One joy of writing is meeting other writers. Melanie Typaldos is the author of The Adventures of Celeste the Cat: Celeste and the Giant Hamster. After spending time on her web site, I became intrigued by the friendship between her cat, Driftwood, and her capybara, Mudskipper Rous, or Muddy for short. What is a capybara? Read on! Melanie is guest posting this week.
What do cats and capybaras have in common? Not much, except that they both live at my house. Their cohabitation proves that felines and rodents can get along. In fact, they can be best friends.
How did this happen? Let’s just say that one day I decided to get a baby capybara — which, if you don’t already know, is the world’s largest rodent, semi-aquatic, related to guinea pigs, from South America and weighing around 130 lbs full grown. Around that same time I also decided to get a kitten. I wanted a kitten so that the two animals could grow up together, thereby solving any issue of one being scared of the other.
That’s how I ended up with Driftwood, a white and black Turkish Van kitten, and Mudskipper Rous, the world’s most timid capybara. I got Muddy at one week old. She was two weeks old when Driftwood joined us, then a four month old bundle of energy. The two of them hit it off immediately. They played together, slept together, and ate the same food.
Actually, that food part was unintentional and unwanted. Capybaras are herbivores and cats are carnivores so they really shouldn’t be sharing a food bowl. But Muddy was confused by her feline friend into thinking she was a cat. To keep the cat bowl out of Muddy’s reach, I first placed it on the shelf of the kitten tower. That worked for about a month until Muddy got big enough to stand on her hind legs to eat out of the bowl. Then I moved the cat food up to the second level. Not long after, Muddy learned to climb the ladder to get to the food. I moved the bowl to a coffee table. For such a small capybara, it’s amazing how high Mudskipper could jump. Then I put the cat bowl on the kitchen table. That’s how I learned that capybaras can climb chairs to reach table tops. I was shocked the first time I saw her innocently standing on the table snarfing up cat food. Now Driftwood eats on the kitchen counter which is not ideal.
The main reason I got a purebred cat was that I wanted one that liked water, as I had been told that Turkish Vans do. I am disappointed that Driftwood is only mildly more tolerant of water than your average cat. He will willingly stand in shallow water not much over his toes, but that’s about the extent of it. Another surprise is that Mudskipper, unlike her namesake and every other capybara in the world, is not crazy about swimming. In the wild, such reluctance would mean almost instant death. So I guess it worked out anyway. The two of them are the same in that neither likes the water. (Muddy does swim now and then, but not much.)
Mudskipper and Driftwood spend a lot of time together — outside of the pool. Muddy loves Driftwood; she follows him everywhere. They like to share Muddy’s extra-large dog bed even though it’s a bit small for the two of them. At night, the three of us sleep together in the bed. When it’s treat time I shake the Temptations container and the two of them come running, Driftwood on his silent paws and Muddy’s nails making a racket that can be heard a mile away. If Muddy plays too roughly, Driftwood gives her a swipe on the nose, never hard, and never enough to keep her from coming right back but maybe a little more cautiously. The saddest thing is when Driftwood goes on top of a piece of furniture where Muddy can’t follow. She stands at the base looking up while Driftwood takes one of his frequent catnaps. It’s hard to be a capybara when the love of your life is a cat.
While cats and capybaras do get along, I don’t recommend a pet capybara. As mentioned, they are large animals. They get into a lot of trouble, not just by eating cat food but some capys augment their diet by consuming furniture, rugs, plastic . . . You name it and it’s probably vulnerable to their super sharp teeth. Capys need a pool large enough for them to swim in and a large area to graze that has been thoroughly cleared of any toxic plants. Another note of caution is that some capybaras are wild animals and can be aggressive. They are also long-lived, 12-14 years, and so are a major commitment. You can’t keep a capybara in many places due to local or state laws or even HOA restrictions. If you’d still like to know more, you can visit www.GiantHamster.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.