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RSPCA - Orphaned Foxes
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REARING ORPHANED CUBS

Remember, if you start to rear an orphaned cub, that your intention must be to return it to the wild, and so the cub must not become habituated to any human being or domestic animal. This means that it should be handled as little as possible, however strong the urge to play with it or pet it.

Also from the outset seek professional advice from a veterinary surgeon. He may not be familiar with foxes, but will advise you on the frequency and amount of food that should be given to small puppies, and the same general rules apply to fox cubs. Remember also that young foxes are prone to rickets, scouring, distemper and parvo-virus, and special care with rearing and vaccinations will be necessary. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you on when to vaccinate, and what supplements may be necessary to prevent health problems. Below is an outline of the feeding regime for fox cubs:

Cubs need to be bottle-fed with puppy milk until they are
four weeks old.
 

1. Cubs less than four weeks old have chocolate brown fur, small ears and a short face. They weigh from 120gm (4oz) at birth to about 600gm (1╝1b) at four weeks. Cubs of this age will have to be bottle fed with a proprietary puppy milk such as Lactol (but not cow's milk, which has the wrong balance of fats, etc). When feeding, do not give too much milk as this will promote scouring; little and often is the best strategy. Very small cubs will need a small feed every three or four hours, and must be kept warm. They will also have to be fed with a small plastic syringe (no needle, of course!), and this may involve some force feeding. By two or three weeks, most cubs can be induced to suck from a very small bottle and teat - these can often be obtained from a good pet shop. Feeding can be reduced to three or four times a day in cubs three to four weeks old.

2. At four weeks, the cubs can be started on solid food - little strips of raw or cooked liver or brawn are a good starter and some tinned dog food may be used in moderation. Alternatively, if you have access to a hatchery, dead day-old chicks are good, provided you break open the body first. At this age the cub can also be induced to lap.

3. By six weeks, cubs should weigh about l kg (2╝lb) and will be able to chew bones and carcasses. From now onwards tinned dog foods should be given as rarely as possible. Dead birds and mammals provided by pirating the kills of neighbours' cats or scavenging from the surrounding roads are the ideal diet. Foxes love bacon rind, cooked meat bones, cheese and most household scraps. Offal from game dealers and poulterers will also be welcomed. Plenty of fur and bone in the diet is important; cubs reared on tinned dog food or too much meat tend to have diarrhoea. A cub fed correctly will produce firm, dry stools.

Remember that very young cubs (particularly those less than two weeks old) will have to be kept warm. A hot water bottle well lagged with a blanket to provide gentle heat is very effective. By the time the animal is three to four weeks old, no supplementary heat should be necessary provided there is plenty of fresh bedding, and the cub can be left in a kennel, cage or largish rabbit-type hutch. From six weeks onwards, however, the animal must not be kept indoors or in a small cage, and an old outbuilding, fenced run or garden shed will be necessary. However, foxes are adept escapologists. Any run must be well walled and securely wired in, with a wire roof since foxes are good climbers, and outbuildings and sheds must be sound - an adult fox can squeeze through a hole about 10cm square. So beware and regularly check your run or outbuilding for small holes. It is disheartening to lose the cub before its planned release.

As soon as bottle rearing has finished, handling is not necessary and must be avoided. The wilder you can keep the cub, the better are its long-term prospects. Do not play with it, and do not bring visitors to see it; the fewer different people the cub sees, the more wary of humans it will become.

If your cub is healthy, it will grow rapidly, and by six weeks of age will be very boisterous and playful. With two or more cubs there is no real problem, but with a solitary cub a succession of balls, old stuffed toys, dog chews and rags will be necessary to develop the cub's playing and hunting skills.

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