Are You Ready for a Capybara? (A Quiz)

If you are considering a capybara, this quiz will help you prepare your home and family for this challenging pet. Capybaras are tame wild animals, not domestic pets, and most captive capybaras are living in zoos, not living rooms. They are large but they have a delicate digestive system. They are semi-aquatic rodents from equatorial countries, so if you don’t live in a tropical rainforest, compensating for weather will be a continuing problem.

I have been keeping track of pet capybaras for ten years. There are at least eighty-five in the US and Canada, distributed among about sixty owners. (At least five of those capybaras are rescues.) There aren’t many yet because this is uncharted territory.  A disturbing number of newbie capybara enthusiasts decide to get one as soon as they learn of their existence.   Capybara owners are cutting edge, or another way to put it is clueless. Each one of us feels we have the answers and are approaching it correctly. Sixty different owners and sixty different opinions. Twice that many opinions if you ask the spouses, too!

If you read my book, you already have a lot of insights into one individual who was a very spoiled royal capybara. Are you ready to tackle your own little monster? This isn’t like one of those regular online quizzes, where you tally your score and discover you are 73% ready to move to Saturn if we kill Earth. Consider this a glimpse into Dobby’s World, an adventure into the reality of keeping one pet capybara alive. And, hopefully, happy.

Taking this silly quiz is optional. If you have no shame, skip ahead to the so-called answers. I promise you, nobody cares. I will tell you that this quiz has been out for a while, and I haven’t received much flack from the capybara community about it. They did request that I add the “How old are you?” question. I am relatively ancient, and when Dobby died, my age was one of the most important factors I considered when I declined to get a second capybara. Mostly, though, I knew that no other capybara could measure up to Prince Dobalob, and that wouldn’t be fair to number two. I got a couple sheep instead, and they are very entertaining.

Grab a used envelope out of your recycling bin, find a pencil and eraser, and let’s see how you do!

Capybaras are huge. Dobby’s paws are at the height of the kitchen counter. He was five feet tall, fully extended.

Dobby’s World Quiz

1. Are you legally allowed to have a capybara where you live?

  1. I have absolutely no idea!
  2. My country allows private individuals to own a capybara
  3. My state allows private individuals to own a capybara
  4. My county allows private individuals to own a capybara
  5. My city allows private individuals to own a capybara
  6. My homeowner’s association (or CC&R’s) allows individuals to own a capybara
  7. I am an exempt or licensed petting zoo
  8. I am an AZA certified zoo

2. What kind of animal experience do you have?

  1. I have never owned a pet
  2. I have had cats and dogs
  3. I have had several pets from this list: hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, budgies, cockatiels, doves or pigeons, finches, outdoor rabbits, chickens, tropical fish
  4. I have had several pets from this list: house rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, degus, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, pot bellied pigs, saltwater aquarium, parrots
  5. I have had one or more of these pets: horse, raccoon, kinkajou, macaw, cockatoo, full grown iguana, other large exotic bird/animal, or special needs bird/animal

3. Are you afraid of animals that bite?

  1. Yes, and I have small children
  2. Yes, but I can overcome my fear by starting with a baby animal
  3. Not really, but my experience includes only domestic animals
  4. Not really, but do all capybaras bite?
  5. No, do you want to see my scars?

4. Do you have the support of your family for this long term project?

  1. I have a child/children under the age of 12 or I live alone
  2. I have a partner/family, but they will not be involved in this project
  3. My partner is supportive and we will not be starting a family for a couple more years
  4. My partner/family is supportive, expects to take part in some aspects of care
  5. My partner/family, veterinarian, and pet sitter are totally committed to this project

5. How much time can you devote to this pet?

  1. I’m pretty booked up but I can find time.
  2. I have little kids, so I’m home all the time, anyway.
  3. I have a couple of dogs already, so adding time for a capybara is no big deal.
  4. I work 12 hour shifts so I have lots of days off.
  5. I work full time, but I’m single, so I have lots of time for a pet.
  6. I work from home, so I’m here all the time.
  7. I work part time.
  8. I am a trust fund baby. I don’t work.

Dobby is old enough to appreciate the spa treatment.

