Have you ever wanted to know if you can keep a capybara as a pet? The answer is that you can in some areas, but you should be aware that they are not super simple or super cheap animals, and you must keep them in groups. A lone capybara will be very unhappy! If that all sounds okay to you, let’s find out more about keeping capybaras.
It is important to do thorough research before you take on a group of capybaras because they need a lot in terms of care and housing. They are large animals and while they may be related to guinea pigs, they are not such simple creatures to look after. Don’t try and keep capybaras as pets without good research and a lot of commitment!
In This Article
Is It Legal To Own Capybaras?
Before you even consider adopting a capybara (or more), it is very important to look into the legality, because you cannot keep these exotic pets just anywhere in the world. Some places will not allow you to keep them at all, and most that do allow you to keep them will require you to have a license and meet certain criteria.
For example, it is legal to own capybaras in the UK, but you will need to have a license and be able to prove that your property meets the requirements for these animals to live in good conditions (a swimming pool, plenty of space, etc.).
You can also own capybaras in Canada, which permits many different kinds of exotic pets to be kept – including these giant guinea pigs.
It is legal to own capybaras in many states in the US, such as Pennsylvania, Texas, and New York. Some states ban them entirely, such as California and Georgia.
In most states, you will need to contact local authorities to get more information about whether you can or can’t own a capybara.
The rules may even vary by county or council, and you will probably have to meet certain criteria in order to get a license. Often, you will also need to undergo continuing inspects to ensure standards are being adhered to.
You should always get in touch with your local authority and ask about the conditions of owning capybaras before you take any further steps, even setting up an enclosure. You do not want to start investing money into a space for them and then find that you cannot own them anyway.
Usually, you will need to talk to the Fish and Wildlife Authority, but you may also need to speak to other government bodies or local authorities.
Many states will require you to show that you can provide a suitable space for these giant creatures. This will mean a pool of a certain depth with a good ramp so that the animals can get in and out. They are semi-aquatic and cannot be happy without water.
You will also be told what the minimum space they can be kept in is, and have any other rules and restrictions explained to you. These will vary depending on where you live, but they are all geared at making sure your animals thrive and live good, happy lives.
Do Capybaras Smell?
Have you ever wondered whether capybaras have a pleasant or unpleasant odor? It might seem that because they are constantly climbing in and out of the water, they would smell awful.
In truth, capybaras do not smell of very much. They do not have dense fur like dogs do, so dirt and bacteria is less likely to get trapped in their coats. Their coats are wiry and do not hold on to smells in the way that soft fur does.
Additionally, the water keeps these animals pretty clean, as long as the water itself is kept clean. Of course, you might not want to press your face into your capybara’s fur, but these animals do not stink and will not make your house smell horrible if you let them indoors.
The animals do leave scent marks using glands on their backsides and their noses (for the males), but this is not a smell that humans can detect. It is used to send messages to other capybaras.
Are Capybaras Good Pets?
It is rare for a capybara to be anything but sweet-natured and gentle. As herd animals, they do not tend toward aggression, and they are generally considered calm peaceful creatures.
They spend all their time around other creatures, and like guinea pigs, they are unhappy if they are not kept with others of their own kind.
They depend on each other for safety and companionship, so you must not keep a single capybara. No matter how much love and attention you give it, it will be unhappy if it is not kept with others.
It is best to have a herd of capybaras, rather than just a pair. If you do not have much space, you should get as many as can comfortably fit, or consider a different pet. Capybara groups in the wild are usually around ten individuals, but they can range up to a hundred at times. Lone capybaras will be miserable.
Otherwise, capybaras make great pets. They are friendly, communicative, and very cute. They are also laid back creatures, but they do need quite a lot of care and attention. Don’t get them if you cannot commit a good amount of time to them.
Can You Cuddle Capybaras?
In theory, you may be able to cuddle a capybara. However, as explained in Why Are Capybaras So Friendly, you must treat your animal with respect and allow it to initiate physical contact with you. Stroking your capybara if it enjoys it is fine, and it may choose to cuddle up to you, which is great.
However, you should not assume that your capybara wants to cuddle all the time, and you should not try to hold onto it if it is attempting to move away from you. Instead, encourage it to show you when it wants affection, and let it approach you.
You might find that some individuals in your herd are cuddlier than others. That’s fine. Like all animals, capybaras will have different temperaments and different moods. None of them will want to cuddle all of the time, and you should respect that.
Remember that although capybaras are gentle animals on the whole, they have very sharp teeth and they are capable of biting. You should not force one to snuggle you or try to handle it when it wants to be left alone. Give your animal its space and always treat it gently.
What Does A Pet Capybara Need?
If you have decided that a capybara is for you, you might be wondering what these animals need. After all, this isn’t like bringing home a gerbil, even if they are both rodents. You will need to spend time, energy, and probably quite a bit of money setting up a space that is suitable for these giant creatures.
Do not get capybaras before you have a space prepared for them, even if this is currently legal in your location. You must have everything ready before you introduce the animals. An unsuitable enclosure and a lot of noise and change when they are trying to settle in will make these animals very stressed and miserable.
Get everything prepared first and then introduce the animals to their home.
You need a good amount of space for your capybara herd. Remember, you can’t have just one! These animals need approximately twenty feet by twelve feet for a pair, and more for a herd. The area must be well-fenced, at least four feet tall, and have a safe enclosure for the animals to go into at night.
Capybaras are grass eaters, but lawn grass may not be suitable for them. Make sure you provide an edible grass or lots of hay. The best kinds of hay include Timothy hay and Orchard hay. Even if your capybaras will have some grass, make sure hay is available too.
Spread the hay around so your capybaras can browse and graze as they would in the wild.
You should give your capybaras a vitamin C supplement and guinea pig pellets in a large bowl to supplement hay. Other treats, such as fruits and vegetables, should be given in limited quantities, as they are high in sugar.
All animals enjoy having toys in their enclosures, so don’t neglect this. You probably won’t find many toys specifically marketed for capybaras, so it’s okay to choose some large toys that are suitable for dogs, such as balls.
Make sure that toys have no small parts, and that your capybaras can’t bite off and swallow plastic bits. Wooden toys are a good option, and so are large cardboard boxes. Float balls in the water, and give them woven ones to play with on dry land.
Scattering a few treats around the pen is another good way to keep your capybaras happy and engaged.
You will need to provide light inside your capybaras’ enclosure if they spend a lot of time inside during the winter. Remember, these are heat-loving animals and they won’t like the cold, so they’ll need an indoor space in cooler climates.
However, they still need lots of light, so you should add UVB lighting, and turn it on for at least twelve hours per day if the capybaras are inside a lot. This will mimic the sunlight that they usually get when they live in the wild.
You should also add heat lamps if the temperatures will go below 45 degrees F, because otherwise, your animals will get cold.
Your capybaras must have access to a good pool of water. This needs to be at least three feet deep, and they will spend a lot of their time in it. You must also provide a ramp so that they can get in and out easily.
There should be some shade available around the pool, too, so that the animals can wade and cool off when temperatures are high. The pen must also offer some sunny spots so that these animals can bask and enjoy themselves. Make your capybaras as comfortable as possible.
The water area is non-negotiable; they will be miserable without it.
Capybaras can be kept as pets, but they are not cheap and they require a lot of care and setup. A capybara pen must offer water, shelter, warmth, and light. They need good quality hay and guinea pig pellets. Before taking on a herd of capybaras, make sure you check local laws and ensure you are allowed to own them.