What are skinny pigs?
Skinny pigs are a result of a genetic mutation due to experiments in a laboratory during the 70s. They are an outcome of a haired guinea pig crossed with a hairless lab strain. Skinny pigs are born almost completely hairless, however some develop more as the get older, especially around their nose.
Pairs, Groups Or Housed Alone?
Just like guinea pigs, they are highly sociable therefore must be housed in pairs or groups. They get very lonely or even depressed when housed alone. You may also keep skinny pigs with guinea pigs, however there are are few important things to know about caring for them. As skinny pigs don't have fur to protect their skin, introducing them to other guinea pigs should be done with care as they can get injured easily from bites and scratches. Monitor the skinny pigs closely if they appear to be showing dominant behaviour.
Indoors Or Outdoors?
The most significant difference is that skinny pigs must be housed indoors. Due to their lack of fur, they have trouble maintaining their body heat when housed in a cooler environment. They also do not cope well with drafts.
What About Summer?
Skinny pigs are allowed to go outdoors on warmer days, however you must ensure that their pen in shaded from the Sun as they can easily overheat and burn (ordinarily a guinea pigs coat provides some protection from the Sun). It is not advised to house them outdoors permanently during the Summer as the temperature is not always consistent, and the overnight temperature is often much cooler.
How Much Space?
Skinny pigs should be housed in a space of at least 120cm x 60cm. They tend to be more energetic than guinea pigs due to their fast metabolism, so giving them more space than this is going to be beneficial. If you have a suitable piggie proof space, you can even leave the cage door open to let them free range!
Skinny pigs are very adventurous, curious and energetic so need plenty of stimulus to keep their minds occupied.
Fleece houses are a great option for skinny pigs because they provide warmth and comfort. There are many available online & you can even have a go at making some yourself! These usually come in the form of snuggle sacks, fabric tunnels & fleece huts.
Brown paper bags are a great enrichment activity for skinny pigs. They love to hide in them and shred them up. The best thing about these is that they're free!
Adding levels to your skinny pigs home is a great way to increase the amount of floor space they have. Using a tunnel to get from one platform to another will provide lots of fun.
Hammocks are adored by skinny pigs. They will spend lots of time snoozing in these, and you will often see them jumping in and out of them. You can buy hammocks from pet shops, or make your own with some fabric (such as vet bed) and use some strong metal hooks to hang it up.
Skinny pigs love chew toys. Some good examples of popular chew toys include sanitised pine cones, twigs from safe trees (hazel, apple, pear, willow etc), woven balls made out of sea grass/other edible materials and natural boredom breaker toys.
FOR MORE IDEAS
If you would rather go pellet free, ensure your skinny pigs are getting their energy source elsewhere. Aim to feed at least 15% of their body weight in vegetables daily (not all at once!). Feeding plenty of root and cruciferous vegetables will provide lots of energy. An additional supplementary seed mix may be beneficial to meet their energy requirements and help with dry skin issues.
What Do Skinny Pigs Eat?
Their nutritional needs are almost identical to other pigs.
CLICK HERE for their basic nutritional needs. Despite this, they do have an increased energy demand (due to their fast metabolism) so require up to 1/3 more fresh food than other guinea pigs.
Some owners choose to feed their skinny pigs pellets for energy, however a pellet free diet is always best for guinea pigs. CLICK HERE to find out why. If you do wish to feed pellets, opt for grain-free cold pressed pellets.
It depends what accommodation they live in, but in general it is best to clean their cage twice a day. Because they eat quite a lot more, due to fast metabolism, so as a result need regular spot cleaning. Each day, spot clean their litter tray. Twice a day, sweep up any droppings.
Providing you have litter trays, at least once a week you should change the fleece. Also disinfect the base of the cage with a water and vinegar solution. Doing this twice a week or even more often is best. As skinny pigs don't have fur (at least not very much) cleaning the fleece to go in the washing machine is quite low maintenance and most of the hay/bedding/poop will sweep off with a brush.