How Not to Care for a Pet Capybara

Here we have yet another misleading article about pet capybaras. There is much to learn about keeping massive rodents as pets because only a handful have tried it and few of us have allowed one to roam free within our home. Still, I keep seeing these instructive articles telling people how to accomplish this challenging task.

Capybara image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com

I have provided a link to the article below, and you might want to peruse it before you struggle through my rants that follow.

Source: How to Care for a Pet Capybara

First, while all capybaras are cute and intelligent (and they all bite), not all of them are affectionate. Their personalities range from the rare “puppy-like” to the more common “skittish as all get-out.” These are not domestic animals and whether or not you have experience taming wild animals, some of them will never calm down, sit on the couch, and watch movies with you.

Nobody can tell you whether or not capybaras are legal in your area. You will need to research your own state laws, your county regulations, your city or town ordinances, your homeowner’s association rules, and while you are at it, you might want to check with your neighbors. One outraged neighbor can shut you down in a heartbeat, whether you are legal or not. Ask anyone who had a dog that bit someone.

Trust me, you are unlikely to find a veterinarian with capybara experience. You will be lucky to find one who will treat a guinea pig. Expect to get a serious lecture about why capybaras do not make good pets.

If you have a 200# (90kg) capybara, please contact the ROUS Foundation at rfwhyweight@gmail.com. We are researching capybara growth rates and will be very interested in viewing weight data for your gigantic capybara. While we know of one legendary capybara named “Little” who was 250# (113kg), most top out at about 140# (63kg).

A 12 foot x 20 foot (22 square meters) enclosure is a decent size for a night pen or isolation area for one adult, but you also need an outdoor grazing area at least 2000 square foot (185 square meters) in addition to this smaller pen. How on earth do you provide grazing and swimming in 240 square feet? And, by the way, there is no option to keep your capybara inside during the day. They need to be outside. Period.

By all means provide straw bedding and a heat lamp if you want to burn your house down. Not a safe combination. Capybaras were designed for a sweltering hot tropical climate and can tolerate just about any heat if they have swimming water deep enough to immerse themselves. It’s cold that is the killer, and they are unhappy when temperatures drop below 60f (15.5c) degrees. Young capybaras are spunky and can tolerate freezing ground and snow, but the dummies get frostbite, foot infections, and then they die. Older capybaras are more wary and are going to be at the kitchen door, eating the frame and begging to come indoors. Keep their pen heated to a minimum of 40f degrees and LOCK THEM IN because they will wander out and get frostbite if you don’t. Or bring him indoors to sit on the couch and watch movies with you.

Of all the things in this article they got wrong, the swimming part is right on. Hard to reconcile with their recommended 12′ x 20′ enclosure, though.

Most of the fencing I have seen used is ordinary chain-link. Only a baby capybara is going to squeeze out underneath, so all that concrete is overkill. I do recommend double-gating the entrance, with enough space to drive a truck into it for safe loading. Unless you have an exceptionally well-trained capybara, you aren’t going to be walking him to your truck in the driveway. He will be keen to explore everything outside the gate: the kids at the school bus stop, that dog down the street, and at the worst, the neighbor’s toxic azaleas. And if you are trying to keep a male capybara away from females, you will need a 5 foot tall fence, at least. The big males are surprisingly motivated jumpers.

In the wild, capybaras eat rice, corn, soybean, sugar cane (foliage), water hyacinth, and grass. I have personally observed them in the wild eating willow and bamboo foliage, banana leaves, succulents resembling bromeliads, and smaller aquatic plants. Their Vitamin C requirements are enormous but they seem to get it from the fresh grass. Because we can’t provide the same fresh tropical grass in the quantity they require, we supplement the diet of captive capybaras with guinea pig or horse pellets, romaine lettuce, melons, potatoes, squash, and corn. They should be grazing all day on pasture grass (not your fancy golf green style lawn with herbicides and pesticides.) Supplemented with 1000mg Vitamin C daily. No bread, please. And they don’t need sticks to chew on if they are grazing. This person is thinking about indoor rabbits.

There is a little summary section at the end of the article that is pretty good. I love the last “tip!” Ha ha ha, oh by the way, they BITE!

If you still think you want to get a capybara, take my quiz.

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