How much is that capy in the window?
The one who hasn’t got any tail?
How much is that capy in the window?
My Gari I never will sale!
Stacy Winnick, owner of the infamous Dobbye Winnick, did a recent post on her blog, Dobbye the Capybara, about the costs of keeping a pet capybara. This is a very important topic for anyone considering getting a pet capybara or any other pet for that matter. Just how much does it cost to keep a capybara?
The price you pay to actually buy a capybara for a pet is generally not exorbitant. I got Caplin Rous for $300 and Garibaldi Rous was technically free, although I did pay $300 for his flight down to Texas from Ohio plus another $100 for the carrier he came in. I believe capybaras have gone up in price since then. Honestly, if you are worried about the purchase price, do not get a capybara! That is just the beginning of a long series of expenses you are going to incur. If your budget doesn’t have a reasonable amount of play in it, you really shouldn’t get any pet, let alone an exotic.
Land and Space:
Capybaras are large animals and as such they need a large space both to roam around in and give them something to explore and also to grow the grass that they need to graze on. If your house is on a small lot, move to a bigger lot before getting a capybara. We have about 1/3 of an acre fenced off around the house that Gari is free to roam. The more space you have, the better. This didn’t cost me anything but it could set you back quite a lot if you are not already living in a suitable home.
Our fence is dying and I’d like to give Garibaldi more room anyway so this year I am planning on expanding our fence to enclose about 1/2 acre around the house. The fence needs to be at least four feet high but I’m thinking I’ll go five feet. It has to be STURDY. Capybaras are big animals, they weigh over 100 lbs as adults and they know how to throw their weight around. They can also get through surprisingly small openings. Luckily, Gari doesn’t have the roaming gene, he’s a homebody so he doesn’t put much stress on the fence but you cannot be sure your capybara will be that way. I’m thinking this new fence will cost around $7,000.
I am lucky because our house sits in the center of our property which is (or was) fairly rural. If your capybara will share a fence with neighbors, make the fence higher and sturdier and also be sure it is a privacy fence. You don’t want the neighbors’ kids or dogs getting in with your capy. This could be dangerous for everyone involved. if your gate goes out onto a street, make sure you double-gate it. Our gate just goes out onto our property so we don’t have double gates but this is a very wise precaution if there is any chance your capy could end up out in traffic. Or even if he/she could just get lost.
Capybaras are semi-aquatic and that means they need water! Garibaldi has three water sources constantly available. The first is a large child’s wading pool that sits on the back porch. This is good because it warms quickly in cool weather and he likes to roll in it. It is also convenient for getting the mud off him before he goes into the house. Because wading pools are typically only available in the spring, I usually buy three to make sure at least one makes it to the following spring. They are pretty cheap anyway. That probably only sets me back let’s say $30 per year.
Gari’s second water source is his pond. This is about 15 feet long by 10 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep at its deepest point. I dug it myself and last year I cleaned it out and put in a new liner. The liner cost about $500.
The third water source for Gari is his swimming pool. Gari’s pool is 9 feet by 17 feet by 4 feet. It is an above ground pool made by Spash Pools. The pool probably cost about $4,000 new but we got it used for around $600. It is important to get a good, solid pool that is resistant to capybara teeth. If you make the wrong choice, you’ll end up buying more than one pool and that will cost more.
Then there is the cost of keeping the pool full of water. If you don’t plan on sharing the pool with your capy, this won’t be as big an issue. I think swimming with a capybara is one of the best experiences in the world so I’m not willing to forgo that. I’m also not willing to use a ton of chemicals in the pool to keep it clean enough for sharing with a human. Luckily for me, I am on a well and water is essentially free. During the summer I completely replace the water in the pool about once per month. During the winter when it’s colder and I’m not swimming anyway, I don’t clean the pool out at all. For me, the water cost is $0, but for you this could be a considerable sum. By the way, no amount of filtration is going to keep a capybara pool clean. Gari NEVER poops in his pool but he does transport a lot of dirt into it.
How Gari’s pool gets dirty
Gari’s fourth water source is Capybara Creek, the wet weather creek that runs across our property. Naturally he loves that. This is free for us and you probably won’t have one so don’t worry about it. But your capy will love it if you do have a creek or stock pond or other more natural swimming hole for him.
It is not cheap to feed a capybara. They eat anywhere from 6 to 10 pounds of food per day. Luckily, some of that is grass (which means you can’t be the type who likes a nicely mowed lawn, by the way). It is critically important that a pet capybara get a variety of foods and those foods must include some that are high in vitamin C. The ROUS Foundation for Capybara Veterinary Medicine is starting to find that a number of captive capybaras are suffering from the effects of vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy.
Okay, the cheese ball is for me, but the rest of this stuff is for Gari. He eats about this much twice per week. And this doesn’t even include his corn! I admit that this is probably more than most people have to pay but since I can no longer drive due to vision loss since my stroke, I find it much easier to keep him supplied with fresh greens through a delivery service. I am pretty sure it costs me more to feed Garibaldi than it costs to feed all three of my horses.
Of course the biggest potential cost is veterinary care. I found this out the hard way with Garibaldi. Ever since I got him, he has suffered a variety of medical issues that have been detailed on this blog.
The most common veterinary expense is neutering. I recommend that male capybaras be neutered as they can become quite aggressive or territorial. I am fortunate in that I live within driving distance of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Not only does Gari get top-notch veterinary care there, it is actually less expensive than visiting an exotic animal vet in private practice. Make no mistake: you will need a good exotic animal vet and they need to meet your animal as soon as possible after you get him. That visit will probably cost about $50, so factor that into your initial costs. Neutering at A&M cost me about $600 but I don’t think $800-$1000 is out of the question.
And what if your capybara actually gets sick?
That is the bill for Gari’s trip to A&M where I first learned that he probably had a bone infection. I seem to have misplaced his latest vet bill that included the extraction of his lower right incisor. That bill was for over $1200.
Should you get a capybara?
Think long and hard before deciding to get a pet capybara. They are a big commitment, and not just financially. If you’ve been reading my blog you know how much I love Garibaldi but do you know how much he loves me? (And, of course, his Rick, whom he loves more.) That is also a big responsibility. To have the love and trust of an adorable, intelligent and personable animal is a wonderful experience but please make sure you are ready to fulfill your pet’s needs physically, financially and emotionally.