6. What kind of exotic animal care experience do you have? How about your partner?

  1. I have a cat
  2. I have a house rabbit
  3. I have volunteered at a zoo or aquarium
  4. I work as a vet tech or I have a horse
  5. I work as a vet tech for an exotic animal veterinarian
  6. I own an exotic pet shop
  7. I operate a small petting zoo
  8. I am a veterinarian, exotic animal breeder, or zookeeper

7. How agile are you? Can you still manage a flying tackle?

  1. Why do you ask?
  2. I am handicapped, and not able to respond quickly.
  3. I’m pretty active, but I’m usually wearing the wrong shoes for tackling capybaras.
  4. I can manage if I have to.
  5. I’m in respectable condition for my age.
  6. I’m in great shape, not a problem.

8. What will your capybara do while you are at work or away?

  1. It can stay in the basement while I am away
  2. It’s going to run around the house, watch daytime TV
  3. The neighbor can see it from their window
  4. My kids can play with it when they get home from school
  5. My wife says she will feed it
  6. My dog walker will come every day
  7. I work from home
  8. I don’t work

9. What will you do with your capybara when you go on vacation?

  1. I will take it with me.
  2. My husband doesn’t travel with me and can stay home with the capybara.
  3. My adult brother/grown son will come by daily to feed it.
  4. My adult sister/grown daughter will come stay with it.
  5. Isn’t that what pet sitters are for?
  6. My pet sitter has agreed to give it a try.
  7. My pet sitter has exotic animal experience.
  8. I don’t take vacations.

10. Does your veterinarian have exotic animal experience?

  1. I don’t have a veterinarian
  2. I have a veterinarian for my dog/cat
  3. I will be able to find an exotic vet in my area
  4. I have a veterinarian for my rabbit/guinea pig/exotic animal
  5. My veterinarian knows I am getting a capybara and is very supportive
  6. I am a veterinarian

Taking Dobby to the veterinary clinic.

11. In an emergency, can you come up with a wrangler?

  1. I can get him to the vet alone
  2. There are some kids across the street that can help
  3. I have a grown son living nearby
  4. My neighbors are generally pretty good with livestock
  5. My partner is usually around here somewhere
  6. I have hired help around all the time

12. Do you have adequate housing for a capybara?

  1. I live at my parent’s house
  2. I have an apartment.
  3. I own a condominium with a patio
  4. I own my urban home and we have an alley
  5. I own my suburban home and it has a little back yard
  6. I own my suburban home and it has a large yard
  7. I own my rural home on acreage
  8. I own my farm, have acreage and a barn

13. Is your home capybara-ready?

  1. What do you mean?
  2. How is it different from cat-proofing a house?
  3. We already have dogs, so it is all set up with a dog door
  4. All power cords are covered for safety
  5. The house plants will be removed

14. Not all capybaras are well behaved enough to live in a house. Some will begin to mark the floor with urine at about 5-6 months, and by a year, can become territorial and mark with feces. It is at this point that they can become territorially aggressive toward a family member. Do you have a “Plan B” for housing your capybara if you get a “Dobby-style” capybara?

  1. Capybaras are a good investment: we would make money if we sold ours at that point.
  2. A well trained capybara is housebroken. The Farm Manager is a lousy trainer.
  3. We will rip out the carpets, sell the furniture, turn the house into a barn, and hope the bank doesn’t notice before the mortgage is paid off.
  4. Our house has an area we can isolate for the capybara so he can still come into the house.
  5. We are prepared to keep our capybara outdoors if that is what he wants.
  6. Capybaras are outdoor animals. Once ours is big enough to live outdoors, he’ll move out.

15. Do you live in a “capybara friendly” climate? That would be about 60-95F degrees (15-35C) with lots of rain.

  1. I live in Florida
  2. I live in the South
  3. I live in the Southwest
  4. I live in the Northeast
  5. I live in the Midwest
  6. I live in the Pacific Northwest
  7. I live in Canada
  8. I live in ____________ but I have a heated barn near the house.

Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent

16. Do you have suitable outdoor space for a capybara?

  1. My capybara will be an indoor pet.
  2. I have no secure outdoor space.
  3. My back yard is mostly fenced.
  4. I live next door to a park or school.
  5. My capybara yard is fully fenced with 4′ high chain link fencing.
  6. My capybara yard is fully fenced with 6′ high sight-obscuring secure fencing.
  7. Delivery people do not pass through the secured capybara yard.
  8. My capybara yard is double gated for security.

