Capybaras are moderately referred to as giant guinea pigs and giant rodents; however, unlike their smaller cousins, capybaras aren’t any to care for.
Capybaras can be found in homes as pets, commonly in groups, but are not legal to own everywhere. Capybaras are smart, friendly animals that comparatively amazing pets that have some specific requirements.
- Common name: Capybara
- Scientific name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
- Life expectancy: Can live up to 8 to 10 years in captivity
- Adult size: The body of the capybara is nearly 2 feet tall and can weigh up to 170 pounds.
- Difficulty of care: Intermediate. Capybaras as highly social animals and is extremely necessary that they are kept in pairs. Plenty of space and access to a large body of water is also required.
Behavior and temperament
The capybara is native to Brazil and Panama, as well as other areas in Southern and Central America. They are found in large groups in the wild. Capybaras are found in rivers or standing waters to meet the need to stay hydrated because of their dry skin.
Capybaras prefer areas with enough grasses, which they consume and use to avoid predators. Let’s not forget that they are impeccable swimmers. They easily navigate their way through waters with their webbed feet. They are able to hold their breath underwater for about 300 seconds.
As stated earlier, capybaras should be kept in pairs. Their level of intelligence that fair badly of kept alone. Male capybaras may get problematic if housed together (even when they are neutered). It’s very likely that fight may break out if you are more than one male attempting to stay together. It’s worst if their enclosure is not big enough.
Glands responsible for scent in male capybaras are apparent. They are located at the top of their snouts, and capybaras use this to mark their territories. Female capybaras also possess these glands but aren’t as developed as their opposite sex’s. Both male and female capybaras use their anal glands to mark.
Capybaras sometimes cover themselves in mud to help monitor their body temperature. This is most useful since they do not have many sweat glands. Covering themselves with mud helps protect them from sunburn.
Capybaras that are hand-rated are typically tame, but don’t expect the same calm temperament if you are getting an adult capybara. Plenty of patience is needed before it would warm up to you.
Capybaras are known to be very shy and are also very nervous animals that highly vocal with each other. You can lessen tension when you groom a capybara.
Offering your capybara food and taking the time to comb them can not only help your pet relax but also help you relieve stress.
Since we are aware that capybaras don’t do well alone, owners would have to ensure that there is plenty of space the capybaras to explore.
A pool of water that allows for wading of over 3 feet and swimming should be provided at all times. Shaded areas should also be included in the structure of the enclosure.
These rodents are prone to sunburn, so a form of shade must be provided. A bowl of fresh guinea pig pellets and piles of hay should also be accessible to them all the time.
It’s also essential to have an enclosure that would give the capybaras access to exercise and move around out of water in addition to a pool.
You could recreate natural grazing by spreading out hay in the enclosure. You should also provide items that would be safe for your pets to chew on. You have options like large dog toys that can be played with and floats and untreated wood.
A fencing area that’s as large as 12 feet by 20 feet by 20 feet per pair. Ensure that the fence outside is at least 4 feet high and that it is secure enough to hold your pet in.
These rodents are diurnal. This means they need access to direct sunlight. However, if where your capybaras are got too cold, you may have to provide a UVB light.
This light would be on for about 12 hours per day to mimic sunlight. Heat light is also another option if your pet’s enclosure gets really cold.
Capybaras are somewhat resilient, so unless the weather gets extremely hot or falls below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, they should be able to survive outdoors.
Food and water
In the wild, capybaras only consume about three to six plant species. High-quality grass hay should be the most common ingredient in your pet’s diet.
Timothy hay and orchard hay are both available from pet stores and big animal feed stores and are offered in unmeasurable piles.
The hay will not only provide needed nutrients that a large rodent requires, but will also help to keep the mammal’s teeth at an acceptable length.
Similar to other rodents, capybaras teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, and if they aren’t allowed to chew on things hard enough to file their teeth down, they’d have to be manually attended to by an exotic vet.
Additionally, capybaras need to be fed guinea pig pellets with vitamins. Like humans and guinea pigs, capybaras don’t produce a sufficient amount of vitamin C naturally. So pellets with vitamin C are a necessary part of their diet to help minimize the chances of your capybaras getting scurvy.
Outdoor grazing may be allowed if you are entirely sure that your capybaras won’t be exposed to fertilizers toxic weeds, or insecticides trapped by grasses.
Offering vegetables as treats are occasionally welcomed, but be sure not to include fruits and sweet vegetables to what you’re feeding them. This is because capybaras can quickly become addicted to this natural source of sugar.
You may be able to tell if something is off with your giant rodents’ diet by observing their fecal matter. If their droppings don’t come in olive shapes, then they probably need less sugar and moisture and more roughages.
Common health complications
Capybaras in the wild have shorter lifespans, especially since many predators find them tasty. In captivity, apart from their vitamin C deficiency, they’re comparatively hardy.
Like most rodents, nonetheless, capybaras quickly contact respiratory infections and infestations with lice or mites present in their fur. Often, the majority of its health complications center around unhealthy living conditions. This is why it’s best to ensure that their enclosure is hygienic as it helps to minimize exposure to harmful substances.
If your capybara appears uninterested in food or stops eating altogether, then this is probably a sign of digestive issues. Be sure that you easily have access to a vet that has experience with rodents like capybaras before you decide to adopt them as pets.
Purchasing a capybara
Ordinarily, a person should be able to get a capybara from a reputable breeder; nevertheless, be sure to check if it’s legal to own a rodent of that breed. Some places put restrictions on owning a rodent of that size as a pet.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to domesticate a wild capybara gotten from the wild. You are likely to cause it undue stress, thereby shortening the animal’s lifespan. Also, capybaras obtained from the wild may be carrying some unnoticeable diseases.
Be ready to adopt more than one capybara, since they don’t do well living alone. At least two capybaras should be paired together to allow for socializing, similar to their natural habitat. Make sure you pick a very healthy capybara before taking it home. You might want to watch out for the very active and alert ones.
They take their time to warm up to people, -especially those they aren’t used to. Also, their fur should be soft and free of bald patches or redness. Capybaras may suffer from mites and parasites if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Similar guinea pigs, capybaras are highly social and interact with each other using a variety of actions and sounds. Whistles, grunts, purrs, barks, coughs, squeals, and more can be heard for many reasons.
They can become very stressed when they are raised alone and aren’t able to communicate with another capybara. Mimicking sounds can help them, but the surest way to guarantee your rodent’s happiness is to ensure it has at least one buddy to groom, talk, and swim with.
Pets similar to the Capybara
Capybaras have many close and distant relatives that are also commonly owned as pets, and some of them include;
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