Skinny Guinea Pig (2021 Comprehensive Care Guide)

Skinny guinea pigs are certainly an odd-looking breed of guinea pig due to their lack of fur.

Some people might find them a little ugly, but I personally think they’re pretty cute – They look like tiny hippopotamuses!

But, the Skinny pig requires a bit more care and attention than other guinea pig breeds, but less than a hippo, due to their fragility – especially as their hide is very sensitive and easily irritated.

If you’re thinking of owning a hairless guinea pig, then you’re in the right place.

I’ve kept many breeds of cavies over the years, including the Skinny pig, so I’ll be sharing my tips and tricks both old and new, to help you provide your furless friend with the best care.

Origins of the Coatless Piggy Strain

The Skinny pig first came about from crossbreeding a haired guinea pig and a furless lab strain in a lab test.

This happened at the Institut Armand Frappier in Montreal, Canada in 1978.

It’s thought that this coatless guinea pig is the descendent of the pink-eyed Hartley lab cavies that were being tested at the laboratory.

In 1986, Skinny pigs became available to breeders who began to crossbreed them with Teddy and Rex cavies.

Appearance and Characteristics

Coat

Skinnies are almost completely coatless, except for a small amount of fuzz around their noses, legs, and feet.

Colors

Although almost entirely bald, the coatless guinea pig comes in a surprising range of colors, including albino, chocolate, lilac, silver, gold.

They are also available in a lot of different patterns such as tortoiseshell and dalmatian.

Skinny Guinea Pig on a Window Ledge
Skinny Guinea Pig on a Window Ledge

Coat Texture

The coatless guinea pig has soft and smooth skin with a rubbery texture. They have wrinkles around their neck and legs.

Body Size

Skinny guinea pigs normally reach the same size (around 9 to 12 inches in length) as haired guinea pigs, though they can be a bit smaller.

Male cavies are usually a little longer than females.

They typically weigh between 1 to 2 pounds, which is slightly less than most other guinea pig breeds.

Distinct Features

Poor Eyesight

Guinea pigs in general don’t have the best eyesight, but coatless breeds have particularly poor vision.

As cavies are prey animals, they have excellent movement detection but bad depth perception.

Make sure your Skinny cavy’s cage doesn’t have any high ledges or toys that they could fall from – their lack of fur also makes them more at risk of being hurt than furred cavies!

Additionally, be careful when playing or interacting with your cavy – place them far away from big drops like the edge of a bed or sofa.

Are Coatless Guinea Pigs Friendly?

Skinny piggies are normally friendly and well-mannered pets, especially if you take the time to gain their trust and befriend them.

However, your cavy’s individual personality is also linked to their friendliness.

Just like people, some cavies are outgoing and playful, while others are grumpier and more reserved.

Adjustment Period

Bear in mind that most cavies are timid when first brought home as switching home and owners is very stressful.

It can take some time for your new pet to get used to people and their surroundings, so try to be patient.

My Cavies

My 2 guinea pigs, Jake and Finn, were very wary of me and other people when I first got them. In fact, I rarely saw them for the first couple of weeks of owning them – they always hid.

It took around 6 weeks before they began to get used to me. And, fast forward to today and they’re affectionate and playful guinea piggies who love being around humans.

Are Boy or Girl Skinny Guinea Pigs Nicer?

Petting Skinny Guinea Pigs
Petting Skinny Guinea Pigs

Male Skinny cavies are thought to be a little more friendly and confident than females. But, your cavy’s unique personality comes into play.

No guinea pig is the same.

I’ve owned male piggies that have been anxious of people, even with many months of taming.

In contrast, I’ve had female piggies that have been affectionate and cuddly the moment I met them.

Do Coatless Guinea Pigs Bite?

These hairless guinea pigs can bite, but they don’t usually unless provoked.

There are a few reasons why they bite, including rough handling, stress, discomfort, or simply because they mistook you for food.

Discomfort

If a guinea pig needs the toilet or doesn’t want to be held, they will typically squirm or fidget.

They may even deliver a warning bite (a nip that doesn’t cause bleeding).

If you ignore their warning nip, your guinea pig might give you a fully fledged bite. This can bleed and be quite painful.

NOTE

Please make sure you keep an eye on your cavy’s behavior when you’re handling them to avoid being bitten.

Similar Breeds

The skinny piggy is similar to the Baldwin guinea pig, which is another furless type of guinea pig.

Both breeds look identical, but the recessive gene that causes hairlessness in Skinny pigs is different from the one in Baldwin guinea pigs.