17. Where will your baby capybara sleep?

  1. Outdoors, with the dogs/sheep.
  2. Outdoors, in its own pen.
  3. In the garage.
  4. In the house, in a secure area.
  5. In the house, wherever it wants to.
  6. In our bed!

18. Baby capybaras readily use a shallow pan of water for a toilet. It can get a little messy and, of course, carrying a large shallow pan of filthy water through the house to a dumping location has drawbacks. Where will yours be located?

  1. In the kitchen
  2. In the hallway
  3. In the laundry room
  4. In the mud room/back porch
  5. In the guest bathroom
  6. In the kid’s bathroom
  7. In the master bathroom
  8. Outside

19. Is your yard safe for a capybara?

  1. I use herbicides or pesticides in my yard.
  2. My capybara will not have access to Rhododendrons, azaleas, oleanders, or other toxic plants
  3. My yard has no toxic plants that I know of
  4. I have had a consultant over to evaluate my yard for toxic plants, which I then removed

20. Capybaras are herd animals. How do you propose to supply a herd for your capybara?

  1. I will be his playmate.
  2. We have a dog he can play with.
  3. We have goats he can live with.
  4. I can supply him with many activities and amusements throughout the day.
  5. We have geese, ducks, and chickens he can play with.
  6. We are getting two or more capybaras.

Dobby loved his hens and this rabbit. Other rabbits, not so much.

21. Can you fit a bale of hay into your vehicle?

  1. A what? Doesn’t that make a huge mess?
  2. I don’t think I can buy hay anywhere around here.
  3. I think it will fit in the trunk of my Camry.
  4. I can borrow a truck.
  5. I’ve put worse things in my car.
  6. I have a truck/van/SUV.
  7. I’ll have everything delivered.

22. Is your vehicle interior indestructible?

  1. What are you talking about?
  2. My capy can ride in the back of my truck with the dogs.
  3. I am ready to sacrifice my only car to my capybara.
  4. My car is already ruined.
  5. I have a spare car I can sacrifice.

23. How much extra space do you have in your refrigerator?

  1. A quart of yogurt
  2. 20 pounds of vegetables and apples
  3. A case of 24 heads of romaine
  4. A box of 48 fresh corn-on-the-cob
  5. All of the above

24. What’s in your pocket besides your cell phone?

  1. What are pockets?
  2. Lipstick and powder. You meant my purse, right?
  3. My wallet and a dirty handkerchief
  4. Car keys
  5. Swiss Army knife
  6. Duct tape
  7. Cable ties, some bits of rusty chicken wire, some baling wine, and part of a plastic bag

25. What is your life expectancy?

  1. 1-5 years
  2. 5-10 years
  3. 10-15 years
  4. 15-20 years

That’s the end! Did you mark your answers? Or are you cheating?

Dobby’s bed was outdoors. You can see the wall heater behind him. He slept indoors during freezing weather.

The So-called Answers

I already warned you that there are no real answers. Until people have kept capybaras as pets for a few decades, we’re not likely to see any consensus. For this quiz, I made up the questions and I made up the answers, too. It is mostly based upon experience from my own nine and a half years of living with one big, grubby male capybara. I also know many other capybara owners because without each other, few of them would survive. Veterinarians just don’t know much about capybaras. So, some of the answers reflect the experiences of my fellow owners. This quiz is completely devoid of scientific basis. Let’s not take this too seriously, okay?

Point score follows each answer. Go ahead and tally your points and then I’ll give you a meaningless score at the end. Complaints can go in the comment section below, or to Ask Dobby, it’s that tab in the main menu.

Here you go–
1. Are you legally allowed to have a capybara where you live?

  1. I have absolutely no idea! +0
  2. My country allows private individuals to own a capybara +1
  3. My state allows private individuals to own a capybara +1
  4. My county allows private individuals to own a capybara +2
  5. My city allows private individuals to own a capybara +3
  6. My homeowner’s association (or CC&R’s) allows individuals to own a capybara +3
  7. I am an exempt or licensed petting zoo +4
  8. I am an AZA certified zoo +4

If you don’t know the legal status of exotic ownership in your location, your pet could be confiscated. It has happened. Then the state is caring for your capybara, with all their vast know-how regarding exotic animals. If your pet bites someone, or even bites a dog, your capybara will probably be confiscated, even though it is legal for you to have one. That has happened, too.

