Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Quick Guide to Traveling with Foxes

As a companion post to the one before, I'd like to share my tips and advice on how to travel with a fox.
Though foxes probably aren't going to travel as often as a dog in a car, you'll need to know how to do it should you be picking your fox up, taking them to the vet or any other place.

While I have only traveled with a fox twice, this is what has worked for me in my experience.

Materials I recommend bringing:

  • Plenty of newspapers or pee-pads
    • Pee-pads are better. Newspapers will get wet, shredded and will not absorb as much.
  • Welder's gloves 
    • Even if your fox is typically well-behaved, they can turn ill-tempered when inside a crate. The last thing you'd want is an aggressive fox and no way to change their food or water without getting bit. This is also helpful if bringing home a scared kit. You want to want to use these instead of correcting them in the middle of a stressful trip for biting is adding on even more unnecessary stress.
  • Leash and harness
    • No brainer; though I recommend putting on the harness before putting the fox in a crate. Miehiera struggles normally when putting on the harness; under stress I imagine she'd be a lot worse, and it'd also be terrible if a fox were to squirm away and become lost.
  • Pet safe air freshener
    • If traveling in a car, at your pit stops it can be nice to spray down the car while the fox is not in it.
  • Paper towels
    • For cleaning.
  • Safe cleaner
    • I recommend Nature's Miracle. Very effective stuff and safe for animals.
  • Food and bowls
  • Crate 
    • Plastic ones that are well-covered and ventilated work the best. Your fox can see out less and no one can see in as well, which should make them feel more secure. For larger foxes medium or large dog crates, but for a fennec fox a small crate could work for short distances. If traveling a long way, increase crate size and bring a second crate to move your fox into while you clean their 'main' crate.
  • Treats
    • To fill your kong with as well, as well as to use to help calm your fox down when stopping. Bring her favorite kind and preferably something you can feed them through the bars of a crate.
  • 1 gallon of cold water
  • A water bottle
    • The ones for ferrets/rabbits/etc. should work. You can attach these to the front of the crate. This prevents messes from your fox spilling their dishes and will help ensure your fox has water at all times without having to make frequent pit stops.
  • Kong or something to chew on
    • A life saver; will keep your fox entertained, distracted, and will help associate travelling = treats!
  • Hand sanitizer
    • Chances are you're going to be dealing with a fox who will pee and poop, and you're going to have to be handling that. This way you can keep your hands clean without having to run to the bathroom to wash all the time.
  • Pooper scooper and plastic bags
    • Be courteous if you're going to be letting your fox relieve itself in the grass. Clean up after them.
  • Bed sheet
    • Bring one with you if you are travelling with your fox in the bed of a truck. This way you can minimize how much someone can see in and less your fox can see out, reducing stress. I would also rub yourself with it to get your scent on it.
  • A traveling buddy
    • I would never travel alone with a fox. You're going to need someone who can hold your fox if you're cleaning, to act as a safe guard in case your fox wiggles out of your arms, and overall someone to just help you out.
  • Copies of your fox's health records, receipts, ownership transfer, etc.
    • Always have a paper trail for your fox, and always have it with you when travelling. This way if you are ever approached by law enforcement, you have proof that the fox is legally kept. Even if you're only travelling a short distance, you never know when you will be approached by law enforcement
  • Collar with tags
    • In worst case scenario, your fox somehow gets away from you while travelling, you want some sort of identification to let people know that your fox is a pet and not a wild animal. Therefore, identification is especially important for foxes.
  • An SUV or Truck
    • While you can travel in a car, it is pitiful as it's cramped and smelly. I prefer an SUV as you are more aware of your fox's well-being, can keep checks in temperature and ventilation and minimize the chance of your fox escaping or being stolen, and being exposed to the public eye. The downside is that it can get smelly in an SUV. In a truck, while you will have more ventilation, you will have less control of the elements and the condition of your fox.
  • Towels or other sort of bedding
    • Make your fox cozy. You wouldn't want to lay down on just a pee-pad would you? Towels are okay, an old shirt will comfort your fox, and a cat tower while nice, I would avoid as they can topple and squish your fox.
Some tips for travelling with a fox:
  • Keep your travelling time down to a minimum. Look for vets nearby. If you must pick up your fox from a breeder more than five hours away, a better option would be shipping. 
  • Try to avoid unnecessary stops. Get gas, food, and stop at the store before going on a trip.
  • When going for the long haul, make a pit stop every hour to check on your fox, make sure they have food, water, are not overheating  and clean out their cage if it has become soiled.
  • When making pit stops, avoid extremely public places such as restaurants, stores, gas stations etc. Look instead for rest areas or the parking lot of nature parks.
  • Make it fun! Talk to your fox when you can, feed them tons of treats, bring kongs and stuff to chew on. Make this as much as a positive experience as you can.
  • Never leave your fox unsupervised in a car, especially on hot or cold days. 
  • If approached by law enforcement, be cool, don't argue or make a fuss. Make sure you have your fox's paper trail handy.
  • If crossing state lines, always check to make sure that foxes are legal where you are travelling. Even if they are and you're going to be staying for awhile, call ahead and see how long you can stay before you're required to have a permit or license. If you are just passing through states that they aren't legal, call ahead as well to be aware of their polices and how long you can be in the state with the animal.
  • Even if you're only going to be travelling in-state, check city and town ordinances of where you will be going. While your fox might be legal in your state, they could easily be illegal in another town. 
  • Keep your fox's shots, worms and health as up to date as possible.
  • Have the number of the nearest emergency exotic veterinarian on hand if you can.
  • Keep your car well ventilated.
  • While your fox might go in a litter box, a litter box can get messy fast if it is tipped. I would only bring one if you have a large crate and a way to secure it.
  • Avoid feeding your pet while the car is moving, as well as right before you leave. This will prevent car sickness and your fox from going in the crate. 
  • When you arrive, give your fox time to adjust, settle down before you pull them out of the crate.

