I have a thing for rodents. I've owned seven pet rats over the years (although none at the moment) and around 2010 I had the good fortune to discover a blogging capybara named Caplin Rous. Caplin's owners/pets, a couple named Melanie and Rick, live on what appears to be a farm outside of a place called Buda, TX with a wide variety of animals. Exotic or rare pets are difficult to keep for a number of reasons, but their setup was perfect. They have the two things a capy needs – a pool and a lot of land – and the devotion to their animals to make sure that all of their needs are met. Unfortunately it turns out that some plants that are harmless to "normal" American animals are toxic to a South American native rodent and Caplin died too early. That's one of the downsides to exotic pets – many lessons have to be learned the hard way.
Melanie was heartbroken, as any pet owner understands, but shortly after Caplin's death she was contacted by an exotic animal breeder with some distressing news. A capy had been adopted by an owner who was neglecting him – would Melanie take him in? And that's how Garibaldi (Gari) became her new pet. To make a long story short, I have a hard time communicating how much pleasure I've gotten since that moment from following Gari's antics on the blog. Melanie is a very funny writer, which just adds to the entertainment value of the hundreds of pictures, tales, and videos of Gari that I could rely on to cheer me up.
The problem was that in the first year of his life, Gari was mistreated. His first owner did not actively abuse him, but she was almost criminally ignorant of how to care for him. He was kept in a small apartment, rarely let outside, and fed dry dog food. Capys need a ton of sunlight and vegetable matter to remain healthy. The bottom line is that when Melanie met Gari, he had scurvy (with that nice vitamin C-free diet), vitamin D deficiency, and weak, brittle bones from lack of calcium. He was also extremely underweight. After a few months with his new family, though, he had been nursed back to health.
Well, he was nursed back to…as healthy as he could be. There's no way to "fix" brittle bones, and one by one Gari's teeth started rotting out of his mouth. The teeth weren't very strong, so they would slowly develop infections which spread down to his jaw. He was constantly back to the veterinary hospital to be put through oral surgery and rounds of antibiotics that can be fatal to rodents. After all that, he eventually succumbed to the inevitable and his infections spread to his kidneys, which failed.
Essentially this guy – who brought a lot of joy to a lot of people beyond his family – was killed by the ignorance of his first owner. And that's where I'm going with all of this. I can't stand seeing people adopt pets, particularly of the "exotic" variety, without having a clue how to care for them. They see something on Buzzfeed and decide they want a cat or dog or reticulated python or bobcat or capybara so they rush out and buy one. Then they have revelations like, "It turns out that pythons are 15 feet long as adults" or "Gee, this 150 pound rodent eats about $20 of food per day" and they end up releasing the animal or slowly killing it through negligence. It's sad and it's cruel.
Don't do that. An hour of internet research by someone who wanted a capybara could have added five years to his life, and he would have brought a lot of people (myself included) a lot of happiness over that time.