The capybara is the world’s largest rodent, weighing between 35-66kg and standing up to 65cm tall at the withers. Their closest relatives are rock cavies and guinea pigs, and they are native to the South American savannahs. The capybara is a very social rodent, and in the wild, they live in family groups of up to as many as 100, although 20 or so is a more usual number of pack members. Looking somewhat like a really, really large guinea pig, this big, undeniably cute dog-sized rodent can prove very appealing to people who are looking for an exotic pet from the larger end of the scale!
The capybara is an animal you would be more likely to see in a zoo rather than in someone’s home, but if this interests you and you are prepared to do plenty of research to find out if a capybara could fit into your family, this article will look at the basics required of their care and ownership.
It is not against the law to own a capybara in the UK, but in order to do so, you must have a licence for your pet that is issued by your local council. The remit of the licence ensures that your home, garden and facilities are suitable for a capybara to live in, and also that the area in which you live, your neighbours and other people are not going to be adversely affected by your new pet.
If you are looking for a cheap pet, the capybara is a definite no-no! As well as being unusual and hard to buy, if you can find one offered for sale, you may have to shell out several thousand pounds to pay for it! Added to this, the care, facilities and upkeep required by the capybara are potentially onerous, and you will need to make some alterations to your home and garden to accommodate for your new pet.
First of all, remember that the capybara is a large animal that can reach over four feet long, and so needs plenty of room to move around! To keep one to three capybaras comfortably, the minimum size of their outdoor enclosure will need to be at least 20ft square. Within the enclosure there should be a sunny area for basking, plus a cooler, shaded area that your pets can use to stay out of the heat.
You will also need to provide kennelling or indoor space for your capybaras to sleep in or use to get in out of the cold, with hay for bedding. During the colder months of the year, you may also need to install a heat lamp to allow your pets to stay warm. Fencing for your land and enclosure must be sufficient to prevent escape, and a fence that is at least four feet high and rooted in concrete is the best way to ensure that you won’t have an escapee on your hands! Capybaras are very good at squeezing themselves through small spaces, so choosing the right fencing is vital.
Access to clean, fresh water at all times is vital for capybaras, and this should be topped up regularly. Capybaras also need a swimming hole, to mimic the savannah areas that they are native to.
All capybaras must have access to a swimming hole, as living by the water and being in the water are natural parts of capybara life. The capybara is actually a semi-aquatic animal, having webbed feet, and in the wild, they spend lots of time in the water to stay cool and keep their skin from becoming dry.
Their swimming hole should have ramped access to allow your capybaras to get into and out of the water easily, and should be deep enough for them to become fully submerged. The minimum depth of the pool should be 3.5 feet, but it can be much deeper if you wish. The wider the swimming hole is, the happier your capybara will be!
Capybaras are vegetarians, and in the wild, they graze on grass and aquatic plants, supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables. Capybaras make for excellent natural lawnmowers if you have a large lawn or field! You should also feed your capybara hay and cattle pellets, as well as ensuring that you do not use any pesticides or other treatments on the grass that they graze.
Capybaras, like many rodents, have teeth that are constantly growing, and if they are not worn down naturally, can make it a challenge for your pet to eat, which may mean that they need to have their teeth cut down by your vet. Supply plenty of sticks and branches for your capybara to chew on, in order to allow them to wear down their teeth naturally and prevent dental problems. Check that the wood in question is safe for your pet before offering it; willow or birch branches are the most popular choices.