updated 02/11/2010 AT 7:18 PM ET
•originally published 02/11/2010 AT 4:45 PM ET
Caplin Rous relishes snuggling in bed, going to the pet store with his owner and doing tricks like sit and shake for treats.
He might sound like your typical dog, but guess again. He’s actually a capybara, otherwise known as the largest rodent species on earth.
“People hear the word rodent and they think it’s some kind of a dirty word,” Caplin’s owner, Melanie Typaldos, tells PEOPLEPets.com. “But many of them are very smart, clean, loving animals.”
Caplin Rous, (his second name an acronym for “Rodent of Unusual Size,” a reference from the movie The Princess Bride) is all those things – although Typaldos warns that she wouldn’t recommend him as a pet for just anyone.
Although he’s extremely loyal and a perfect gentleman in public, he can be territorial at home, sometimes trying to bite visitors he doesn’t like. He also requires a very large grazing area because he munches on grass most of the day and the semi-aquatic animal requires daily dips in a pool or other body of water. (Check out some zoo dwelling capybaras, here.)
Fortunately, Typaldos and her husband provide the perfect living conditions for the 100 lb rodent. They live in rural Buda, Texas, with acres of open space filled with the pesticide-free grass, as well as a pool outside and an oversized tub inside to satisfy his need to swim. Typaldos says Caplin springs to life in the water, playfully dunking his toys or sticking his head through his favorite inner tube (specially stuffed with aqua noodles so he doesn’t puncture it with his sharp teeth.)
When he’s not swimming or eating, Caplin is typically following his master around, and softly makes a sound akin to an “eep” whenever they are separated.
“He’s very needy but I love him to death,” says Typaldos. “He’s very affectionate. He loves to lick my face and forehead and just follow me around everywhere.”
Typaldos credits her adult daughter, Coral, with helping her appreciate these oversized creatures while on a trip to Venezuela several years back. When they returned home, Coral begged her mom to get a capybara on her behalf, since she lived in an apartment and traveled a lot and couldn’t care for one herself. Typaldos found Caplin through a Texas breeder two and a half years ago when he was just 11 days old. Once at her home she worked with him consistently for three months to get him accustomed to domesticated life. (And yes, Caplin is housebroken, and does his business in an oversized water bowl in the family bathroom.)
Today, with Typaldos’ help, Caplin has become an ambassador for the species. She often takes him into local schools for wildlife talks, and loves taking him out in public to pet-friendly places, like outdoor eateries or even independent bookstores. Unsurprisingly, Caplin draws a crowd wherever he goes.
“Mostly people are just stunned and amazed,” Typaldos reports. “People literally stop their cars in the street and want to take a picture with him …When we’re in public he will tolerate anything. Sometimes kids will surround him to the point that he can hardly move and he’s completely calm.”
Typaldos is also dedicated to educating the world at large about capybaras since she discovered there was little online information about keeping one as a pet. Today, she manages Caplin’s Facebook account, Twitter account (@CaplinRous) and his blog, gianthamster.com.
A full time as a software engineer, Typaldos admits it’s a lot of work caring for Caplin and keeping up with all his online endeavors, but it is a true labor of love.
“He’s so smart and I absolutely just love him,” she says. “Being with him is just a lot of fun.”
Click here to see our photo gallery of unusual house pets on PEOPLEPets.com.