When you imagine a guinea pig, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Chances are that you’ll picture a cute little face and body covered in glorious fur. But did you know that some guinea pigs are very different to the standard piggies we all know and love?
You may be wondering what makes these intriguing little creatures so unique. Well, the truth is that they’re missing the usual lustrous guinea pig coat of fur. In fact, they look completely and utterly bald - yes, really!
Hairless guinea pigs are often referred to as ‘skinny pigs’. Why? Well there are two reasons. For a start, their lack of fur makes them look slimmer than standard guinea pigs (although their bodies are the same size. Another reason for the ‘skinny pig’ moniker is that they can’t help but show off lots of skin. Makes sense really, doesn’t it?
Some people might think that all this sounds a bit weird or off putting but, here at Kavee, we reckon that these hairless little poppets are simply adorable - and so unique. In fact, skinny pigs are sometimes nicknamed ‘little house hippos’ because their lack of hair really does make them look like miniature hippopotamuses.
If you’re new to the world of skinny guinea pigs, we’ve put together a guide to these intriguing - and extremely lovable - little animals.
What are the different types of hairless guinea pig breeds?
There are two types of hairless guinea pigs:
These cuties commonly have hair on their legs and feet and sometimes on their muzzle too but the rest of their bodies are hair free. Some skinny pigs have a thin covering of fuzzy hair on their backs. You’ll notice that skinny pig’s skin is mainly smooth with just a slight wrinkling around their necks and legs. Like guinea pigs with fur, skinny pigs come in a variety of breeds, skin shades and markings.
If a skinny pig has more fur than usual - which usually grows over their face, neck and shoulders depending on hormone levels - they’re sometimes referred to as a ‘Werewolf’ skinny pig. There’s no need to worry though because they’re anything but fierce, we promise!
These adorable piggies are born with a full coat of hair but within a few days of their arrival, their hair starts to fall out - starting at their head down to their toes. By the age of two months, they’re usually completely and utterly bald.
Whilst it can be disconcerting to see your piggy losing its fur, don’t worry because it doesn’t hurt them at all. The Baldwin guinea pig was discovered by a breeder in California when her White Crested guinea pigs began going bald - the result of a spontaneous, recessive mutation.
Where do hairless guinea pigs originate from?
You may already be aware that for many guinea pigs, their lives are sadly confined within the walls of a laboratory. That’s because guinea pigs are used widely in scientific animal testing.
The hairless strain of guinea pig is thought to have arisen from a totally unplanned, spontaneous genetic mutation in a Canadian lab in 1978. Since then, hairless guinea pigs have been bred specifically for dermatological testing - and, sadly, labs have often inbred these guinea pigs to keep their hairless trait which can result in weaker, more illness-prone piggies.
If this upsets you, take care to check whether your favorite skincare brand is cruelty free or if it has been tested on animals. If it has, there’s a good chance that a skinny pig might have been involved in the testing process. Rest assured that Kavee stocks only cruelty free products and that, as a company, we are strongly against animal testing.
Aside from lab testing, skinny pigs have been growing in popularity amongst breeders since the mid nineties and have something of a cult following with piggy parents who want a quirkier sort of pet.
What kind of personality do skinny pigs have?
Like any guinea pig, their personalities can vary from one to the next but these little cuties are known for being very gentle. They can also be friendly and sociable, enjoying gentle cuddles and strokes during lap time.
Can skinny pigs live with guinea pigs who have hair?
You may be wondering if it’s possible to house a skinny pig with a standard piggy. The answer is yes, it’s perfectly fine. Despite their aesthetic difference, their basic needs - plenty of space, hay, food and water - are the same. But as with all guinea pig pairings or herds, it’s important to ensure that any piggy cage mates are comfortable with each other and share a strong bond. If you spot any signs that their bond has broken (such as noticing obvious scratches on either piggy) then it’s best to intervene immediately. That’s because fights can be much more damaging to a skinny pig - they don’t have the protection of a thick coating of fur after all. If you believe that your skinny pig may be injured by its cage mate, it’s best to separate them for their safety and well-being.
Do skinny pigs require special care? YES and here’s WHY
We’ll lay it out straight for you. Skinny pigs are not recommended for beginner pet owners or newbies to the guinea pig world. Hairless pigs require even more TLC than standard guinea pigs. For that reason, they’ll benefit most from a cavy savvy piggy parent who has the depth of knowledge that comes with experience and can devote particular attention to their skinny pig’s diet and skin care in order to keep them healthy and content. It’s important to give your skinny pig a regular health check to keep an eye on their weight, skin and general well-being.
