For a mere 6-month-old, Sweetie’s impressively accomplished: She’s a style icon, an Internet celebrity, an animal activist, a friend of Cirque du Soleil performers—how cool, right?!—aaaand she’s a rodent. More specifically, she’s a capybara, the world’s largest rodent, averaging 2 feet in shoulder height, 4 feet in length and about 144 pounds (the largest on record weighed 201, but Sweetie should top out at 95).
Her superior résumé also includes 12,300 Instagram followers, 8,700 Facebook fans and a cadre of entertainer pals, whom she hangs with in dance studios and circus gyms around Las Vegas. Time for a handstand? More like time for a smooch.
“Sweetie is a wonderful member of the family,” says her mom, a professional ballroom dancer named Emily. “She loves attention from everyone, even strangers, and gives kisses. She sleeps in the bed every night and even tucks herself in under the covers.”
Sweetie’s daily routine includes two to three hours of eating grass and swimming (fun fact: capybaras are semi-aquatic and can hold their breath for up to five minutes). And though she was born with only two toes on each back foot (she should have three), the disability doesn’t deter her. “Sweetie does not let her two toes hold her back,” Emily reports. “She can run, swim and even do basic tricks.” (Now would be a good time to squee.)
In her life as an activist, Sweetie acts as a diplomat for the South American rodents, who are hunted, eaten and used for leather and pharmaceuticals. By sharing Sweetie’s story online, Emily hopes to raise awareness of the animals, though she cautions that capybara companionship isn’t for everyone. “Having a capybara is very different from having a cat or dog,” Emily says. “I would not recommend having a capybara family member to everyone, because they are only legal as pets in a few states and require constant supervision and care.” Sweetie is a highly social herd animal, so to spare her anxiety she’s never caged and never left alone.
Also high-maintenance is her fashion habit. Sweetie rocked not one but two Christmas dresses on Instagram, and is known to don a dinosaur onesie, ladybug and bee costumes, lots of pink and leopard print and a hip American Apparel hoodie.
With so many achievements, Sweetie’s fanfare is understandable, but sorry, rodent dudes—she’s taken by JoeJoe the Capybara, who’s also an Instagram star.