easy to train. They key word is can. Remember how I was saying they are slightly independent like a cat? This is where it shows. If they want to, they can learn a command in 10 minutes. If they don’t want to, it can take 10 days.
How are they with other animals?
I was really nervous about this because Daisy (our 1.5 year old cat) never did well with other animals. I had no idea how it would go. In general, foxes are extremely sociable animals and get along great with others (with the exception of birds and lizards). It’s just about if the other animal will get along with the fox. We kept sterling in his travel cage and let Daisy sniff and figure out what Sterling was before letting him out. We always watch them when they are together, just because I read one horror story that a fox went crazy after a few months and severely injured a cat. I have no idea on the backstory of that one but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Just recently, we let them stay out alone together when we quickly went out to take a set of blog pictures because they were both sleeping. It was 100% fine. Sterling at first didn’t even acknowledge the cat and literally it was like she wasn’t even there. Daisy had a period of two days where she would hiss at Sterling (because he would cut her off or get too close), but that passed quick. Now they are buddies. They sleep in the same area, Daisy rubs her head against Sterling’s and Sterling will even chase her tail and they play.
There are an abundance of video evidence on the internet that foxes get along with dogs (both big and small) and cats just fine. Based on my research, it is better to have the cat or dog first and then get the fox, not the other way around.
I have pretty bad allergies and I have zero problems. Daisy is a hypoallergenic cat so no problems there either. I have yet to come across a person who is allergic to Sterling (and I have tons of friends who are very allergic to cats and dogs).
Foxes really haven’t been domesticated for long enough for humans to become allergic to them. But when in doubt, ask a breeder if you can have some hair to test out.
It is important that you find a vet that is willing to work on an exotic animal and has experience with it. According to our breeder, they get the same shots as dogs. That being said, unlike dogs, if your fox bites someone, there are rarely second chances. People are quick to say they are wild animals and you can kiss your pet fox goodbye. There are a lot of sad stories about this scenario on the Internet and that’s an important thing to keep in mind and consider.
They are fast. You should really get them micro-chipped, but if they run away (unless they are very bonded to you and can find you), they are basically gone. If someone finds it and thinks it’s wild, they will put it down immediately.
Wild vs Domestic
There are many people in the dark corners of the internet who are quick to say that foxes belong in the wild and it’s not right to keep them as pets. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but here are the facts. In the wild, foxes live to be 4-5 years old and in captivity, they live from 14-20 years. Marble foxes do not occur naturally in the wild and Sterling could not survive due to his white coloring making him susceptible to prey. Even though they are “wild” (even though Sterling is 7 generations domesticated), foxes crave human attention. Foxes actually cause a lot of damage to ecosystems (especially in Australia). By domesticating some as pets, you are helping certain ecological systems to maintain balance.
In conclusion, we absolutely adore Sterling. For us, the pros certainly out weigh the cons. His quirks are so adorable to us and we literally get stopped everywhere we go because yes, they are that cute. But, he can be a handful (like many puppies can be). If you are considering a fox, make sure it is legal for you to have one based on your state, make sure you have enough time to devote to a fox and do your research so you know what you are in for! I hope this helps all of your questions and curiosities!
To keep up with Sterling, follow him on Instagram @SterlingTheFurBaby and me on Snapchat (because I can’t help myself with videos and pictures of him) @chicstreetstyle.
As always, thank you for reading.