The novelty of opting for slightly more unusual pets has certainly seen an increase over the past few years. With Bearded Dragons, Snakes, Spiders, and more, all high on the wish lists of pet lovers it may come as no surprise that we have found ourselves having to factor in content from what to do if your tarantula isn’t eating through to discovering if Axolotls make good pets among many others.
So, with that in mind, we have chosen to focus our blog on another in-demand pet that may strike many of you as a little unusual.
You’ll be forgiven for having no idea what one is, what one looks like, what one eats and how one should be looked after but you can rest assured, after reading this blog, you’ll be fully prepared to own one!
Should you be in the collective that already has a soft spot for these four-legged animals and joined in with the hype they quickly received in 2022, then perhaps all the facts you gather below will sway you one way or the other as to whether it should be your next pet!
What is a Capybara?
A Capybara is a rodent that comes from the South American savannah. It loves to live near water and areas dense in foliage. Extremely social, they often live in groups of 10-20 but it is not a surprise to see them travelling or playing in groups of 100 or more!
The Capybara is a close relative of the Guinea Pig and is also related, albeit distantly, to the Chinchilla.
With such company, you may expect the Capybara to be relatively small, but it is in fact the largest rodent in the world, imagine a huge Guinea Pig that’s like a small dog in stature and you get an idea! As a result, a Capybara comes with very specific care requirements meaning it is not a pet for everyone.
Can you have a Capybara as a pet in the UK?
At present, there is no law in the UK stopping you from having a Capybara as a pet in the UK although due to their size and nature, you will require a special license from your local authority for you to be able to keep one.
The reasons for this are multiple but largely relate to the safety of the animal and the local community. Capybaras are not native to the UK and will require a lot of outdoor space so may pose risks to both people and the environment if not looked after correctly.
Many years back, a Capybara would be listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act but this no longer applies and instead, you must approach your council to secure the correct license to be able to have one.
If you are not granted a license, you should not attempt to purchase a Capybara as you will find yourself in significant amounts of trouble.
How much does a Capybara cost?
A Capybara is not a pet that you can secure “on the cheap”. They are not a widely available pet and as a result, can cost a lot of money from specialist breeders. A figure of £1000 is not surprising and in all honesty, finding anything much cheaper than that should raise concerns.
Aside from the initial cost of purchasing a Capybara, you have the added expense of food, a suitable enclosure, plenty to occupy them and any associated costs that may come from vet visits.
This makes it a pet that is certainly not for young children, those living in small houses without a garden, or those that cannot dedicate sufficient time and money to looking after it.
Where to buy a Capybara
You should only purchase a Capybara from a special breeder. This will ensure they are raised under the correct standards that help keep a Capybara healthy. This will mean they are expensive to purchase but you can feel safe in the knowledge that your pet is in the healthiest condition possible and has been well looked after.
What kind of enclosure does a Capybara need?
A Capybara needs a lot of space. With its size reaching as much as 4ft long and 2 ft tall, they certainly won’t be staying in a cage like a Guinea Pig might.
Due to this size, you will need to have an area of at least 10ft x 10ft but be aware, this is the minimum and a Capybara will always enjoy having more space. The area needs to replicate as much of their natural environment as possible and allow for space to play, rest, eat and hide. It will need to be made escape-proof and have options for shade and shelter factored in too. This will mean making it over 4 ft tall to ensure no surprise escapes.
A Capybara loves water, and its semi-aquatic nature means that it needs plenty of space for a swim and a paddle. Again, due to their size, you must factor that into any pool you create, space is important. You will need it to be at least 4ft deep.
Within this enclosure space, you will also need to ensure there are suitable furnishings to cover the changing weather. Hay as bedding in the interior part of their enclosure provides a safe, warm and comfortable area and in colder months they may even require the addition of a heat lamp to ensure they feel as though they are back home and not struggling with the UK winter.
A fresh supply of water should also be made available in addition to their pool.
Activities in the enclosure for a Capybara
These guys are active and want to use up energy both physically and mentally. You will need space that allows them to run, dig, hide and climb. Furthermore, they are social characters too and love company. This means that you should not have just one Capybara in an enclosure. You run the risk of it becoming lonely and even exhibiting signs that it is depressed. Ideally, two-four in one large enclosure would make for great company and provide you with lots of entertainment too!
What do Capybara eat?
Capybaras are vegetarians and love nothing more than feasting on lots of grass so if your lawn is rather overgrown, these guys will soon help get it trimmed down! When not munching on grass, they enjoy various vegetables, fruits and aquatic plants. Just like other rodents, their teeth are always getting bigger, and this can lead to problems if not kept on top of. To assist them, leave plenty of sticks and logs in the enclosure that they can gnaw on. Anything you do give them, be it to eat or play with, must be free from any pesticides and suitable for animals. Even the woods they gnaw on must be checked before being used. Opt for willow or birch ideally.
They can eat a lot in one day. Especially grass and in some cases per Capybara, they can eat through 6-8lbs of the green stuff! They tend to feed twice a day. Once in the morning and again in the evening so always check there is a readily available supply of food.
Are Capybaras dangerous?
Capybaras are entertaining creatures but can, if provoked too much, bite or scratch to defend themselves. It should also be noted that they can carry certain diseases that are dangerous to humans. Ringworm, salmonella, fleas and more can all be moved from Capybaras to humans or other animals.
How long do Capybaras live?
Capybaras live longer than other rodents often chosen as pets and if looked after correctly can live up to 10 years when kept in captivity. If left out in the wild, the lifespan can be significantly less with an expected lifespan of just 4 years.
Legal requirements for owning a Capybara
As we mentioned earlier, you will need to obtain a special license from the local authority to be able to have a Capybara but in addition, there will also be specific documents or vaccinations required.
This will include microchipping, public liability insurance and regular health checks that can only be performed by a vet that specialises in exotic pets.
At PBS Pet Travel, we love all types of pets, and the Capybara is certainly one that brings a smile to our faces. Should you own one, or any other pet and need to organise the transportation of the pet from one country to another, speak to us. We are experts in pet travel and can make it possible for your pet to get anywhere in the world! With a team well trained in handling all aspects of pet travel paperwork as well as ensuring that you are kept fully informed of every step in the process we keep everything simple. Contact us today or get a bespoke free pet travel quote now!