2. What kind of animal experience do you have?

  1. I have never owned a pet -10 and just go ahead and subtract all previous and subsequent points
  2. I have had cats and/or dogs +1
  3. I have had several pets from this list: hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, budgies, cockatiels, doves or pigeons, finches, outdoor rabbits, chickens, tropical fish +2
  4. I have had several pets from this list: house rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, degus, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, pot bellied pigs, saltwater aquarium, parrots +3
  5. I have had one of these pets: horse, raccoon, kinkajou, macaw, cockatoo, full grown Iguana, other large exotic bird/animal, or special needs bird/animal +4

Capybaras are gigantic wild animals that can become aggressive. Some are gentle teddy bears, others are not. They don’t always get along with other animals or male humans. They have a finicky digestive system, like a guinea pig, rabbit, or even a horse. Young capybaras can suddenly drop dead from severe gastric distress. This is not a beginner animal. Dobby almost died three times. Well, four, if you count his current status.

3. Are you afraid of animals that bite?

  1. Yes, and I have small children -1
  2. Yes, but I can overcome my fear by starting with a baby animal +1
  3. Not really, but my experience includes only domestic animals +2
  4. Not really, but do they all bite? +3
  5. No, do you want to see my scars? +5

Capybaras bite. Capybara owners get bitten. Capybaras have gigantic, razor sharp teeth, and biting is their only defense, other than running away. If you are afraid of getting bit, capybaras are a poor pet choice.

4. Do you have the support of your family for this long-term project?

  1. I have a child/children under the age of 12 or I live alone +1
  2. I have a partner/family, but they will not be involved in this project +1
  3. My partner is supportive and we will not be starting a family for a couple more years +2
  4. My partner/family is supportive, expects to take part in some aspects of care +3
  5. My partner/family, veterinarian, and pet sitter are well informed and are totally committed to this project +5

Capybaras are tame wild animals, not domestic animals. Kids are unpredictable and move quickly and make them nervous. By the time Dobby was about 6 months old, he began to show marked preferences for certain family members, and hostility toward others. He was savvy enough to be wary of strangers, while making quick value judgments: friend, lover, or enemy? A 125# pet capybara can quickly dominate even the most informal get-togethers. As for family support, without my partner (AKA the Bartender) I would never have gotten a break. Capybaras are adorable for the first six months, cute as the devil up to a year, and a full-time job from then on. Remember, even taking a capybara to the vet is a two-person endeavor.

5. How much time can you devote to this pet?

  1. I’m pretty booked up but I can find time. +0
  2. I have little kids, so I’m home all the time, anyway. +0
  3. I have a couple of dogs already, so adding time for a capybara is no big deal. +1
  4. I work 12-hour shifts so I have lots of days off. +1
  5. I work full time, but I’m single, so I have lots of time for a pet. +2
  6. I work from home, so I’m here all the time. +3
  7. I work part time. +4
  8. I am a trust fund baby. I don’t work. +5

Baby capybaras are tiny and quite fragile. They are too little to be left outside on their own, but if they don’t get outdoors enough, they won’t get enough Vitamin D. Too little Vitamin D, they can’t absorb enough calcium, and they get rickets. They need to eat fresh grass, fruits, and vegetables to get enough Vitamin C. Too little Vitamin C and they get scurvy. Dry hay has no Vitamin C, so young capybaras being raised indoors on hay in the winter aren’t getting enough of either vitamin. I have seen the results (his name was Garibaldi) and it isn’t pretty. “Somebody” needs to sit outdoors with your baby capybara while it grazes, so set aside a few hours a day for this purpose.

Wow, that’s a small capybara!

6. What kind of exotic animal care experience do you have? How about your partner?

  1. I have a cat. +0
  2. I have a house rabbit. +1
  3. I have volunteered at a zoo or aquarium +2 points for each year, do the math
  4. I work as a vet tech or I have a horse. +3
  5. I work as a vet tech for an exotic animal veterinarian. +4
  6. I own an exotic pet shop. +4
  7. I operate a small petting zoo. +6
  8. I am a veterinarian, exotic animal breeder, or zookeeper. +10

A cat or dog is not adequate pre-capybara experience. They are predators, capybaras are prey. You are getting closer with a house rabbit. Horses are even more challenging, expensive and time-consuming. The Farm Manager had a pet raccoon and vole when she was 20 and hasn’t cared for fewer than 30 pets (at once) since 1990. Capybaras are not “beginner” pets.

