Hairless Guinea pigs are super adorable, sweet and lovely cavies. They are a variation of the common short-haired breed of Guinea pig, but with a mutation that causes their coat to be sparse or non-existent. Although they're not as common as their furry counterparts, hairless Guinea pigs make good pets and are worth considering if you're looking for a unique addition to your furry family.
History and Origin
There is a significant amount of controversy regarding how hairless Guinea pigs were developed. They didn't come about naturally. Guinea pigs with fur that most people are familiar with were domesticated around 5000 B.C., and come from Peru. Then, in 1978, a lab found a genetic mutation that resulted in hairless Guinea pigs, and researchers continued to pursue this as a breed on its own.
To establish this as a breed and continue the mutated strain, the original hairless Guinea pigs were line-bred to isolate their hairless trait. This resulted in Guinea pigs that were prone to other genetic mutations that were harmful to their health as well as increased levels of illness. The hairless Guinea pigs you see today are healthier, although some of their residual genetic ailments may still come through on occasion.
Two Types of Hairless Guinea Pigs
There are two breeds of hairless Guinea pigs; the skinny pig, which was originated in a lab, and the Baldwin, which was developed by a breeder.
Skinny pigs are mostly hairless, but they do have tufts of fur on their snout, legs, and feet. Skinny pigs are born with little to no hair, but the fur on their legs and feet grow as they get older. The skinny pig's sparse hair sets them apart from Baldwin Guinea pigs.
Baldwin Guinea Pigs
Baldwin Guinea pigs are a type of hairless Guinea pig, but they're born with some fur. The fur falls out gradually over the first few months of their lives. You can tell them apart from skinny pigs because they are almost completely hairless, and they don't have the telltale tuft of fur on their snouts. If you have a Guinea that's completely hairless, you probably have a Baldwin Guinea pig rather than a skinny pig.
Appearance and Physical Traits
Skinny pigs, also known as skinnies, can come in a variety of colors and sizes, and are mostly hairless, though they can have some light peach-fuzz fur on parts of their body, in addition to the tufts of fur on their snout and feet. They are generally smaller than other Guinea pig breeds, with a more slender build. Their skin is smooth and soft to the touch, and can come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Baldwin Guinea pigs, on the other hand, are completely hairless and have a more wrinkled appearance. They have a rounder body shape and tend to be larger than skinny pigs. Unlike skinny pigs, Baldwins have skin that is more textured and leathery in appearance.
Size and Weight
Skinny Guinea pigs usually weigh between 1 to 2 pounds and can be up to 12 inches in length. Baldwins are a little larger, around 1 to 3 pounds on average, though they reach about the same length - 12 inches - as skinny pigs.
Enclosure Size Requirements
Like other Guinea pigs, a single hairless Guinea pig needs at least 4 square feet of cage space, but the more space that's available, the better. Make sure they have little caves and hides in their enclosures, as well, so they can get away from it all and destress here and there.
Guinea pigs overall enjoy roaming, which you will notice when you take them out of their cage for some fun time. All cavies need time out of their enclosure for enrichment. Plan to give your cavy time out of their enclosure at least once a day, for around an hour or two. Make sure you take them out of their setup consistently from a young age, so they don't get frightened when you take them out.
Despite not having fur, hairless Guinea pigs - both skinnys and Baldwins - can have different colored skin. While not exactly a coat color, hairless Guinea pigs can have different skin colors, including:
Are They Hypoallergenic?
Hairless Guinea pigs are known to be hypoallergenic. If they do have fur, it's very sparse, and you're able to control what type of bedding you use. If you're prone to allergies, and are usually allergic to other Guinea pig breeds, a hairless Guinea could be a good choice.
Both hairless Guinea pig breeds generally live between 5 to 7 years in captivity. Through good care and feeding, your hairless can reach 10 years old or more.
Their requirements for housing, food, and socialization are similar to other Guinea pig types. Since hairless Guinea pigs eat the same foods as other Guinea pigs, you will need to find high-quality food, grab some timothy hay, provide fresh water, and fresh veggies daily. However, you may notice hairless Guinea pigs eat more than other Guinea pigs because they need more energy to keep them warm.
Hairless Guinea pigs should be kept at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room is too cold, they will shiver and their muscles will become stiff. If it's too hot, they can suffer from heatstroke and die within minutes.
If you plan on taking your skinny pig outdoors, instead of putting sunscreen on that could cause a reaction, ensure they are placed in the shade out of direct contact from the sun.
Hairless Guinea pigs are generally healthy, but they do have some health concerns. Due to their lack of hair, they have a less prominent coat and skin problems. They can be a challenge to care for, but with proper care and grooming, they can live healthy lives. Hairless Guinea pigs need to be bathed on a weekly basis. This helps keep their skin and fur clean as well as prevents itchy rashes and infections. Bathing is also important because it washes away excess oil from their skin that can cause dryness or flaking.
Diet and Feeding
Your hairless Guinea pig needs a consistent, high-quality, varied diet to be happy and healthy. Make sure you are offering their staples - including Timothy hay and a pelleted diet formulated for Guinea pigs - along with enriching foods and treats to round out their diet.
Behavior and Handling
In terms of personality, both skinny pigs and Baldwin Guinea pigs are known for being friendly and social animals. They enjoy interacting with their owners and playing with toys, and can make great pets for families with children. They're also known to be happier when there's more than one cavy per enclosure. You could either grab another hairless Guinea pig, or keep them content with another furry Guinea pig counterpart for company.
Similar to how dogs have different personalities, so do Guinea pigs. While one skinny pig may be extremely affectionate, another may be somewhat shy.
Hairless Guinea pigs are prone to the following health issues:
- Injury: Hair helps protect other Guinea pig breeds from injury. Because hairless Guinea pig breeds don't have this protection, they're more prone to scratches and scrapes.
- Tumors: Hairless Guinea pigs are more prone to developing tumors. Never leave them exposed in sunlight.
- Skin problems: Guinea pigs can be more prone to ringworm, parasites, and other skin infections.
- Sensitivities: Hairless Guinea pigs are more likely to have difficulty with temperature changes as well as sensitivities to specific types of bedding.
- Hypothermia: Because hairless Guinea pigs have a hard time regulating their body temperature, they are prone to developing hypothermia when they get too cold.
Caring for Babies
Like other Guinea pigs, hairless Guinea pig babies need their mother's milk for the first several weeks of their lives. If your hairless Guinea was abandoned by their mother, you will need to hand-feed them. To feed your baby Guinea, you can use full-fat goat's milk or half water and half evaporated milk. After the first few weeks, you can transition them to their normal diet.
Before you start caring for the babies, you must be completely certain the mother has abandoned them. Otherwise, you risk their health. Their best chances of survival are with their mom.
Unlike other mammals, Guinea pig mothers only feed their babies a few times per day, then they may leave them alone for hours. They're born being able to walk, hear, and see, and will begin eating solid foods after only a few days. Only intervene if the babies appear to be weak or cold, or if you observe the babies and they don't get any visits from their mother.
Availability and Cost
Hairless Guinea pigs can be found in many places online and in pet stores. The average cost of a hairless Guinea pig breed is between $100 and $200. If you are looking for a specific color, you can expect to pay more than the average amount. In addition to purchasing the Guinea pig, you need to take the cost of supplies into account.
Is the Hairless Guinea Pig Right for You?
Hairless Guinea pigs can be quite adorable and intriguing, especially if you had never seen one before. However, if you choose this type of Guinea pig, you need to be prepared to provide more care to them than others. If you're prepared to provide them with a little extra TLC, they could make a great addition to your family.