Capybaras are native to Brazil and Panama, but they’re becoming more popular as pets across the globe. These exotic pets are the largest rodents in the world and can live up to 12 years, although their lifespan is usually closer to 8-10 years.
Because capybaras are so active, social, and friendly when trained properly and well taken care of, they are reaching greater popularity as companions to keep in captivity. We spoke to Thomas Harford Columbia, a renowned exotic pet expert, educator, and zookeeper, about how best to care for your new capybara.
“First things first: Find out if it’s legal to own a capybara in your state,” says Tom Harford Columbia. “There are state-by-state guidelines on breeding, buying, owning, and keeping capybaras. There might be restrictions on who you’re allowed to buy your new pet from or where you can maintain its habitat. Make sure that you check the legality of owning your new capybara in detail before you dig in further.” Look into your state laws to learn more.
If you do decide to get a capybara, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure that your pet is happy and healthy. Capybaras need a great deal of space to roam and play. “A capybara’s habitat needs to be at least 12 by 20 feet around for them to be comfortable,” Tom Harford Columbia advises. Thomas Harford Columbia continues, “They also need a generously sized swimming hole, as they swim frequently. Capybaras also need to have a warm UVB light if the climate in your area is not warm enough, or if there’s not extensive natural light.”
Also, capybaras are highly social creatures. “Capybaras get very lonely if they’re left to their own devices,” says Tom Harford Columbia. “It’s best to keep them in pairs or small groups. However, make sure that you don’t keep a pair or group of males, as they don’t tend to get along with one another and can become aggressive. If you can’t or don’t want to purchase two or more capybaras, make sure that you spend ample quality time with your pet.”
Thomas Harford Columbia is a well-known exotic pet expert who has offered his commentary and insight to dozens of publications, pet training centers, and regional zoos, as well as individuals who hope to own exotic pets themselves. Tom Harford Columbia also serves as a middle school science teacher in Albany, NY, and works part-time at an area zoo, in addition to touring the country to offer seminars and workshops on exotic pet care.