If this all sounds rather complicated, read on for more details on skinny pig care....
How much do skinny pigs need to eat?
Skinny pigs eat the same foods as piggies with hair, which means they require unlimited hay, pellets and fresh vegetables every day, along with a constant, fresh supply of water. But with a skinny pig, you’ll notice that you’re replenishing their water and hay containers more often than you would for guinea pigs with hair.
The reason for this? Skinny pigs have a really high metabolism - approximately twice as fast as a piggy with hair. As they’re missing a layer of fur to keep them warm, they have to use a lot of energy to keep their body temperature stable, which means that they must take in more calories, drinking and eating more often. It’s estimated that a hairless guinea pig needs a third more fresh veg than their hairy counterparts so make sure you keep their hay supply, food bowls and water bowl or bottle topped up.
Of course, all this munching has the knock on effect of producing much more poop and pee. So a hairless piggy parent will need to do more frequent spot cleans as well as changing and washing soiled fleece liners and pee pads or changing other cage liners such as wood shavings.
It’s important to pop your skinny pigs on the scales regularly to make sure their weight is stable. If your piggy is maintaining their weight, it’s a good indication that their diet and general health are good.
For further information on how to weigh your guinea pig, check out our article, 'Everything you Need to Know about your Guinea Pigs and their Weight'.
How about skin care for skinny pigs?
As so much of a hairless piggy’s sensitive skin is exposed, it requires incredibly gentle and careful care. Like us humans, hairless guinea pigs can have different skin types and your piggy may have normal, oily or dry skin. Each type requires a different skin care approach. Normal skin can be left untreated but keep a close eye on it in case it changes over time. Coconut oil can be beneficial for both oily and dry skin. Simply wipe it very gently onto your guinea pig’s skin using a soft cloth in order to moisturize and protect.
Skinny pigs are more at risk of sunburn so always keep them out of the sun and don’t use sunscreen on them. In fact, never use skin care products designed for humans as skinny pigs are more sensitive to certain ingredients and using the wrong product could cause irritation. They’re also prone to skin sores and injuries and fungal infections and they’re sensitive to moisture so ensure their bedding is kept clean and dry.
Nail care is very important for skinny pigs - if their nails grow too long and dirty and they scratch themselves, they could get nasty cuts which may become infected. To avoid this, trim your skinny pig’s nails every two weeks. For more information on guinea pig nail care, check out our article, 'The Simplest Way to Cutting your Guinea Pig Nails'.
Do skinny pigs need baths?
Whilst it might seem tempting to keep bathing your skinny pig to keep them clean, this is actually the wrong thing to do. Overbathing can dry out a skinny pig’s skin leading to cracked skin more at risk of developing infections.
Only bathe your skinny pig when it’s absolutely necessary. If you feel that a particular part of your skinny pig’s body requires freshening up, it’s possible to do a spot clean of that area - such as a foot soak or tummy wipe. If you do need to bathe your piggy, always use sensitive shampoo designed for guinea pigs.
Ensure you dry your guinea pig thoroughly after their bath to avoid them getting cold - all guinea pigs are sensitive to changing or extreme temperatures but skinny pigs are even more so and are at risk of developing respiratory illnesses if they’re not kept warm and dry.
What is the Ideal temperature for Skinny Pigs? Can Skinny Pigs Live Outside?
Guinea pigs are super sensitive to temperatures - particularly to cold - and can lose weight very quickly if they’re cold as they burn calories fast in order to try to keep warm. This then lowers their immune system, putting them at risk of developing colds and respiratory infections.
Skinny pigs should NEVER be housed outdoors as, quite simply, it would be cruel and damaging to their health.
They need to be kept in a cage indoors in a consistent temperature, away from drafts, vents, fires or fans. Direct sunlight can cause sunburn so don’t put them near a bright sunny window either.
Keep a thermometer in the room where your piggies live and bear in mind that the ideal temperature for skinny pigs is between 72°F - 75°F (21°C and 25°C) which is slightly warmer than the ideal temperature for piggies with hair.
On very cold days, a skinny pig may benefit from a pet safe heat pad to regulate temperatures but never use a heat pad designed for humans as it could cause burns to a hairless piggy’s sensitive skin.
It’s fine to take your skinny pig outdoors for their daily fun floor time, providing the outside temperature is within the ideal temperatures we’ve previously mentioned. Ensure you provide your piggy with lots of shade and water while they’re outside and keep a very close eye on them at all times, just as you would with a furry pig.
What is the Best Cage and Bedding for Skinny Pigs?