7. How agile are you? Can you still manage a flying tackle?

  1. Why do you ask? +0
  2. I am handicapped, and not able to respond quickly. +0
  3. I’m pretty active, but I’m usually wearing the wrong shoes for tackling capybaras. +1
  4. I can manage if I have to. +2
  5. I’m in respectable condition for my age. +3
  6. I’m in great shape, not a problem. +4

The Bartender asked me to include this question. Having watched me tackle Dobby more than once, he can’t believe I almost overlooked this aspect of capybara care. You have to be ready for anything.

8. What will your capybara do while you are at work (or away)?

  1. It can stay in the basement while I am away. +0
  2. It’s going to run around the house, watch daytime TV. +0
  3. The neighbor can see it from their window. +0
  4. My kids can play with it after they get home from school. +0
  5. My wife says she will feed it. +1
  6. My dog walker will come every day. +2
  7. I work from home. +4
  8. I don’t work. +5

Capybaras are intelligent, curious animals. Would you give a monkey free range of your home while you are not there? Your house will surely be destroyed and/or it will find something dangerous to eat. They need a warm safe area with food, water, and potty bowl, preferably outdoors. Dobby learned to toss his water bowl fairly early on, though he never tossed his potty bowl. Indoors. He tossed them for years, but they were outdoors. Do you want a capybara or not? If you don’t want to hang out with one all day, get a more appropriate pet, like a guppy.

9. What will you do with your capybara when you go on vacation?

  1. I will take it with me. +1
  2. My husband doesn’t travel with me and can stay home with the capybara. +2
  3. My adult brother/grown son will come by daily to feed it. +2
  4. My adult sister/grown daughter will come stay with it. +3
  5. Isn’t that what pet sitters are for? +3
  6. My pet sitter has agreed to give it a try. +3
  7. My pet sitter has exotic animal experience. +5
  8. I don’t take vacations. +5

It’s not even easy to find pet sitters who can deal with ordinary chickens. My current sitter has nerves of steel but I left Dobby fenced outdoors so that he could care for Dobby without being in direct contact with him. Another time, I left Dobby with my daughter, who Dobby adored. He became alarmed at my absence and bit her. She never sat for him again, though Dobby forgave her and worked hard to regain her trust. Don’t assume you will find a pet-sitter who will do it twice. And don’t assume you can travel with your capybara unless you are joining a circus.

10. Does your veterinarian have exotic animal experience?

  1. I don’t have a veterinarian. +0
  2. I have a veterinarian for my dog/cat. +1
  3. I will be able to find an exotic vet in my area. +2
  4. I have a veterinarian for my rabbit/guinea pig/exotic animal. +3
  5. My veterinarian knows I am getting a capybara and is very supportive. +4
  6. I am a veterinarian. +5

I discussed capybaras with my veterinarian before I brought Dobby home, so he wasn’t at all surprised when a capybara made an appointment. You will definitely want your veterinarian to examine your pet capybara as soon as it comes home. This is to determine a baseline of temperature, weight, and general health. Because I did this, my veterinarian was able to treat Dobby when he became seriously ill about a week later. My vet saved Dobby’s life. Surprising an unknown veterinarian in a 24-hour emergency clinic with a sick capybara is not going to result in a positive outcome.

Dobby was allowed in a small corner of the kitchen. Far right, foreground is a spilled bag of birdseed he pulled off a shelf. Left, just above his nose, is a small “accident” almost in his food dish. He was housebroken, but naughty.

11. In an emergency, can you come up with a wrangler?

  1. I can get him to the vet alone. +0
  2. There are some kids across the street who can help. +0
  3. I have a grown son living nearby. +2
  4. My neighbors are generally pretty good with livestock. +3
  5. My partner is usually around here somewhere. +4
  6. I have hired help around all the time. +5

Once your capybara is about 6 months old, getting it to do anything it doesn’t want to do will take two people. It is safe to assume that if your capybara is injured, the last thing it will want to do is put on a harness and get in the car. Safe wrangling takes two people, one to drive, one to manage the animal. One time, Dobby refused to get out of the car for three hours. It’s funny now, because we were doing a trial run to the new clinic. But three hours? Yep. One time we never did get him out and the vet and his staff came out to the car to do the exam. Fun times.