Breeding a Baldwin guinea pig with a Skinny pig won’t result in coatless offspring.

The pups will have coat and carry one copy of the gene for Skinny piggy hairlessness and another for Baldwin hairlessness.

Lifespan – How Long Do Skinny Guinea Pigs Live For?

Skinny pigs can suffer from a slightly shortened lifespan than other guinea pig breeds as their immune systems are often a little weaker.

The average lifespan of a coatless guinea pig is around 4.5 years, but it’s not uncommon for these rodents to live for 5 to 6 years.

Your pet’s genetics, environment, diet, and overall health will influence their life expectancy. Make sure you provide your cavy with plenty of exercise, a spacious cage, and a varied diet.

Can Coatless Guinea Pigs Be Good Pets?

Skinny pigs can be good household animals, but please ensure you have the time to look after them adequately.

Cavies in general aren’t low maintenance pets as they require a fair amount of work to keep happy.

Not only will you need to feed your pet a nutritious diet of hay, fresh vegetables, and pellets each day, but you’ll also have to exercise them daily.

And, that’s not including pen cleaning and time spent playing and interacting with these animals.

Less Grooming

That said, compared to long-furred guinea pig breeds, the Skinny piggy is a breeze when it comes to grooming.

As they are nearly entirely bald, you don’t need to brush their coat or trim the hair around their rump to stop it from getting soiled!

Is the Guinea Pigs Hairless the Best Breed for You?

Skinny Guinea Pig Held in Hand
Skinny Guinea Pig Held in Hand

A skinny cavy is the best breed for you if you don’t want to commit to daily brushing like with long-furred cavies.

All you need to do to groom this pet is trim their nails, clean their ears, and check their dental hygiene.

NOTE

However, despite being easy to groom, these animals do have sensitive skin that is prone to issues like dryness, oiliness, and sunburn.

Can Skinny Guinea Pigs Be Good Pets for Children?

I wouldn’t recommend Skinny pigs for young children as they are very delicate and fragile, at least compared to cavies with hair.

These animals have very sensitive skin, and their lack of coating makes them more prone to being injured or hurt.

If a child handles a Skinny piggy too roughly or accidentally drops them, even from a small height, it could cause severe damage.

Guinea pig breeds with fur are a much more child-friendly pet, and they’re a lot softer to stroke!

Do Skinny Guinea Pigs Recognize People?

These cavies can recognize people and their owners.

Once you have gained the trust of your pet, there are a few ways they might show their affection.

Indicators

For starters, your cavies might excitedly greet you when you approach their cage, and sometimes produce a few noises.

These “happy” sounds are different to when your guinea pig is scared or nervous.

A happy cavy will create a sort of “coo” squeak, while a stressed cavy will create a “cooin” squeak.

Content Skinny pigs may also lick and groom their owners too!

Do Skinny Guinea Pigs Get Attached to People?

Skinny Guinea Pig Close Up
Skinny Guinea Pig Face

Skinny guinea pigs can become very attached to people and their owners, particularly if you’ve made the effort to interact and bond with them.

My cavies love spending time with me, but they used to be very cautious around people when I first got them.

It took one or two months before my piggies began to view me as a friend, not a foe.

Process

Taming a guinea pig can take a while and there’s no specific timeframe for how long it takes for your pet to bond with you.

Some cavies get used to humans straight away, while others take many months or even years to gain the trust of.

Maintenance

Do Skinny Guinea Pigs Smell?

Skinny pigs aren’t usually smelly pets, but an unclean environment or health issues such as diarrhea or a skin infection can make them a bit stinkier than normal.

Dirty grease glands can also cause a pungent odor to come off of your pet.

You’ll be able to tell if your Skinny cavy has dirty grease glands as an oily dark substance (similar to earwax) will appear around your cavy’s rump.

Choosing a Cage for a Skinny Piggy

Although fairly small in size, Skinny pigs should have a spacious cage to live in.

If you house your cavy in a cage that is too cramped, they’re likely to become stressed, bored, or act destructively.

One Skinny cavy requires a cage that offers at least 7.5 square feet of space, but a pair needs a cage that offers a minimum of 7.5 square feet to 10.5 square feet of space.

Bigger is always better, so try to get the largest cage you can afford for your guinea pig.

Cage Types

Skinny Guinea Pig Hiding Inside Its Cage
Skinny Guinea Pig Hiding Inside Its Cage

Commercial/Store Bought Cage

A commercial cage can be an adequate option for a Skinny pig, but check the dimensions of the cage before you buy it.

