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Skinny Pigs: Mutant or Pet?
Where did it come from?
A skinny pig is most commonly thought to be a bald or hairless breed of guinea pig and that has some truth to it, but not the complete truth. A Skinny pig is fact a recessive genetic mutation that caused the breed to be created in a spontaneous genetic mutation in Montreal's Institute Armand Frappier in 1978. The skinny pigs were drying quickly there and breeding them was proving to be impossible so the mutant guinea pigs were sent off to the Charles River Laboratories in 1982. It was here that the poor pigs were bred to use in lab studies for dermatology and many other areas because of the fact that they were mammals with a thymus and a normal immune system similar to a humans.
How are they different from a normal guinea pig?
The skinny pig's biggest difference to the traditional guinea pig is the appearance of no hair. Yet, that while the skinny pig does not have fur or hair like a normal guinea pig it is not completely naked. Most skinny pigs only have some slight hair on their muzzles, legs, and feet however, a occasionally some have some fuzz on their back.
Since they are mostly naked skinny pigs have flaps of skin that look like wrinkles on their legs and around their neck. These flaps are sometimes thought to be the skinny pigs ribs or spine showing through there skin, but unless the skinny pig is under fed or unhealthy then that is not the case.
Their lack of fur also leaves the skinny pig with less protection to their skin this makes them more susceptible to injury. Imagine a normal guinea pigs fur is like their clothing, while clothing might not block every injury in certainly can take the edge off. The skinny pig has none of that protection and it leaves them vulnerable to injury and more sensitive to temperature. Their lack of protection from temperature means that their temperature needs to stay between 75 and 80 degree Fahrenheit (slightly warmer than a normal guinea pig). This means they burn through energy a bit faster as well which means they need to eat slightly more food than the traditional guinea pig.
From a psychological perspective the skinny pig is almost exactly the same as the traditional guinea pig with only slight deviations. The skinny pig is known to be slightly more affectionate and they desire attention and contact from either humans or another of their breed more so than the normal guinea pig.
Would they make a good pet?
The simple answer if it depends on the situation, the people, and the home environment. The skinny pig can make for a great friend, pet, and companion to someone who is willing to devote the time and care needed to make it so.
The skinny pig requires a comfortable and stimulating environment in their cage or enclosure as well as a comfortable place to sleep. The enclosure should be at least 7.5 square feet of cage, it does not matter if this is all horizontal or if it is a vertical cage with ramps and multiple floors.
They need human contact for companionship in regular doses on a regular and consistent basis and this is even more important if they are the only skinny pig in their enclosure. Ideally it is best to have two litter mates of the same gender together if you do not want babies. If you have two different genders make sure to get at l east one fixed because they can breed quickly and before you know it you will have a pack of skinny pigs!
Skinny pigs that live in a happy and safe environment are very willing to cuddle, play, and give out their love freely to their human friends!
Are they safe for people with allergies?
Skinny pigs are very hypoallergenic, but this just means that they are low on allergens not 100% without at all animals have a small level of dander. Unless you have a sever allergy then everything should be fine, however the best way to know for sure is to contact a breeder of skinny pigs and explain your allergy then you can request to spend some time at the breeder's place with the skinny pigs to see if your allergies flare. Before getting a skinny pig if you have allergies make sure to make arrangements for what you will do if the skinny pig does affect your allergies.
There are also ways to even further minimize the change of your suffering an allergy attack from your skinny pig. The easiest one is to make sure your skinny pig stays clean and you can do this through healthy bathing (see video on right). The other way is to make sure you keep the enclosure clean that means cleaning it at least once a week. Lastly if you take allergy medicine make sure to keep it up and not miss any doses.
Mutant or Pet?
Skinny pigs may have begun as a genetic mutation in a laboratory, but they have in the last 40 years moved from being just test subject to loving companions and pets of many people and families.