Exotic Pets

Should You Keep a Capybara as a Pet? What You Need To Know

Capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, are becoming popular pets for many animal lovers. However, before deciding to bring one into your home, there are several things you need to know.

Thinking of getting a capybara as a pet? Before making a decision, it’s important to consider their legality, cost, space, and habitat requirements, diet, social needs, and health care. This article will provide the necessary information for you to make an informed decision.



What is a Capybara?

Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world, native to South America. They are semi-aquatic and often found near water sources. Capybaras are social creatures and live in groups of up to 20 individuals.

They are herbivores, feeding on grasses and aquatic plants. Capybaras are known for their friendly demeanor and relaxed nature, making them a popular attraction at zoos and petting zoos.

As pets, they require a lot of space and access to water, so they are not recommended for most households. Despite their unique appearance and popularity, capybaras are still widely hunted for their meat and hide.

What is a Capybara


The Legality of Keeping a Capybara as a Pet

Capybaras are social and friendly animals that are native to Central and South America. These herbivorous mammals are known for their love of water and their popularization on social media as “giant hamsters”. Due to their cuteness and relatively easygoing nature, some people might consider keeping a capybara as a pet.

However, before deciding to bring one home, it’s important to be aware of the legal restrictions that come along with ownership. In many places, capybaras are classified as exotic pets and fall under different regulations than more traditional pets like cats and dogs.

In the United States, regulations vary by state. Some states like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois allow capybaras with a valid permit, while others like California, Michigan, and New York prohibit ownership altogether.

In Europe, the laws regarding capybara ownership are similarly ambiguous, with the animal being illegal to own in some countries like the UK and Italy, but allowed in others like Switzerland and Germany.

It’s important to research and obeys the specific laws in your area before purchasing or adopting a capybara as a pet.


The Cost of Keeping a Capybara

While capybaras may seem like cuddly and adorable pets, they come with a hefty price tag. Before considering owning a capybara, it’s important to be aware of the potential expenses.

The following is an estimate of the costs associated with keeping a capybara:


Initial Expenses

Expense Cost
Capybara $1,500 – $3,000
Large, suitable habitat $300 – $1,000
Food and water dishes $30 – $60
Enrichment items (e.g. toys) $50+
Veterinary check-up $100 – $300
Permits (if required) Varies by location


Ongoing Monthly Expenses

Expense Cost
Bedding $20 – $50
Feed (vegetables) $30 – $50
Hay $15 – $20
Treats $20 – $30
Veterinary care $50 – $100


It’s important to note that the above estimates are based on average costs and will vary depending on factors such as location, access to veterinary care, and the individual needs of your capybara. Additionally, capybaras require specialized care and should only be owned by those who are prepared to provide the time and resources necessary for their well-being.


Space and Habitat Requirements for Capybaras

Owning a capybara can be an expensive endeavor. These large rodents need a considerable amount of space to move around and play, so they require an enclosure that is at least 4 feet by 8 feet. The enclosure should also have walls or barriers that are at least 6 feet high to prevent escapes.

The habitat should also include plenty of toys, pools of water, and hideouts to provide mental stimulation.

In addition to the space requirements, capybaras need a variety of other items for their care. These include bedding materials, feeding dishes, and chew toys. They also need access to fresh fruits and vegetables each day. All of these items must be purchased or made by the owner, and they can add up quickly.

Finally, capybaras require regular medical care. This includes annual vaccinations, deworming, and routine checkups. These expenses can be quite high depending on what type of services your veterinarian offers and how far you must travel to find one that is experienced in treating exotic animals.


Feeding Capybaras: Diet and Nutrition

Capybaras are herbivores, which means they should be fed a diet consisting mainly of plant-based foods. In the wild, they feed on a variety of plant materials, such as grasses, water hyacinths, and aquatic plants. As a pet owner, it’s important to provide your capybara with a balanced and nutritious diet that meets its dietary needs.



Fresh hay should be the main component of a capybara’s diet. Timothy hay is a good choice, as it’s low in calcium and high in fiber. Hay also helps keep the capybara’s teeth healthy by promoting good dental health.



Capybaras should be offered a variety of fresh vegetables, including leafy greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers. Offer a range of vegetables to ensure optimal nutrition and variety in their diet.


Fruits and Treats

Fruits should be offered in moderation, as they contain a lot of natural sugars. Appropriate fruits include berries, bananas, and melons.

In addition, capybaras should be offered occasional treats, such as whole wheat bread or unsalted nuts, in moderation.



Capybaras require access to fresh, clean water at all times. They also enjoy soaking in water, so providing a shallow pond or pool (with proper filtration), as well as clean water for drinking, is crucial.



Capybaras in captivity may require vitamin and mineral supplements, such as calcium or vitamin C, to maintain good health. Consult with a veterinarian who is experienced in treating exotic animals for specific dietary recommendations.



Social Needs of Capybaras

Capybaras are social animals and do best in groups of two or more. In the wild, they live in large family groups consisting of a dominant male, several females, and their offspring. They communicate with each other through different vocalizations such as whistles, grunts, and barks.

In captivity, capybaras should be kept in groups of two or more, as they require each other for social interaction and companionship. If you cannot provide a suitable group environment, your capybara may become stressed and lonely, resulting in health issues and behavioral problems.

Capybaras are also very intelligent animals that need plenty of mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. They love to explore their environment, play with toys, and interact with humans. Providing a variety of enrichment activities is key to keeping your capybara’s mind active and content.


Health and Veterinary Care for Capybaras

Capybaras are generally hardy animals with few health issues, but regular veterinary care is still essential for their well-being. All pet capybaras should be provided with annual wellness exams and vaccinations to keep them healthy and free from disease.

In addition, capybaras are prone to certain medical conditions that can occur as they age, such as obesity and arthritis. Regular exams can help catch any medical issues early and allow for timely treatment.

Finally, since capybaras are exotic animals, it is important to find a veterinarian who has experience with these creatures. This will ensure that your capybara receives the best possible care and that any health concerns are addressed quickly and correctly.


Bonding and Training with Your Capybara

Capybaras are social animals with a lot of personality. Building a strong bond with your pet is essential to providing the best possible care for them and ensuring their happiness.

One way to build a strong bond with your capybara is through positive reinforcement training, which will also help teach them basic commands and proper behaviors. Training should be done in a positive way, with rewards such as treats and verbal praise for good behavior.

In addition to training, spending quality time with your capybara is important for developing the bond between you. Spend time interacting with your pet, providing them with enriching toys and activities that they can enjoy. This will not only help create a strong bond but also keep your capybara mentally and physically stimulated.


In conclusion

Deciding to keep a capybara as a pet is not a decision to take lightly. These large, social creatures require a lot of specific care and attention in order to thrive in a domestic environment. Potential owners should carefully consider the amount of space, time, and resources needed to properly care for a capybara before making the commitment to bring one into their home.

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