One of the most peaceful exotic pets is the Patagonian cavy. When not under supervision, these giant rodents are distantly related to and may be housed in comparable indoor cages, but considerably larger. Cavies are quiet creatures who don't mind being caressed and are quite loving with their owners. They are not known to bite despite their enormous fangs. Furthermore, because they are diurnal animals, they are easier to keep on a human schedule than nocturnal exotic pets. Some owners can even teach their cavies to walk on a leash and use a litter box. If you can't walk your cavy on a regular basis, a large and safe outside enclosure where your cavy may play is essential.
Common Names: Patagonia cavy, mara, and dillaby
Scientific Name: Dolichotis patagonum
Adult Size: 18 inches; up to 35 pounds
Lifespan: 14 years in captivity
Can You Own a Pet Patagonian Cavy?
Many communities see Patagonian cavies as rodents similar to hamsters and gerbils that may be kept as pets. However, each state is different, and some may demand a game breeder's license if you possess many. Only Connecticut specifies a "Patagonian mara" by name as being authorized to own in the state as of 2020. Oregon, Alabama, Washington, and Texas are among the states where they are permitted without a permission. California, Georgia, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Hawaii are among the states that prohibit them or need authorization. Because laws change regularly, check with your state and local municipality to see if owning a Patagonian cavy is permissible.
Because cavies are normally lawful to own and adapt well to life as domestic pets, it is deemed ethical to own one as long as you provide your pet enough space, exercise, and a healthy food.
Things to Consider
Cavies, like any other pet, demand constant attention from their owners. They have their own special requirements that must be satisfied in order to keep your pet healthy and happy. Because cavies, like domestic cats, have a lengthy lifetime, you must be prepared to make a long-term commitment to having one.
Patagonian Cavy Behavior and Temperament
In the wild, Patagonian cavies are typically active during the day, which makes them a better pet than a nocturnal animal.
Though inherently shy, a cavy may be socialized and friendly if given lots of care and human interaction from a young age. They don't bite, and a well-socialized cavy could even appreciate regular cuddles and belly rubs.
Male cavies may utilize urine and anal gland secretions to their territory, which might encompass your home. Females are less prone to mark their territory with smell, making them the ideal pets for most families. Cavies like to live in male-female bonded couples in the wild, but if you give your cavy enough of care, it will be happy.
Patagonian cavies are sociable mammals that live in groups that resemble prairie dog villages, consisting of numerous burrows. Each burrow usually houses one pair of cavies. Because of their natural need to burrow, they will attempt to bore holes in your flooring or furniture. Because of this habit, as well as their fondness for chewing, cavies should never be left alone in a human home.
You'll need a safe cage that is large enough to comfortably hold your cavy when you're not caring for it. If you don't have enough inside room for a large cage, you may construct one outside if you offer an enclosed "den" with heat lights during the winter.
The outside enclosure should be at least ten feet square, with access to grass for grazing and a tiny dog house for your pet to hide from the weather. The perimeter fencing should be at least 7 feet high if the enclosure has no roof. Patagonian cavies have strong hind legs that allow them to jump up to 6 feet in the air and gallop at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
Specific Substrate Needs
Because Patagonian cavies are adept diggers, they will dig through the ground or flooring of their enclosure, necessitating extra precautions to keep them from escaping underground. Some individuals raise cavies in concrete-floored enclosures, but this denies the animals access to grass. Another option is to lay a chain-link fence "floor" a few feet below ground level, allowing your cavy to graze and even dig without escaping.
What Do Patagonian Cavies Eat and Drink?
Herbivores, cavies are. Patagonian cavies, like guinea pigs, require constant access to hay such as timothy hay, alfalfa, meadow hay, bluegrass, or oat hay. Hay aids in the filing down of their rear molars (a necessity for these rodents). Supplement the hay diet in captivity with professionally prepared rodent or guinea pig chow. The majority of their food should consist of dark, leafy greens (collards, dandelion leaves, parsley, kale) and fresh grass. You may also give sweet potatoes, apples, and squash as treats on occasion.
They also require vitamin C supplementation, much like guinea pigs. You may add powdered vitamin C to their meals or buy vitamin C-based snacks for rats from a pet store.
If you have more than one Patagonian cavy, provide multiple food stations to avoid aggression at feeding time. Use metal troughs or trays for feeding and watering because they are chew-proof.
Common Health Problems
Bone fractures are prevalent in captive cavies who are permitted to roam too freely and jump onto furniture, porches, and decks. They are also prone to overbites and oral abnormalities as a result of their enlarged teeth.
Cavies are prone to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems. Make sure your exotic pet gets an annual health check from an exotic pet vet, which includes a fecal screening for intestinal parasites.
Cavies are used to running and leaping on occasion in the wild, as well as roving and grazing every day. This implies they require space to move in captivity, including the ability to run and jump. Even big cages may not be enough to satisfy these creatures' demand for activity, so start training your cavy to wear a properly fitted collar and leash as soon as possible so you can take him or her on a walk or hike with you.
Cavies are good at grooming themselves with their tongues, much like cats, so there is no need to bathe or brush your pet.
Cavies grow to be about the size of a small dog, such as a .
Although cavies are neither as well-behaved or as easily trainable as dogs, some owners have reported success using clicker training to acclimate their cavies to walking on a leash. You may be able to train your cavy to use a litter box in the same way that cats can—just make sure it's a metal box since your cavy will chew it.
Pros and Cons of Keeping a Patagonian Cavy as a Pet
If you can provide a Patagonian cavy proper care and housing, you can find it to be a joyful and gratifying pet to own. They can be affectionate and can learn to walk on a leash, despite their inherent need to dig. Cavies, on the other hand, demand a lot of attention and a fairly safe cage where they may be kept when you're not around.
Purchasing Your Patagonian Cavy
Patagonian cavies range in price from $200 to $300. Buy your cavy from a reputable breeder. If you need assistance, consult with an exotics veterinarian who may know someone in their network. The majority of cavies are marketed as infants and will require bottle-feeding from the start. Documentation, information on the animal's parentage, and detailed care instructions should all be available from reputable breeders.
Similar Pets to the Patagonian Cavy
If you are interested in pet cavies, check out:
Will a cavy tolerate petting?
If you raise a cavy from a baby—or adopt a well-socialized adult—it's likely that your pet will enjoy being touched and snuggled. Some cavies even love having their furry bellies rubbed.
Do cavies get along with other pets?
Cavies reared with gentle cats and dogs can become friends with them, but they should never be left alone with other animals since they might be timid and their fast movements may draw predatory behavior from dogs (or even cats).
Can you feed fruit to a Patagonian cavy?
You can occasionally give small amounts of fruit to a cavy, but since fruit is not a natural part of their diet, their digestion can be upset by too much of this sweet food.