That's all for now folks, I hope that will help any prospective owners as well as current owners better understand what it's like travelling with a fox. 

Ta-ta for now!

Day 37: The Travelling Fox

Yesterday, Miehiera, my father and I all went on a little trip. This is the first time I have traveled with Miehiera since I picked her up.

We were going to my Grandmother's house (I was under the impression we were merely going to help her in her garden for a few hours...) and I remembered that Miehiera was due for her second vaccination shot. I pointed this out to my dad but said it could wait, though my dad brought up the suggestion,

"Why don't we take her with us?"

I didn't see a problem. At first we packed into our little car with a bag of all sorts of stuff we would need, but not even being in the crate and in the car for more than a few minutes. Miehiera promptly urinates, defecates, dumps her water bowl and begins growling and biting. This level of aggression I hadn't seen since the first week I got her.

My dad decided he didn't want to drive one hour to my Grandma's with a stinky, angry fox, so we took the truck instead. We put her in a large plastic crate meant for medium sized dogs and placed it in the bed of the truck, held down with bungee cords.

Our first (unexpected) stop before we left town was the gas station. I was not very happy with this as I try to avoid public contact when I have her, especially when she was as agitated as she was.
We had about three people come up to us.

"Oooh, what kind of dog is that?" One lady asked. I hesitated, and was very tempted to answer that she was a rare breed of spitz. My dad chimes in, "It's not a dog, it's a fox."
"Oh, she's cute."

Two guys came up and went, "What the heck is that?" Then before I could respond my dad sang "A fox~!"
I had to sit there and talk to these guys while my dad went into the gas station to get something to drink. He took about 10 minutes to get two sodas and red bull.

These guys, though nice, curios and thought she was beautiful, would stick their fingers and face near her cage, which I gently pushed away.