The majority of store-bought cages are way too small for one guinea pig, let alone a pair.

Coroplast and Cube Grid Cage

My personal favorite cage to use for a guinea pig is a C&C cage.

Coroplast and cube grid cages are relatively cheap to create and they give your Skinny cavy a lot of room – you’ll have full control of how large you create a C&C cage.

Don’t worry if you’re not the best at DIY – Coroplast and cube grid cages are simple to craft.

Things You’ll Need

The only things you need are cable ties, standard connectors, Coroplast (corrugated plastic), and cube grids.

You shouldn’t have a hard time finding these items online, but a shower curtain can be used as a replacement for Coroplast.

Here’s a quick video on how to create a C&C Cage.

DIY

I house my cavies in a C&C cage, but I used to house them in a store-bought cage. Since moving them over to their new housing, they’ve been a lot happier!

Definitely consider using a Coroplast and cube grid cage for your guinea pigs – they’re sure to be a lot more comfortable, especially if you make it as big as possible.

If you don’t want to make a C&C housing, other materials like wood (guinea pig safe ones) and wire mesh can be used instead for your cavy’s new housing.

Ideal Temperature for Coatless Cavy Cage

Your Skinny’s pig cage should be kept at around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

As they have no means to protect themselves from hot or cool conditions, you need to make sure your Skinny cavy’s environment is at a suitable warmth.

Bedding Types for a Cage

Albino Skinny Pig on a Rug
Albino Skinny Pig on a Rug

Now that you’ve selected your cavy’s cage, the next thing you should consider is bedding. Your guinea pig’s cage needs bedding to help absorb moisture and urine, as well as control odors.

As Skinny guinea pigs are sensitive to rough and harsh materials, you should use a soft substrate that won’t irritate their coat.

My Preference

I’d opt for paper-based beddings or fleece blankets.

Fleece blankets are an excellent choice for Skinny piggies as they’re soft and insulating.

If that wasn’t enough, fleece blankets are inexpensive to buy and maintain.

Unlike disposable bedding types like aspen wood shavings and paper-based substrates, fleece blankets can be washed when they’re dirty so they can be used time and time again.

Coat Care

Not all Skinnies have the same skin type – it can be normal, oily, or dry.

For cavies that suffer from dryness, use a small amount of cold-pressed coconut oil to help moisturize their body.

If your piggy has an oily body, you can also use cold-pressed coconut oil. The oil will naturally melt from your cavy’s body heat – this makes it easier to spread and soak into their coat.

NOTE

Never use human products or moisturizers on your cavy’s body as they’re likely to irritate your piggy’s coat, or even cause harm if they accidentally ingest them!

Ear Cleaning

In addition to keeping on top of your cavy’s coat routine, ear cleaning is another vital part of their care.

Regularly cleaning your cavy’s ears will help prevent infections and wax buildup, and keep them in good health.

I normally clean my guinea pigs’ ears every 2 weeks, but I look for signs of mites or other problems every day.

  1. When it’s time to clean your piggy’s ears, grab a cotton swab and some guinea pig ear cleaner (mineral oil can also work).
  2. Wet the tip of the cotton swab with the ear cleaner and gently rub it over each of your cavy’s ears.

Please don’t stick the tip or anything else inside your piggy’s ears, even if they have earwax buildup. This could cause trauma to your guinea pig’s eardrum and cause other serious issues.

NOTE

If you think your guinea pig has something wrong with their ears, don’t hesitate to get them booked in at a vet for a checkup.

Nail Trimming

Trimming Guinea Pig Nails
Trimming Guinea Pig Nails

Every now and again, you’ll have to cut your guinea pig’s nails on their feet to stop them from getting too long.

Long nails can restrict your cavy’s mobility and way of movement.

If your piggy’s nails are too long, they will start to curl – that’s a sign that they could do with a trim.

Your cavy probably won’t appreciate having their nails cuts, but it’s a job that needs to be done nonetheless.

Quick

When it’s time to trim your cavy’s nails on their feet, it’s important you avoid the quick. In piggies with light-colored nails, the quick will look like a pink or red root.

The quick can be harder to find in guinea pigs with dark-colored nails, but if you lift up your cavy’s feet and view their nails from the bottom, you might be able to estimate where the quick is.

It’s normally safe to cut about ⅛ inch of nail, so try not to worry if you can’t find the quick. Watch your cavy’s reaction when you cut their nails – if they squeak or wriggle, you may have cut too close to the quick.

