How Much is that Capy in the Window?

Garibaldi Rous with Flopsy the Killer Cat

Garibaldi Rous with Flopsy the Killer Cat

Melly’s Blog:

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?

Initial cost:

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.

Fencing:

Gari waiting in front of the gate for the start of his walk

Gari waiting in front of the gate for the start of his walk

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.

Water:

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.

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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.

Gari enjoying a swim in Capybara Creek

Gari enjoying a swim in Capybara Creek

 Food:

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.

Gari's food bill

Gari’s food bill

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.

Vet Bills:

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?

Gari's vet bill from Oct. 2013

Gari’s vet bill from Sept. 2013

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.

 

 

13 comments to How Much is that Capy in the Window?

  • Ed

    Great post. Now that more people are becoming aware of capybaras I see a lot of “OMG where can I get one!” posts online. People need to know that this is not a cat or a dog or “a big hamster”. It is an animal that requires a great deal of expensive care.

    Hopefully posts like this will prevent people from doing things like adopting a capy to live indoors in a small apartment and eat cat food, like what happened to poor Gari.

  • Alex (Rezoner)

    Yes, it’s really a great post. And it doesn’t even touch the difficulties related to the fact that capys are not very common, and can have some unexpected problems, also very expensive. It’s literally sailing in uncharted waters, as we see in this blog. And there are not so many people as devoted to their pet as you are.

  • Susi Eastin

    You mention the vit C problem – are they like cavies (guinea pigs) (and humans) in that they cannot manufacture vitamin C in their body, and therefore must get it in their diet?

  • Francine

    Animals are expensive, no matter how you slice it. EVERY animal. I wish more people would think of that before they make the investment in the life of another creature.

  • Janet Lutkus

    Excellent blog! I do Rottweiler Rescue and these costs (minus the pools and the green and exotic groceries) remind me of the costs of Rottweiler care. I have 2 dogs and a cat (all rescues) but the Rotts always manage to rack up many thousands in bills (mostly medical), so unless I can afford the cost of a good comprehensive insurance policy for the Rott, I have learned that I cannot adopt one. At those times, I remain active by fostering Rotties waiting to be rescued while they wait to be adopted and go to their 4ever homes. I cannot even imagine facing the unknown costs of caring for an exotic. My experience is that medical insurance for domestic pets has become more affordable and comprehensive over the years, but something tells me this is not the case for insuring an exotic pet. There are too many unknowns for an insurance company to gamble on.

    Thanks so much for sharing all of your knowledge about Gari and the Capybara in general through these wonderful blogs. Not only do I thoroughly enjoy reading about you and Gari but I have learned a tremendous amount over these past years.

    BTW, I was unable to connect to this blog through the link in my email (through IE or Firefox). I was however able to come directly to the Capybara Madness site and simply go to the blog from here.

    Janet

  • Mingles' Mommy

    I have a cat on thyroid medication. I have to bring him in for blood work checkups every three weeks, and keep his meds refilled. Add to that litter and food (and he has two “brothers” living with him) and they cost me plenty. I love ‘em, but they aren’t cheap.

  • Garibaldi Rous

    Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs and, like gpigs, they need vitamin C in their diet.

  • Rawil

    If you want to have a capy and cannot afford it – buy a supercapy! A reasonable substitute! I did this and I do not regret

  • Xandria Schaeffer

    Do you have to live in a warm climate to have one? I live in Philadelphia which is probably only warm enough to swim 3-4 months out of the year. Also would it be safe for them to swim in a chlorine or bromine pool if you had an indoor one? I’m currently in college but its my life long dream to have a pet capybara and I’m willing to do whatever it takes. This blog is very helpful.

  • Kristen from Ma

    They can also get through surprisingly small openings.

    That’s definitely a rodent thing! :)

  • Garibaldi Rous

    It is possible to keep a capy in a colder climate but it is not easy. You would need a large barn or other facility where the capy could roam during the colder months and it would need to be heated. We use a small amount of chlorine in our pool but not nearly what you would find in a regular swimming pool and the other water sources are easily available for drinking and are not chlorinated (or florinated since we are on a well). I know of two adult capybaras that have died from cold weather and several babies that have lost toes from frostbite so they *must* be protected from the cold. Along with that, you would need to provide a suitable light with the correct spectrum to make sure they get enough light to synthesize vitamin D and to help their circadian rhythm. Remember capys are tropical animals and have not evolved for life at latitudes with short days and long nights.

  • The most recent price quote I have heard for a baby capybara was $900, so the purchase price is increasing rapidly. The maintenance costs, such as fencing, food, and veterinary costs, seem to be going up at a similar clip. Seriously, the initial purchase cost is a drop in the bucket. Really, even the cost of my buckets is worth considering!

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