12. Do you have adequate housing for a capybara?

  1. I live at my parent’s house. +0
  2. I have an apartment. +0
  3. I own a condominium with a patio. +0
  4. I own my urban home and we have an alley. +0
  5. I own my suburban home and it has a little back yard. +1
  6. I own my suburban home and it has a large yard. +2
  7. I own my rural home with a huge yard. +3
  8. I own my rural home on acreage. +4
  9. I own my farm, have acreage and a barn. +5

Tame capybaras may be able to tolerate coming into your house briefly, or to sleep, but they cannot thrive indoors. Young capybaras need to be outdoors or they do not get enough Vitamin D, which can lead to low bone density. Capybaras need to graze, so you will need pasture, and they need to swim, so you will need a pool. In cold climates, they will need shelter. They are prone to frostbite, and they need to be able to get out of snow and off of frozen ground. If you do not own your property, there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to make the accommodations necessary to maintain your capybara’s health.

13. Is your home capybara-ready?

  1. What do you mean? +0
  2. How is it different from cat-proofing a house? -1
  3. We already have dogs, so it is all set up with a dog door. +1
  4. All power cords are covered for safety. +3
  5. The house plants will be removed. +4

One of my favorite photos is of Dobby’s brother, Caplin Rous, standing on a dining table in the middle of a great big puzzle-in-progress! Capybaras can stand way up tall and reach anything. They are surprisingly good jumpers, and can be rather belligerent if you try to separate them from a “project.” They are notorious for biting through cords and can sever one faster than an electrician. They eat dog doors. Anyway, capybaras are oversized beavers in your house chewing everything up.

http://gianthamster.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/2009_Puzzle_s19.jpg

9,000 piece puzzle with ornamental capybara (Capybara Madness)

14. Not all capybaras are well behaved enough to live in a house. Some will begin to mark the floor with urine at about 5-6 months, and by a year, can become territorial and mark with feces. It is at this point that they can become territorially aggressive toward a family member. Do you have a “Plan B” for housing your capybara if you get a “Dobby-style” capybara?

  1. Capybaras are a good investment: we would make money if we sold ours at that point. +0
  2. A well trained capybara is housebroken. The Farm Manager is a lousy trainer. +0
  3. We will rip out the carpets, sell the furniture, turn the house into a barn, and hope the bank doesn’t notice before the mortgage is paid off. +1
  4. Our house has an area we can isolate for the capybara so he can still come into the house. +3
  5. We are prepared to keep our capybara outdoors if that is what he wants. +4
  6. Capybaras are outdoor animals. Once ours is big enough to live outdoors, he’ll move out. +5

Most people with pet capybaras keep them outdoors, contrary to the prevailing myth. I know of very few full grown capybaras that live in (or have access to) a normally furnished home, and they usually belong to an extraordinary trainer. It didn’t work out for grubby Dobby, and most of the other indoor capybaras you see on the Internet are either very ill, very young, or are not living in a typically furnished home.

15. Do you live in a “capybara friendly” climate? That would be about 60-95F degrees (15-35C) with lots of rain.

  1. I live in Florida. +4
  2. I live in the South. +3
  3. I live in the Southwest. +3
  4. I live in the Northeast. +2
  5. I live in the Midwest. +1
  6. I live in the Pacific Northwest. +2
  7. I live in Canada. +1
  8. I live in ____________ but I have a heated barn near the house. +4

The premier capybara breeder was in Arkansas, not exactly a tropical climate. With care, capys can live anywhere they have access to bathing water and heated winter shelter. They develop skin problems in hot dry climates, and the ROUS Foundation has recorded more deaths from frostbite induced infections than I thought possible. You must be able to build the accommodations you need to keep your capybara healthy. That is why you need to own your home, not rent.

Dobby’s swimming pool #6 was 16′ diameter, 4′ deep. Pools #1 through #5 were inferior products, easily punctured by capybara teeth. He thought it was great fun to bite holes in them from inside.

