Can You Own A pet Capybara?

Do capybaras make good pets? As always the answer depends. These creatures which look like giant guinea pigs, are considered the friendliest critters on earth. But they still have their demands that must be satisfied by their owners. Read on if you want to learn more about what it would be like to keep a capybara as a pet.

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Pet capybara on grass

Is It Legal To Own A Capybara?

Just as with most exotic pets, the legality of owning a capybara depends on the state or province where you live. 

Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York allow people to adopt this charming animal as a pet in the US, while it’s completely illegal in Georgia and California. Other states, like Arkansas and Nevada, require a permit to keep one outside of the zoo. 

Canada, on the other hand, has no laws barring people from adopting their very own ginormous hamster across all provinces. 

Are Capybaras Friendly?

Friendly capybara with crocodile

While it’s typically not a good idea to keep a wild animal in your backyard, even if it’s technically legal, capybaras are a rare exception. These sweet critters are incredibly friendly, easily becoming best pals with a range of creatures they are neighbors with in their native South America. 

The secret behind the capybara’s popularity is their gentle, easygoing personality. They are highly social, forming groups of 10-20 fellow capys to hang out with. These herds speak to each other constantly with a vocabulary consisting of whistles, squeaks, purrs, and barks. 

This sunny disposition attracts other animals to them, to the point that it’s pretty common to see monkeys, birds, and turtles lounging around on their backs. It just goes to show how lovely it is to get a cuddle from a capybara!

Capybara with bird on its back

People have spotted even the most dangerous predators, like the notoriously aggressive caiman crocodile, enjoying the presence of these web-footed wonders.

While capybaras may take a few days to warm up to their surroundings, they’ll soon feel comfortable enough to seek out a little love from their humans. Once you’ve bonded with your buddy, you can start to teach your capy obedience tricks, just like a dog!

That all being said, your pet capy must have open access to other critters. While the most ethical choice is to purchase them in pairs, they’ll happily vibe with your cats, dogs, and farm fowl. 

Watch the video below for a short compilation of cute capybara moments.

What Do Capybaras Need in Their Habitats?

Hailing from South American marshes and forests, capybaras are used to wide-open spaces with plenty of aquatic areas to do their favorite activity– swimming. When you set up a habitat at home, it’s vital to help your pet feel as safe and comfortable as possible, so your setup should replicate their natural environment. 

First, you’ll need to consider the space. These gentle giants reach up to 200 pounds and measure 4 feet in length, so you’ll need at least 300 square feet for up to three capybaras. At the same time, I don’t recommend going any smaller than that, even for a single capy: the more room you can give them to roam, the better. 

Second, a safe water feature is essential. Capybaras spend most of their days floating lazily along through the wetlands, enjoying the cool water that helps protect them from the intense equatorial heat. 

To help them stay cool and content, create a pond that allows your pet to sink their entire body into the water, plus room to paddle around. They have webbed feet, much like ducks and beavers, so they can spend hours doing their best Michael Phelps impression.

If you have more than one capy, be sure that your water hole scales along with them. Their social needs extend beyond dry ground, so you’ll need enough room for the whole gang to take a dip in the pool. 

Third, they’ll need shelter. A lean-to that protects against the sun’s glare helps capybaras regulate their body temperature when they are ready to get out of the water. 

Finally, your enclosure needs to be reinforced against your capy’s habit of chewing. Given a chance, they’ll gnaw holes in wood posts and do a disappearing act. They’ll also try to slip beneath the fence if there are gaps between it and the ground large enough for your rascally rodent to slip through.  

What Do Capybaras Eat?

Feeding an pet capybara

When it’s feeding time for your cuddly capybara, know that you’ll be spending a lot of time in the produce section. These herbivores love their veggies, exclusively dining on delicious greens, tubers, grass, and even the occasional sugar cane for a sweet treat. 

The bulk of their diet should consist of timothy hay, just like what you would feed to your pet bunny or chinchilla. Dried grasses give them plenty of vitamins and nutrients, as well as a texture that helps keep their teeth filed down to a safe length. 

Of course, a tiny handful each morning isn’t enough to fuel the world’s most giant rodents. You’ll need to provide it in bulk amounts, spreading it throughout the enclosure to encourage their natural tendency to graze. 

When they’re craving something a bit fresher, capybaras are happy to munch on grass. You just need to be positive that there are zero pesticides or other harmful chemicals on the lawn within their enclosure. Otherwise, you risk making your XXL guinea pig extremely ill. 

Like many mammals, including humans, capybaras need supplemental vitamin C, as their bodies do not produce enough. To help combat deficiency of this crucial nutrient, set out a bowl of small animal pellets with vitamin C in the ingredient list. 

How Much Does A Capybara Cost?

Capybara makes sound

Once you’ve researched whether or not capybara are legal to own in your area, you’ll need to find a reputable source to adopt your new pet. 

Unfortunately, sites offering capybara for sale are few and far between. Start with a search on the internet, you might find a breeder which features both baby and fully grown capys available for interested buyers. At the time of writing, breeders from Arizona, Tennessee, and Florida have baby capybaras listed for sale!

Be prepared to pay a pretty steep price when you become a capybara owner. They typically cost around the same price as a designer dog, running anywhere from $2,000- $4,000. Then, you should factor in the cost of building your enclosure, keeping your capy well-fed, and any necessary veterinary care!