Don’t Rush

Only take a small amount of nail at a time and go as slowly as possible to avoid any accidents. I also recommend keeping some styptic powder – this helps stop bleeding if you cut your guinea pig’s nails too short.

If you’re worried about cutting your cavy’s nails yourself, contact a groomer, vet, or other guinea pig professional to help you.

Bathing

Bathing a Guinea Pig
Bathing a Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs shouldn’t be bathed very often, especially coatless breeds.

As this type of guinea pig has an easily irritated coat , it’s best to avoid shampoos and products altogether. 

While you should never use human products on your cavy, even guinea pig specific ones can cause an allergic reaction in Skinnies.

Besides, overly frequent baths strip your guinea pig’s coat of its natural oils, which can lead to dryness, soreness, or other conditions.

NOTE

If you need to bathe your Skinny pig, I’d recommend giving them a sponge bath instead to remove any grime or dirt.

How Often Should I Bathe My Guinea Pig?

You shouldn’t bathe your coatless guinea pig unless they’re extremely dirty or you’ve been advised to by your vet.

A better way to wash your cavy is to dampen a soft (new and clean!) cloth with some warm water and gently wipe away any dirt on your pet’s body.

This is much less stressful for your guinea pig than a bath, and it’s quicker too.

Hay

Grass hay should be given to your guinea pig every day in unlimited amounts as it’s important for their digestive and dental health.

Hay is high in fiber, which keeps your cavy’s digestive system working normally.

It also helps wear down their teeth which grow for their entire life.

Grass hay such as Timothy hay is the best type of hay for guinea pigs as it’s low in calories, fat, calcium, and protein.

Vegetables

Skinny Guinea Pig Being Fed with a Vegetable
Skinny Guinea Pig Being Fed with a Vegetable

Although your guinea pig has to eat a lot of grass hay each day, they also need to around one cup of fresh vegetables each day too.

Guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C, so they must get it from other foods like fresh vegetables, pellets, and fruits.

Be sure to offer your guinea pig a variety of fresh vegetables each day, particularly leafy green ones.

Type

Some good choices include bell peppers, romaine lettuce, kale, parsley, and cilantro.

Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips shouldn’t be used regularly as they’re starchy and high in sugar.

You should take out any uneaten vegetables after a day so your guinea pig doesn’t eat spoiled foods.

Fruits

Fruits can make a great healthy treat for you guinea pig every once in a while.

But, due to their high sugar content, letting your guinea pig overindulge on fruits too often can lead to diarrhea, diabetes, or other health issues.

Only offer your guinea pig a few bite-sized pieces of fruit once or twice a week.

Types Of Fruit

Try to offer fruits that are high in vitamin C like tomato, kiwi, and paypayay.

Other safe fruits for your guinea pig include apples (remove the seeds), strawberries, blueberries, cucumber, and pear (again, remove the seeds).

Pellets

Food Pellets
Food Pellets

Last but not least, your guinea pig needs to have a small portion of guinea pig pellets each day.

The pellets should be low in fat but high in vitamin C. Ideally, the pellets should be grass hay-based

NOTE

Make sure you avoid guinea pig mueslis and other other foods that contain seeds. Not only are seeds a potential choking hazard, but they’re also high in fat.

When Should I Feed My Skinny Pig?

Guinea pigs should be fed once in the morning and once in the evening.

How Often?

Feed your guinea pig twice a day to maintain them at a healthy weight. Be sure to follow a consistent feeding schedule daily to prevent obesity and malnourishment.

What I Shouldn’t Feed My Guinea Pigs – Toxic Foods

  • Dairy products (like yogurt, eggs, milk, and cheese) – Guinea pigs don’t have the enzymes in their GI tract to digest dairy products.
  • Meat and insects – Guinea pigs are herbivores and don’t require meat in their diet. Giving them meaty foods can make them very sick.
  • Bulb foods – White potatoes, garlic, onions, and other bulb foods are poisonous to guinea pigs.
  • Avocado – Not only is this fruit fatty, but the exterior and pit is toxic to guinea pigs too.
  • Leeks, chives, shallots, and onions – All of these are lethal if you guinea pig eats them. Anything from the onion family should be avoided.
  • Rhubarb – All parts of this vegetable is poisonous to guinea pigs, including the leaves.
  • Cauliflower and cabbage – These vegetables, in addition to other veggies known for being gassy, can cause bloat in guinea pigs.

Can a Guinea Pig Live Alone?