16. Do you have suitable outdoor space for a capybara?

  1. My capybara will be an indoor pet. -1
  2. I have no secure outdoor space. +0
  3. My back yard is mostly fenced. +0
  4. I live next door to a park or school. +0
  5. My capybara yard is fully fenced with 4′ high chain link fencing. +1
  6. My capybara yard is fully fenced with 6′ high sight-obscuring secure fencing. +2
  7. Delivery people do not pass through the secured capybara yard. +3
  8. My capybara yard is double gated for security. +4

One pet capybara needs about 1,000 sf of secured grazing pasture, which is not the same as a pretty lawn that has been chemically fertilized or had “weed & feed” on it. They also need a swimming pool or at least a very large stock tank. Wading pools are cute toys for young capybaras. They tend to go walkabout if not securely fenced, often with deadly consequences. The ROUS Foundation has seen that happen, too.

17. Where will your baby capybara sleep?

  1. Outdoors, with the dogs/sheep. +3
  2. Outdoors, in its own pen. +4
  3. In the garage. +0
  4. In the house, in a secure area. +2
  5. In the house, wherever it wants to. +0
  6. In our bed! +1

Capybaras are creatures of habit. Choose wisely and think through the consequences of your sleeping arrangement. If your capybara is ill or recovering from surgery can you accommodate him? How will his bedroom function when the pet sitter has to care for him? Will your pet sitter be able to feed your dogs safely if your capybara shares living quarters with them? Will you still want her in your bed when she weighs 140 pounds and startles at the sound of 4th of July fireworks?

18. Baby capybaras readily use a shallow pan of water for a toilet. It can get a little messy and, of course, carrying a large shallow pan of filthy water through the house to a dumping location has drawbacks. Where will yours be located?

  1. In the kitchen +0
  2. In the hallway +0
  3. In the laundry room +1
  4. In the mud room/back porch +4
  5. In the guest bathroom +2
  6. In the kid’s bathroom +1
  7. In the master bathroom +3
  8. Outside +4

Capybaras, like guinea pigs, are prolific pooping machines. Some capybaras will use a litter box, like a cat. Most baby capybaras use a shallow pan of water for a potty bowl, and most continue in this fashion until they are about 6 months old. At that point, a few continue with the potty bowl but most graduate to outdoor hard surfaces. Carrying a loaded shallow potty bowl through the house to a dumping place is not recommended. Locate your potty near a toilet, preferably in a bathroom with little traffic and where the door can be propped open, night and day. Trust me, your guests will love to share a bathroom with a capybara! Don’t even think about disposing the prolific poop in your yard, there is too much! Figure at least a quart (liter) a day for a 110-pound (50kg) capybara. More for a fully grown capybara, 140 pounds (65kg). I built Dobby his own outdoor bathroom!

19. Is your yard safe for a capybara?

  1. I use herbicides or pesticides in my yard. -4
  2. My capybara will not have access to Rhododendrons, azaleas, oleanders, or other toxic plants +2
  3. My yard has no toxic plants that I know of +1
  4. I have had a consultant over to evaluate my yard for toxic plants, which I then removed +4

The community loses more young capybaras to toxic plant poisoning than any other single cause. Young capybaras will eat anything. A shocking number of house plants are toxic, so watch out for those, too. Older capybaras seem to be more discriminating, but they are very trusting and assume anything accessible to them has been approved for capy consumption.

20. Capybaras are herd animals. How do you propose to supply a herd for your capybara?

  1. I will be his playmate. +2
  2. We have a dog he can play with. +1
  3. We have goats he can live with. +1
  4. I can supply him with many activities and amusements throughout the day. +3
  5. We have geese, ducks, and chickens he can play with. +2
  6. We are getting two or more capybaras. +4 (If you already have capybara experience. +0 without)

I am a big believer in the value of enrichment. Even if you intend to be your capybara’s best friend, you are not likely to spend 24 hours a day with him. I spent my afternoons with the Dobby (about 3000 afternoons, all told) but he was a remarkably self sufficient capybara. I have ducks and chickens but they weren’t out with him all of the time. There is wildlife all over the yard, and he had access to the house all day. He had toys to rub his nose on, a selection of pools and mud holes, balls to play with, and a predictable succession of snacks throughout the day. While it is true that he was obsessively bonded to me, he was very busy and didn’t always choose to spend time with me. Some capybaras love dogs, and even cats, but I don’t think he would have wanted a goat to be head-butting him all day. They just don’t play in the same way. Dobby probably wouldn’t have wanted to live with another capybara, male or female. He would have seen it as a rival for my attention.

