Often mistaken for giant guinea pigs, Capybaras are considered the largest rodents in the world. They can grow as big as medium-sized dogs, weighing up to 70 kilograms, and they tend to live for 8–10 years.
Although they are considered exotic animals, they can surely become household pets. Known for being sociable and friendly, they can be a good pet choice if you do not want to go for the usual cats and dogs.
If you fancy having one in your household, preparations are underway. Capybaras are not your typical pets, so you can expect some problems, starting with finding a breeder who is responsible.
Acquiring a Capybara
Since they are hard to find, pet capybara prices are not on the affordable side. They usually range from $1000–$3000 or more if you are going to source it from their place of origin, like Georgia or South America. At ExoticAnimalsForSale.net, mated pairs of Capybaras are listed for $8000, at the time of this writing. A 13-week-old male or female baby Capybara is available for $1000 and upwards. A 3-month-old male Capybara is typically sold for $1500, while a female breeder Capybara is more expensive at around $2,500.
Capybaras are rarely sold in local pet stores. Although they are not predators themselves, most states have legally banned capybaras because they pose a threat to crops and cultivation. As a grazing species, Capybaras can get infected by ticks. Some bacteria are present in these ticks and can transmit them to humans.
Only Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York have legalized the ownership of a Capybara. Even though the states have legalized it, some cities within these states don’t encourage this trend. If you live in a different state, you should check the laws there before getting one.
Because capybaras are so rare, there are only a few responsible breeders on the market. Breeders who require you to pick up your future pet are more preferable. This is to make sure the breeder is legit, and it will also give you a chance to check out their facilities.
Also, an important thing that you have to consider is that capybaras live in packs. It is recommended to get them in pairs or in groups. They will thrive in an environment where they are surrounded by their own kind.
If you want to take a chance and only get one, get a male capybara. A few of their males are capable of living alone. But if you can get a pair, go with two females or a pair of a male and a female. Avoid getting two males. The rationale behind this is that male Capybaras tend to become aggressive upon reaching adulthood.
Caring for Your Capybara Pet
Nutrition: For Capybaras’ diet, you would not need to spend so much. They are vegetarians. They eat about 3 kilograms of plants a day.
When feeding them, make sure that you give them high-quality hay. Orchard hay and Timothy hay are the two types of hay that are readily available at pet stores and online.
Oxbow Animal Health sells both Timothy and Orchard hay. They also have a mixture of both.
- Orchard Grass Hay (15 oz.): around $17
- Hay Blends Timothy Orchard (40 oz.): around $20
- Timothy Hay (90 oz.): around $50
Grazing your lawn is also allowed, as long as you are confident that there are no toxic weeds or grasses around. Also, ensure that your lawn is free from harmful fertilizers or insecticides. The following plants are known to be toxic to Capybaras:
Another thing that you have to add to their diet is vitamin C rich foods. They are unable to naturally produce Vitamin C in their bodies.
This deficiency can be treated by feeding Guinea Pig pellets enriched with Vitamin C. One option is Oxbow Natural Science vitamin C supplements. It just costs $8 for 4.2 oz, i.e., 120 g. And also, young Capybaras that are raised indoors are needed to consume sufficient amounts of vitamin D, which is found in most milk supplements.
Health: Aside from giving them a nutritious diet, make sure that there is a veterinarian in your area who will be willing to take care of your Capybara. Like cats and dogs, they also need to be checked regularly.
One health concern is that they, like other rodents, are susceptible to respiratory infections. Aside from that, the only health problems they could have are caused by living in dirty places. Thus, you always have to keep their area clean.
When it comes to housing your Capybara, do not expect it to be as easy as when you own a cat or a dog. Capybaras are semi-aquatic animals. You would need to provide them with a steady source of water where they can dive in.
Like beavers, Capys are strong swimmers and great adapters to waterbodies. Capybara owners choose to build their water-loving pets a swimming pool that is more than 3 feet deep.
Another option is to purchase an inflatable pool for them. But you might have to buy another one because your rodent’s teeth can easily destroy the material. If you are willing to get an artificial pool for them, keep refraining from chlorinated water. Try to fill the pool with an adequate amount of fresh and pure water. The chemicals and impurities can harm their health.
Capybaras are prone to sunburn because of their thin fur. Thus, their pool should have a shaded area. Aside from a pool, they should also be provided with a shaded enclosure where they can lounge, enjoy their food, and play with their toys.
If you choose to house them indoors, be sure to fence the area where they stay. Not doing so would result in damaged furniture and other items that are within their reach.
Also, they are diurnal animals, meaning they need sunlight in their daily lives. It should be direct sunlight, not light streaming in through a window. Thus, it will be good to house them outdoors, given good weather conditions.
Do you have to buy two Capybaras?
Owning Capybaras requires a bit of commitment. They are mammals and do not mind being alone since they usually live in packs. Being in a group helps them to mate at the right time of their breeding season. Having two or more capybaras helps them stay active in their current habitat.
Capybaras get along very well with other animal species too. You can expect them to be playful and friendly with other household pets.
Capybaras are often found to be smelly. They have a distinct odor since they spend most of their time in the water.