Skinny pigs can live alone, but they prefer to be kept in pairs or groups as cavies are social creatures.

If you’re thinking of getting a coatless guinea pig, consider getting at least a pair to prevent them from getting bored or lonely.

A single cavy will need a lot of attention, intraaction, and care to ensure their happiness.

Compatible Breeds

Two Guinea Pigs Inside a Cage
Two Guinea Pigs Bonding

You can house other guinea pig breeds with skinny pigs, but you must be careful when housing them with other cagemates.

As Skinnies have no fur to protect themselves, they are more at risk of being injured or hurt from bites or scratches.

Try to house your Skinny with easy-going and docile cavies, and use caution when introducing your guinea pig to new cavies.

NOTE

Avoid piggies that like to assert their dominance or are a bit territorial.

Gestation Period and Pregnancy

Female cavies have a gestation period of around 69 days, but anywhere between 59 and 72 days is normal.

Guinea pigs can have between 1 to 3 pups, but 3 is the most common.

Skinny guinea pigs normally have smaller litter sizes than other guinea pig types.

Bald Gene

The gene that causes Skinny guinea pig baldness is recessive, so both a male and a female guinea pig needs to carry the gene to produce skinny guinea pig pups.

This can be done either by breeding a pair of Skinny pigs together or by breeding a pair of furred piggies that carry the Skinny guinea pig gene.

Guinea Pig Health

Signs of a Healthy Guinea Pig

A healthy coatless guinea pig should be active, mobile, and have a healthy coat.

Their coat shouldn’t be sore, red, itchy, or flaky. Their eyes should also be alert and bright.

You shouldn’t be able to feel your guinea pig’s ribs or spine – their body should feel slightly rounded but not obese.

Additionally, your guinea pig should have a good appetite and be drinking water regularly.

NOTE

If your guinea pig has lumps, bumps, sores, labored breathing, dental issues, lethargy, or any other symptoms that indicate a problem, please take them to see a vet as soon as possible.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Vitamin C deficiencies in guinea pigs are normally caused by improper diet.

However, other health conditions that affect your guinea pig’s ability to eat their food or absorb vitamin C can also cause a deficiency in this compound.

If your guinea pig doesn’t get enough vitamin C, it can eventually result in scurvy.

Scurvy affects your guinea pig’s collagen production, which they need for healthy tissue and bones.

Here’s a short video on giving vitamin c to guinea pigs.

Vitamin C For Guinea Pigs – It’s Confusing!

Symptoms

Scurvy, if left to progress, can lead to skin, joint, and blood clotting problems. If your guinea pig has scurvy, they will normally have symptoms such as:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Swollen joints and poor mobility
  • Diarrhea/loose stools
  • Rough coat
  • Spots or subcutaneous bleeding under the coat surface
  • Cuts or small wounds that bleed excessively or are slow to heal
  • Internal bleeding in the muscles, brain, intestines, membranes around the skull
  • Sudden death (if left untreated)

If you spot any of these signs in your guinea pig, book them in at a vet as soon as possible for a diagnosis.

You can prevent scurvy by giving your guinea pig your plenty of fresh vegetables and pellets that are rich in vitamin C.

Sunburn

As Skinnies have very little fur, they’re likely to get sunburned if you don’t offer them shelter or shade outdoors.

While allowing your guinea pig some time in an outdoor run or play area can be a great way for your cavy to exercise, you don’t want them to end up with heatstroke or sunburn.

Cage Placement

Additionally, make sure your guinea pig’s cage isn’t positioned in direct sunlight.

You’ll also want to place their cage away from windows, vents, heaters, etc.

When your guinea pig spends time outside, offer them hideaways, shade, and plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated.

TIP

A light towel can be draped over the top of your guinea pig’s outdoor run or pen to help protect your cavy from the sun.

Final Thoughts

A hairless cavy can sure make an interesting and unique companion – there’s nothing quite like owning one.

This guinea pig might not win any beauty contests, but they’re cute in their own special way.

I hope I helped you understand the care requirements of the coatless guinea pig, but let me know on social media if you’re still unsure of anything.

So, what do you think of the Skinny pig? Have they stolen your heart? I used to think they were pretty odd-looking, but since owning one, I think they’re charming little animals.

And, if you’re looking for more tips and advice on guinea pig care, be sure to look at our in depth guides.

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Michelle Dees
Michelle Dees
Founder of GuineaPigOwner. I love to keep and learn about my guinea pigs and have spent the last 10 years learning and teaching everything there is to know about guinea pig care. 🐹