"I wouldn't recommend that, she's usually very sweet but doesn't like being inside small cages. She might bite." I'm shy, but I gently kept them away whenever they did what they did, as Miehiera was growling and snapping at even us. I was concerned about someone calling the police while I sat there for 10 minutes, answering questions and standing in front of our license plate (yes, I'm very paranoid. )
It's not like Miehiera is illegal - she's perfectly legal, but I've heard all too often of legal animals being confiscated. Miehiera is somewhat aggressive towards people she doesn't know, even more so in her crate, so the last thing I'd want is her to get confiscated, then bite someone and be destroyed for rabies testing.

Though, the guys explained that they had a pet raccoon (taken from the wild, far more illegal than a captive bred arctic fox. )

Once my dad -finally- came outside ("They overcharged me on the red bulls!"), we headed over to Tractor Supply Co., where I buy Miehiera's vaccines and wormer. TSC is not as in the public eye as a busy gas station at an intersection. Just my luck, my dad bumps into his co-workers and shows off my baby.

I go inside while my dad stays outside with Miehiera, and buy her vaccine as well as a water bottle meant for rabbits, as she kept spilling her water. It was fairly hot and I didn't want her to dehydrate.

Miehiera attacked the water bottle savagely, growling and gnawing it. She eventually realized it gave her water.

There were no more stops until I arrived at my Grandma's house. At that time it was just my Grandma, all who I had expected it to be, but soon people started to show up. And more. And more. Eventually there were about 10 people.

I left Miehiera in the bed of the truck for a few minutes, feeding her some treats. At this point she had calmed down quite a bit, no longer growling but I was not going to risk my fingers. I cooed gently to her, until my three rather rude uncles came up and started acting more obnoxious than the guys at the gas station, poking their hands and faces by her cage. I was ready and like before, gently pushed them away.

I pulled Miehiera's cage out and set it on the ground, preparing to get it out, but no sooner did my two little cousins, 4 and 2, come running up and trying to pet her. I gently told them no, as she could bite them. I turned my back to get my gloves and my 2 year old cousin was squatting by the cage and reaching towards it, and I quickly had to move him away.

At this point, I was not pleased with my dad. I thought this was just going to be my Grandma, him and I, but this was quickly turning to a party, which I was not ready for and if I had known, I would have not brought Miehiera.

Not. Pleased. At all.

I took Miehiera out (she bit through my Welder's glove). Once she was out of the cage and in my arms she calmed down significantly.
From that point on, I ran around with Miehiera on my grandma's property (she lives out in the middle of no where). I was not too concerned about worms or her picking up something as all her cats are wormed, as well as her dogs wormed and UTD on their shots. My grandma loves her animals.
Miehiera also got her shot, which I was again proud of how well she took it, though she doesn't care much for my grandma.

Miehiera also, based on her behavior from interacting with various people at the party (I'm surprised at how curious she was; she wanted to come say hello to everyone and nibble their toes, but my grandma's mean cocker spaniel was having none of it.), seems to like women significantly more than she likes men. She loves me, tolerates my grandma, gets along with my best friend, mother and didn't growl at any of the women who approached her the entire trip (except for me, lol, but then again I was the only one who let me pet her), and she took quite a liking to my cousin, 9 years old and terrific with animals.

Though my cousin was too scared to pet her, though I assured her Miehiera probably wouldn't bite at that point, as she was behaving, licking my hand, playing and had her eyes shining and ears perked the entire time after she was taken out of her crate. Miehiera constantly tried to follow her around, though it might have been because she had her toes exposed because she was wearing sandals. Either way, it was cute.

The highlight of Miehiera's day was the giant pile of sand and gravel that my Grandma had in her yard. My Grandma didn't mind her playing in it at all, and Miehiera had a blast, digging in it, rolling in it, laying in it, playing with me and pouncing at imaginary mice in the sand. She was out and playing from 5:30 until the sun went down at about 10 (with the exception of when we all ate; I put her up and put her away in my grandma's camper so that the bugs wouldn't bite her and no one would bother her while she ate.)

