Since fur and hair are technically the same thing, it would be safe to say that guinea pigs have both fur and hair. Although they are the same thing, many people use the term “fur” to describe multiple layers of hair. They also use the term “hair” to describe just one layer. By that definition, guinea pigs would have hair.
When talking about a guinea pig’s outer coat, you probably wonder if you should call it “fur” or “hair.” What is the difference between fur and hair? How are they alike, and how are they different?
The interesting thing to note is that essentially all mammals have hair. And, yes, that includes guinea pigs! There is one exception to that rule. Skinny pigs. Skinny pigs are guinea pigs that do not have hair.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states that hair is present in differing degrees in all mammals. So, even though guinea pigs have hair, it will look drastically different from that of humans or other mammals.
Webster’s dictionary defines fur as the hairy coat of a mammal, especially when it is fine, soft, and thick. In Webster’s dictionary, hair is defined as the covering of an animal or a body part, a slender threadlike outgrowth of the epidermis of an animal. It is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis (the outer layer of the skin).
In popular culture, we interchange the words “fur” and “hair.” But, for the most part, we use fur to talk about the hair of non-humans, such as our pets. And we use “hair” when talking about humans.
What Should a Healthy Guinea Pigs’ Fur Look Like?
A guinea pig’s fur should look thick, glossy, and healthy. It should feel smooth to the touch. Also, in a healthy pig, you should not see large bald spots or patches.
The color of a guinea pig’s fur will vary, from white to brown or black. There are varying degrees of shades in between. They usually have up to three different colors of fur. Also, you can have a guinea pig that only has one color.
Guinea pigs have patterns to include Agouti, Argente, Argente, Bicolor, Tortoise Shell, Tortoise and White, Brindle, Dalmatian, Dutch, Fox, Himalayan, Roans, and Seifs. The most common guinea pigs are Seifs, as they have the same color all over.
Some pigs have no fur. One example is the skinny pig. It is hairless. Historically, skinny pigs have been used for scientific research in dermatology. They have also been used for other medical advancements.
Different Species of Guinea Pigs Have Different Types of Fur (or No Fur)
There are many varieties of guinea pig species. Some species have longer fur than others. There are 9 guinea pig species with long hair. Abyssinian guinea pigs are long-haired guinea pigs. Peruvian guinea pigs have abnormally long hair. The Silkie guinea pig is another species that has long hair. Their name gives away the texture of their hair, silky!
Other species include Texel, Coronet, Lunkarya, Sheba, Alpaca, and Merino. Guinea pigs with long or abnormally long hair should be groomed. This ensures that their hair remains healthy and clean.
Guinea Pigs Shed Hair
Like many other animals, guinea pigs’ hair sheds. If you own a guinea pig, you will likely find guinea pig hair in their cage or area where they live if they are free-roaming. If you handle your guinea pig or they have cuddle time in your lap, you may notice strands of hair that are left on your clothes.
Although guinea pigs’ hair regularly sheds, especially when kept in warm temperatures, the hair grows back. They usually shed their hair or coat seasonally, during the Spring.
Fur Causes for Concern & When to See a Veterinarian
When grooming your guinea pig or checking in on it regularly, you may notice bald spots behind the ears. This is common and usually is not a cause for concern. If you notice any irregular shedding of the guinea pigs’ fur, consult a veterinarian.
Regularly inspect your guinea pigs’ fur and look for signs of illness. What are the signs of illness or cause for concern in which you may need to consult with a veterinarian?
- If your guinea pig is itching abnormally
- If you notice scabs on your guinea pigs’ fur
- If you notice that there is a place on the fur that appears flaky
If you see any of these symptoms, your guinea pig may have mites, lice, or another condition.
If you notice significant hair loss that is more than a few strands, your guinea pig may have a dermatological condition or a skin disease.
Alopecia is the most common skin condition in guinea pigs. Other skin conditions may include pruritus, scaling, and crusty lesions.
Alopecia is when you do not see fur in an area where there should normally be fur. It is possible that a guinea pig simply is not born with hair in a certain area. This would not be alopecia.
It is important to be aware of these signs and symptoms so that you can take the guinea pig to a veterinarian for treatment if needed.
Hair Loss Due to Another Guinea Pig Showing Dominance or Hierarchy
Be cautious of a guinea pig showing dominance or hierarchy. When a guinea pig first meets another pig, there may be a period when the guinea pig rumble struts, a sign that it is interested in mating or showing its dominance.
If you see another guinea pig purring and moving back and forth, from side to side, you may need to remove the other guinea pig. There is a possibility that this guinea pig will show dominance and cause harm to the other guinea pig by chewing or biting another pig’s fur.
If this occurs, inspect the guinea pigs’ fur that was affected. This fur will likely grow back, but this is an instance when the spot will be temporarily bald.
How to Care for Guinea Pig Fur
Be aware that guinea pigs naturally groom themselves, except for long-haired guinea pigs, which we previously covered.
When living in a herd or with other guinea pigs, they socially groom. You may notice a guinea pig grooming or cleaning another guinea pig’s fur. You may see a guinea pig licking another guinea pig’s face or ear. Do not be alarmed, this is normal behavior. This is a great sign the guinea pigs get along well and are comfortable with each other.
Guinea pigs love to be brushed. It is soothing and relaxing for them. If you know what it is like to get a massage, then you will understand what this might feel like to a guinea pig, glorious.
You may hear the guinea pig purring because they are relaxed by having their fur brushed. Use your hands to gently massage their back. Use long strokes, starting with the head and going down the back. You may also use a baby brush to brush their paws. Again, do this following the direction of their hair.
There is no need to bathe a guinea pig to clean its fur unless advised by a veterinarian.