COPPERAS COVE—Is it real? Is it a Jackalope? Is it a wallaby? A kangaroo? No, it’s a Patagonian Cavy skipping across the floor of a Copperas Cove exotic pet store.

The animal that comes from Argentina and looks similar to a rabbit was rescued when Out of the Cage Pet Shop received a call from a resident in October who said she thought she found a wallaby. Shop owners Amanda and Mike Vaughn arrived to find a Patagonian Cavy.

The female rodent, which the Vaughns named Pepper, had a large pus boil behind its shoulder blade. After the Vaughns captured the animal and drained the boil, they discovered she had been shot with a 4-inch tranquilizer dart. It had gone completely inside the animal, piercing a hole, and the needle tip had punctured through to the animal’s other side.

“The tranquilizer inside her caused a massive infection. We got the dart removed, got her some medicine and gave her hydrotherapy,” Amanda Vaughn said. “It’s hard to believe that little 9-pound thing bruised my ribs. But she is a heck of a kicker.”

Amanda Vaughn said they had to catch the wild animal for her hydrotherapy treatments and now bathe her once a week. But she is not used to people and needs to live in a more natural environment.

“When people have gotten near her, she has tried to go through the glass of the store,” Amanda Vaughn said. “Since we are a pet store, she also does not get the pleasure of going outside.”

The Vaughns said they will inspect the environment of anyone who wants to adopt Pepper. The Austin Zoo is interested but currently does not have an area that will contain her.

Mike Vaughn gave Pepper her morning meal consisting of 5 pounds of vegetables, pellets and Timothy hay.

“This is just the first bowl. She will eat two,” Mike Vaughn said.

The Vaughns said Pepper costs them about $100 every two weeks for food and cleaning products.

“She needs an outdoor enclosure sunk into the ground because she digs,” Amanda Vaughn said. “I won’t let her go to a breeder or somewhere not good. I made a promise to her when I was pulling that needle out that she would never be hurt again. I want to keep that promise.”

The Out of the Cage Pet Shop is at 113 East Avenue E, Copperas Cove. Call 254-547-8780.

Contact Wendy Sledd at or (254) 501-7476

(2) comments


The zoos will not take Pepper because she is from an outside source and has no history. Sadly at least a dozen zoos have been contacted and can't take her. Sanctuaries contacted either have not way of housing her or no room. The Austin Zoo which is an exotic sanctuary has offered to take her but currently have no rooms and do not know when she can be added.


Can this animal be donated to a zoo, like Cameron Park, in Waco? A zoo or animal sanctuary would be better prepared to meet this animal's needs.

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