Hairless guinea pigs are a pet craze that is here to stay! This indoor pet has all of the social friendliness of its hairy counterparts but with a particularly adorable appearance that pet owners love. They require careful breeding, so they come with a higher price tag.
Whether you are a new pet owner or thinking of getting a hairless guinea pig, you may have many questions. To get your guinea pig pets to thrive, let's talk about what you need to do to care for them!
About Hairless Guinea Pigs
Hairless guinea pigs look much the same as regular guinea pigs, except that they have little to no hair! They are sometimes called "house hippos" because underneath a guinea pig's hair is a body shape somewhat similar to a hippo! Hairless guinea pigs are a relatively new breed, resulting from a spontaneous mutation in the 1970s. There are two types of hairless guinea pigs.
Baldwin Guinea Pig
Baldwin guinea pigs were discovered by Carol Miller as a spontaneous genetic mutation when she was breeding white-crested guinea pigs. A recessive gene triggers this mutation. This means that if a Baldwin guinea pig is bred with any other type of guinea pig, the babies will all have hair. For the existence of Baldwin's guinea pigs to continue, two Baldwin guinea pigs have to be bred specifically.
Baldwin guinea pigs are born with a full coat of hair, but it starts to fall out after a couple of days. This hair loss starts at their hands and moves towards their rears. By the time two months have passed, the guinea pig will be completely bald. Since these hairless guinea pigs are a variation of the white-crested guinea pig, their skin will be wrinkled just as the white-crested guinea pigs are, and you'll see white skin coloration where the white hair would typically grow.
Skinny pigs result from a cross-breeding process between regular-haired guinea pigs and a hairless variety of Hartley lab guinea pigs. The hairless strain of skinny pigs is also triggered by a recessive mutation, just as in the Baldwin guinea pigs. This means that both parents must have this recessive gene for their progeny to be hairless.
The skinny pig isn't totally bald. They are born nearly bald but with some hair on their nose, feet, and legs. They keep this hair as they grow. A skinny pig may have many different types of skin pigmentation patterns, including those typical of Dutch, tortoiseshell, and Himalayan guinea pigs.
Hairless guinea pigs have care considerations that regular guinea pigs don't. But, if properly cared for, a hairless guinea pig will live between 5 and 7 years - just like other guinea pigs.
Behavior + Temperament
Guinea pigs are known for their friendly, outgoing personalities, making them great pets for families and children. They are highly social animals and thrive when paired with at least one other guinea pig. Hairless guinea pigs are actually even LESS confrontational and aggressive than normal guinea pigs, so you likely won't have any territorial issues pop up.
Hairless Guinea Pig Care Guide
Each guinea pig needs at least 7.5 square feet of tank space. However, since you'll have more than one guinea pig at a time, the tank will need to be large enough to accommodate the space requirements of each guinea pig. A perk to having a large habitat is that guinea pigs will naturally separate their bathroom area from the rest of the tank if given enough space to do so! This makes for easier cage cleaning and healthier pets!
Heat + Humidity
Whether your skinny pig's body is completely hairless or has some patches of fuzzy hair, it's important to be mindful of their exposed skin. It's incredibly difficult to regulate their body temperature, as they lack the fur coat needed to retain body heat. They also are prone to dry skin.
You'll need to ensure their habitat is warm since they get cold easily - between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide a small box or hideaway that they can crawl into to preserve their body heat and keep their habitat out of any drafts. They'll also need a higher humidity level in their habitat to prevent their skin from flaking.
A hairless guinea pig has large quantities of bare skin, and this sensitive skin is more prone to damage from the sun. It's not necessary to keep your skinny pigs in the dark, but try to place them in their habitat so that direct sunlight doesn't beam down into the tank. Or, use sheer curtains to help diffuse the sunlight during the hours when it's the strongest.
A skinny pig's diet is the same as a haired guinea pig, but they need more of it. They have a higher metabolism than regular guinea pigs because their bodies have to work hard to stay warm.
The bulk of the diet should be mostly timothy hay or some other low-fiber hay variety. This covers almost all of their nutritional needs and helps to keep their teeth filed down. In addition to the hay or hay pellets, it's important to provide them with some fresh source of vitamin C - such as bell peppers, asparagus, or other vegetables. Of course, they'll enjoy leafy greens and all manner of fruit. But don't feed them fruit too often since it's high in sugar.
A skinny pig requires continual water access. Because their bodies have to work so much harder than usual to keep warm, offer room temperature water.
Guinea pigs are fantastic diggers and need to have deep enough substrate to accommodate this instinct. However, this is especially true for hairless pigs. Skinny pigs need plenty of substrate for two reasons - digging and burrowing down deeply if they get cold.
Paper shavings are the best substrate material. You'll often see cedar and pine shavings sold in pet stores, but these can harm your pet if it gets ingested. Cedar shavings also put out a strong odor that can harm a guinea pig's respiratory system.
It's always important to regularly clean a guinea pig's cage, but it's especially so with skinny pigs. They do not have the soft armor of fur, which protects their skin from dirty bedding, and they could quickly wind up with sores and fungal infections.
To identify whether your hairless guinea pig is a male or a female, first, locate their anus. Then, look for their genital area. A baby male guinea pig will have two or three inches between their anus and their penis, whereas a baby female's vulva is located directly above the anus. In general, a male guinea pig's genital area will look like an "i," and the female's area will look like a "Y."
Common Health + Behavior Problems
Skinny pigs are very unlikely to give you any behavior problems, but there are some health issues you should stay on top of.
Clip or file their nails regularly
Guinea pigs will scratch themselves if they have an itch, but without a fur coat, skinny pigs will scratch their skin directly, and we don't want cuts! Therefore, trim their nails regularly.
Moisturize dry skin
From time to time, your skinny pigs will have a bout of dry skin. To help, moisturize them with a thin covering of coconut oil or other natural lubricants. Don't use the ones that are intended for human use only!
It's Best To Avoid Getting Your Hairless Guinea Pigs From Breeder
Breeding skinny pigs can be very difficult. Baby skinny pigs are larger than regular guinea pigs, and approximately 20% of skinny pig sows don't make it through the birthing process. It's best to avoid breeding your hairless guinea pigs.