Choosing the right home for your skinny pig is really important. Outdoor wooden hutches aren’t recommended for hairless pigs. Due to their lack of fur, they find it hard to regulate their body temperature and stay warm. As we’ve already mentioned, a skinny pig should never be kept permanently outside - it could make them seriously ill.
The other issue is that in a hutch made from wood, a skinny pig is more likely to scratch themselves on the rough sides or even get a nasty splinter.
Indoor C&C cages are generally classed as the best cage for a skinny pig. Not only are they spacious and versatile, they’re easy to keep clean. Hygiene and regular cleaning are really important to factor in, considering a skinny pig produces more waste because they eat and drink at a faster rate than guinea pigs with hair.
Although wood shavings are undoubtedly a popular traditional choice for standard guinea pigs, this bedding choice isn’t ideal for skinny pigs as it’s more likely to cause irritation or scratches on super sensitive skinny pig skin.
As an added extra, provide your skinny pig with a cozy nesting corner - a box with snuggly materials such as a fleece blanket, cozy bed or extra pee pad for your piggy to curl up on and conserve their body heat. Soft and cuddly fleece sleep sacks are ideal for a skinny pig’s very own little nesting corner.
Is it ethical to keep hairless guinea pigs?
It’s a big question but, here at Kavee, we never shy away from serious and important subjects relating to guinea pig care. And we believe it’s right to examine whether it’s ethical for people to carry on intentionally breeding skinny pigs with all their associated health vulnerabilities, such as lack of hair and extremely sensitive skin.
Sadly, some pet owners will always favor certain breeds of animals for their aesthetic attributes rather than focusing on the real importance: their health. This is commonly seen among dogs where specific breeds, such as pugs or bulldogs, are favored for their ‘smushy’ faces - when in fact, these ‘adorable’ traits sadly comprise the animal’s ability to breathe.
A similar narrative arises on the topic of skinny pigs. In the wild, skinny pigs as a breed could never survive naturally. Let’s face it - they were originally created by humans in a lab setting - and continue to be used in some labs.
There’s no doubt that skinny pigs are more vulnerable than their hairier cousins and more prone to discomfort and illness if they are not properly cared for. For this reason, animal rights campaigners have expressed concerns that the growing popularity of skinny pigs encourages prioritizing an animal’s appearance over their well-being, with the RSPCA stating: 'No animal should be bred for how it looks’.
That said, now that skinny pigs are becoming ever more popular as pets, more care is generally taken (by reputable breeders, at least) to ensure that these little creatures are bred responsibly, with hardier attributes.
With the right care, hairless guinea pigs can lead healthy lives and may live just as long as their hairy peers. In fact, in some cases, some skinny pigs have even outlived their hairy cage mates!
Are hairless guinea pigs truly happy?
As a concerned guinea pig fan, you may be wondering whether a skinny pig can ever really be content in the same way as a piggy with hair. We’ve already discussed how hairless piggies are considered a controversial pet by some because of their various health vulnerabilities.
If you’re reading this because you want to know more about properly caring for skinny pigs then we’re sure that you’ll do your absolute best to give your little one a happy existence. As long as they are cared for in the right way, there’s no doubt that a skinny pig can feel comfortable and secure.
But before any potential piggy parents take the leap, it’s crucial to do lots of research and be properly prepared. After all, every single guinea pig deserves to be cherished and given the best chance possible at living a safe and carefree life.
We hope that our guide to caring for skinny pigs has enlightened you on these wonderful, unique little creatures. Like all guinea pigs, hairless breeds certainly bring a whole load of joy to their lucky piggy parents. However, as always when it comes to choosing an animal companion, take your time and do your research before you make a decision - to ensure that you are equipped to give them the best home possible.
Want to know more about skinny pigs?
If you’d like to know more about caring for skinny pigs, we’ve collated some of the best sources of information for you below:
YouTube VideosSkinnypigs1 Channel
How to care for Hairless Guinea Pigs (Skinny Pigs)
Skinny Pigs What you Really Need to Know Before Buying Skinnies
Skinny Pig Care (erinsark-petcareguide.com)
How to Keep Guinea Pigs Warm — K&H Pet Products (khpet.com)
Hairless Guinea Pigs—Skinny Pigs and Baldwins (thesprucepets.com)
Caring For Your Skinny Pig - Skinny Pig Care
Skinny Pig Breed Information - A Guide To The Hairless Guinea Pig (squeaksandnibbles.com)
Skinny pigs (Hairless guinea pigs): Breed Spotlight(Care, Diet, Cost, & More) – Guinea Pig 101
Skinny Pig - The Ultimate breed and care guide - LittleFurryPets