The Fox and The Hound IRL!
Gemma Holdway tells the story of how she adopted an abandoned vixen cub, which is now best friend with her pet Labrador.
The 19-year-old and her family found five two-day-old foxes on their farm in Bath, Somerset, fearing for the cub’s lives after their mother left them alone. The Holdway family took the cubs and gave them to an animal hospital which would later release the little cubs into the wild.
Well, they gave them all, except for one little vixen, who stole Gemma and her boyfriend, Dan’s heart, until they eventually adopted the beautiful creature.
The little vixen imprinted onto Gemma and Dan – a phase where animals come to recognize another animal or person as a parent. Gemma, who is an animal science and management student, in addition to Vixey, has four other dogs she takes care of, and said she believes Vixey is “a dog at heart.”
I completely understand that she is still a wild animal, and is very independent – but I also know that now she has imprinted onto humans, she may end up being hurt if she went off on her own. Wild foxes would smell us on her, and see her as something to kill.
Gemma explained they have acres of land where the little vixen can run around and explore all day long before she returns back again home.
When Gemma’s father first saw the litter of five foxes last March, he thought they were kittens. But when she saw the white tips of their tales, there was no mistaking they were actually foxes. She also explained that both she and her boyfriend, Dan, were immediately drawn to the runt of the litter, little Vixey.
We have CCTV, so we rewound it the next morning and watched it all back, to see if their mum came back – but she never did. We live near a busy road, so we were worried she might have been run over.
They arranged everything with the hospital and were supposed to hand them over, but at around five days old, Vixey opened her eyes for the first time, Gemma explained, and imprinted onto the couple. This meant that releasing her back into the wild would be dangerous for Vixey.
Foxes are shockers for imprinting. None of us realized at the time, as it happened so quickly, but once they open their eyes, that’s it. Whoever they see first is mum. Three have now been released back into the wild and one is also domesticated like Vixey.
After realizing that Vixey was meant to stay with her, Gemma arranged her injections and introduced the little vixen to her four dogs – Labrador Luna and Jack Russells Risin, Nidge and Polar Bear.
She went on:
Luna, in particular, was very wary at first. She didn’t quite know what Vixey was and was unsure when she’d try to play with her. Now they absolutely love each other. They’re the very best of friends.
Vixey follows the dogs everywhere, copying what they do. Raisin rules the roost, so has almost taken on the role of Vixey’s mum.
The couple are now trying to train Vixey and get her used to wearing a lead so she can take her on walks with her dogs.
We’re getting there with lead training. She wears a collar and bell, which she’s fine with – the bell, in particular, is a godsend, as she’s so fast, that it helps us know where she is.
But she hated having a lead clipped onto it. Right now, we’re trying a ferret harness, as it’s the only thing that fits her narrow body. Once she’s trained, we’d love to take her out, but are wary about other dogs and people at the moment.
The 19-year-old lets Vixey roam around the ‘fox-proofed’ land where no predators can get in, nor she can’t get out. They take the little vixen on a 30-minute run every morning, then let her explore on her own for the rest of the day. Gemma said Vixey always finds her way home and is very intelligent. She sleeps either on Gemma’s bed or under the sofa.
She is also completely house-trained, and either goes to the toilet outside, or in a litter tray. We have learned the hard way not to leave any shoes lying around though, as, for some reason, she sees them as toilets, so wees in them.
Gemma insists that Vixey is gentle, however, she knows people can have negative opinions about foxes. She says foxes only bite when they feel threatened or while protecting their young, adding they usually leave Vixey alone “if ever she seems in a strop and shows her teeth.”
People can be wary of her when they meet her, but she is far more likely to run off and hide until she trusts someone than attack. She recognizes all of us, so will run to the door to greet us.
While Vixey is an inseparable part of their lives now, Gemma does not encourage getting foxes as pets, adding that their situation is “unique.”
Although Vixey is a great member of the family, we wouldn’t recommend having a fox as they are highly demanding and aren’t suited for living in a typical domestic environment.
This is just another friendship that proves differences don’t really matter.