To a capybara, “enrichment” means biting your hoses. Doesn’t he look innocent here?

21. Can you fit a bale of hay in your vehicle?

  1. A what? Doesn’t that make a huge mess? +0
  2. I don’t think I can buy hay anywhere around here. -1
  3. I think it will fit in the trunk of my Camry. +1
  4. I can borrow a truck. +2
  5. I’ve put worse things in my car. +3
  6. I have a truck/van/SUV. +4
  7. I’ll have everything delivered. +4

Once you put a bale of hay in your car, you will forever be finding bits of hay everywhere. Plus, hay bales are bigger than they look. In the Pacific Northwest, trucks have limited utility: our hay gets soaked with rain by the time you get home. Do I need to mention that you need a hay storage area at home? Having it delivered indicates that you have your financial priorities skewed toward capybara care. Good for you.

22. Is your vehicle interior indestructible?

  1. What are you talking about? +0
  2. My capy can ride in the back of my truck with the dogs. +0
  3. I am ready to sacrifice my only car to my capybara. +3
  4. My car is already ruined. +4
  5. I have a spare car I can sacrifice. +5

Some capybaras are well behaved in the car, but if they get spooked, accidents can happen. One baby got his leg caught and broke it. As long as your capy fits into a carrier, use it. Obviously, a capybara in the back of a truck needs to be in a carrier because, duh! A full grown capy is unlikely to get into a carrier without some serious training, and anyway you won’t be able to lift the carrier with a full-grown capybara inside. You’ll want to line your car with multiple layers of blankets for quick cleanups. You also need to install a pet car barrier to keep your capy off your lap while you’re driving. Duct tape comes in many colors, now, and you’ll be able find one that matches your car interior to fix the bite marks in your vinyl. Seat belts can be replaced.

23. How much extra space do you have in your refrigerator?

  1. A quart of yogurt +0
  2. 20 pounds of vegetables and apples +1
  3. A case of 24 heads of romaine +3
  4. A box of 48 fresh corn-on-the-cob +2
  5. All of the above +4

Dobby had his own dedicated refrigerator, but when corn and lettuce deliveries happened on the same day, it overflowed into the upstairs human refrigerator. Which is already full of guinea pig food. The drawers and door spaces will hold a couple weeks’ worth of apples and potatoes.

24. What’s in your pocket besides your cell phone?

  1. What are pockets? +0
  2. Lipstick and powder. You meant my purse, right? +0
  3. My wallet and a dirty handkerchief +1
  4. Car keys +1
  5. Swiss Army knife +2
  6. Duct tape +3
  7. Cable ties, some bits of rusty chicken wire, some baling wine, and part of a plastic bag +4

This is a lifestyle question. You need to be prepared for anything. Capybaras are not designer pets. Let’s hope we never see a capybara in Paris Hilton’s handbag.

25. What is your own life expectancy?

  1. 1-5 years +0
  2. 5-10 years +1
  3. 10-15 years +2
  4. 15-20 years +5

In the wild, capybaras over 4 years old are rarely found. In zoos, they may live 10-12 years if well cared for. In captivity, they can live to 15-18 years if the owner knows what they are doing. If you are over 60 years old, you really want to think about whether you will outlive your pet.

Nothing is sacred.

Finished! Now, tally up your points and divide by the number of questions, 25. I know you’re going to want to know how you did so here you go, pretend you are back in high school. Keep in mind that this quiz has absolutely no credibility, and a top score does not win you a capybara!

3.7 +           A       You get it and your lifestyle could be capybara compatible.

2.7-3.6        B       You get the idea, but you probably need to make some major adjustments.

1.7-2.6        C       You need to do a LOT more research.

1.0-1.6        D       You took the quiz for fun, right?

0.9 – 0        F       You have never seen a live capybara, have you?

Let me know how you did, and by all means let me know if you found any errors, inconsistencies, or blatant bloopers. I’ll fix them for the next guy!

Stacy Winnick is Vice President of the ROUS Foundation for Capybara Veterinary Medicine. She is the author of I Can Explain Everything: Confessions of a Pet Capybara.

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