Other than being grumpy when we started and hating the crate, Miehiera behaved beautifully, having an interest in everyone, playing, being sweet and overall even though I didn't think Miehiera was ready for a large social event, she did better than I thought she would have.

I took tons of pictures, those most came out blurry as a result of Miehiera constantly being on the move and the camera's own crappiness. Got a few good ones though. c:

Watching all my family, wanting to come and join them. :'(

Watching the cats.

Pure elegance.

Queen of the Hill!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 32: Catching Up

Today is one month to the day I brought Miehiera home.
I almost forgot, and I can't believe it has been a month since she has come into my home and left her pawprints on my heart forever.

The first two weeks were not a fun time for Miehiera and I. She was undoubtedly scared and stressed, giving me some nasty bites. I got so worried that she was never going to bond to me. I called my breeder, Dave, and he offered to help work with her or take her back if she refused to calm down, as well as replace her or refund my money.

Though Dave's offer was nice, I opted to continue working with Miehiera. Shortly after I talked with Dave, and consulting about him with the idea of moving her outside, I moved Miehiera into a small outdoor enclosure on my back porch one night.

Her outdoor setup.

Miehiera's grumpy face.

She was still not happy with me, but was fascinated by my dogs, who she had only met Jack once, and promptly screamed at him. This time, she had a stare-down with my dog Jack. Every time I went to check on her that night, Jack and her were staring each other down, refusing to rip their eyes away. I was quite concerned that Jack was trying to dominate her, but allowed them to continue their antics.

The epic staring contest.

The next day, I allowed Jack and Miehiera to meet for the first time. I was genuinely scared that Miehiera and Jack would be aggressive and despise each other, but it turns out I've discovered a real life fox and the hound.

Getting a drink after lots of romping.

I have to say, my dog is a miracle worker. That, and moving her outside really helped. Miehiera was slowly becoming more friendly as a result of this. 

She was also becoming playful, playing with her toys, which I had ever seen her do before.
Playing with her wiffle ball.

She was also allowing me to hold her, at least for longer periods of time than before.

Now, every day, I take her out for daily romps in the backyard with her new brother Jack and her big sister Samantha.

As time has gone by, Miehiera has grown more attatched to me and more friendly. Though she is a tad food aggressive, sometimes plays too rough and doesn't like to be held (but will still let me), she has become affectionate. She licks my hands, and happily mouths me when I pet her. She loves to have her ears and nose scratched, and screams with joy and wags her tail when she sees me opening the doors of her cage.

Her litter training is coming along ok, I've found that the best thing to make her go is to keep her litter box as clean as humanly possible. 

I've started to bring her inside more often, though she still tends to go where I don't want her to!

She gets along great with my other dog Samantha. Miehiera is the only animal I've seen Samantha play with in a long time - Samantha hates puppies, love kittens but they don't love her back. A little fox kit seems to be the perfect playmate.

How she has grown as well. When I first got her, I could hold her in one hand extended away from my body. She weighed just a couple of pounds when I got her. Now, she's close to 10 lbs! She is getting too big for her small outdoor enclosure, so she will have to be moved into her large, permanent kennel soon. 

Miehiera also has gotten her first 7-way vaccine with the help of my Grandma, who was a nurse and gives her animals shots as well. She is due for her next one this Friday, and she will be able to go for walks in public September 9th once she gets her final shot at 14 weeks of age. Afterwards I plan on taking her to our vet and getting her a rabies shot, as well as figuring out when I can have her spayed.

Yes, in just one month, Miehiera has grown from a 6-week-old growling, gruffing, biting nemesis to sweet, 10-week-old lover, licking my hand, screaming and whining as I pet her and begging for attention, ear and nose scratches and belly rubs.