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Check Out These Adorable ‘Pocket-Sized Hippos’

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If you’ve thought about getting a new pet, you probably want one that doesn’t take up too much space, is easy to look after, and is, of course, cute. You could throw in some wow factor too. After all, how many people do you know with a teeny tiny hairless hippo as a pet?

Okay, technically these creatures aren’t hairless hippos, but rather a type of guinea pig known as a “skinny pig”. So they’re definitely easier (and safer) to keep as a pet than a full-sized hippopotamus! In fact if you’re a regular visitor to IcePop, you may already be familiar with skinny pigs thanks to Ludwik.

What exactly is a skinny pig?

Hairless guinea pigs don’t come straight from Mother Nature, but are a result of laboratory cross-breeding of guinea pigs in the 1970s to produce varieties with no fur. Unfortunately they are still used in dermatology studies today, but thankfully they are also bred to be kept as much-loved pets.

The variety differs from another type of guinea pig with little to no fur, the Baldwin guinea pig, which has a spontaneous recessive gene that makes it mostly hairless. They are born with full fur but start to lose it, nose first, after a few days.

Although they look like tiny baby hippos, skinny pigs are still part of the Cavia porcellus, or domestic cavy. Their personality and needs are the same as those of a regular guinea pig. You can also get “skinny” versions of common guinea pig colors and patterns, such as Tortoiseshell, Teddies and Himalayan.

So, if you get a skinny pig you can expect there to be lots of adorable squeaking, a lot of cuddle time, naps, and munching on veggies and seeds. They do however need a little extra food than regular guinea pigs because their metabolisms need to work faster to retain body heat. They also might need extra bedding or even a specially made skinny pig jumper, which simply adds extra cuteness! Skinny pigs’ exposed skin is also susceptible to sunburn, so they don’t do well housed where there’s too much sunlight.

Do skinny pigs make good pets?

Skinnies make great pets for people of all ages, and particularly for little kids, because these guinea pigs don’t tend to be as skittish or likely to scurry as smaller rodents. And of course, people who have reactions such as sneezing or itching to pet hair won’t experience this with skinny pigs. Although this cavy variety has hair on its muzzle, feet, and sometimes some fuzz on its back, the rest of its body is fur-free.

So that they are not susceptible to skin mites or dryness, skinny pigs enjoy a warm bath with a few drops of coconut oil to keep them soft and healthy. In fact a well looked-after skinny pig can live up to seven years. Skinny pigs get along just fine with regular guinea pigs, as well as more docile rabbit breeds, which means you can keep them with a cuddle buddy to ensure they stay warm. If you are keeping pets like this together, it is best to have them neutered, because this reduces the risk of territorial or aggressive behavior. Plus, if you have hairless and non-hairless guinea pigs – or even Baldwins in the mix – they’ll produce regular or short-haired guinea pigs (although they’ll still carry a mix of haired, hairless, or Baldwin genes).

It is best to get your skinny pig from a reputable breeder to ensure it’s of good stock. The variety started to become a popular domestic pet in the 1990s but now they are available worldwide. 

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