Shaving Guinea Pigs – Is It OK to Do?
Guinea pigs, or cavies as they are affectionately known, come in all shapes and sizes, colors and patterns. There are both short-haired and long-haired variants. Of the long-haired type, some of the species that have the most beautiful coats are the Silkie, Peruvian, Alpaca, Abyssinian, and the Merino.
People buy long-haired cavies specifically because of their long, beautiful hair, and breeders continue to improve the species to keep up with demand.
It might surprise you then to know that shaved guinea pigs are actually a thing. Have you ever seen a shaved guinea pig? The reasons for doing this vary from owner to owner. Many do it for cosmetic purposes only while others believe that it helps the animals cool off when the temperature is too hot. Other owners vehemently protest the act of shaving guinea pigs; claiming it to be cruel and unnecessary.
Let’s analyze the pros and cons of shaving guinea pigs and any alternatives to doing so.
A long-haired cavy’s hair might be exactly that – really long! In fact, it can grow so long that the hair on its face and on the top of its head obscures its vision and this can really hinder the guinea pig from seeing properly. If not shaved, the cavy might bump into objects or walls while walking and injure itself.
Similarly, the hair around its feet and ankles can grow long enough to cause problems when walking. The guinea pig may stumble over its own hair and hurt itself. The hair around this area can also get quite dirty from the guinea pig’s normal daily activities in its cage. Shaving is beneficial in allowing it to scurry around freely and unrestricted as well as removing bacterial growth hotspots.
Another area that may need shaving is around the cavy’s bum. Guinea pigs frequently urinate and defecate in their beddings and cages. They tend to sit down and lay in the waste and these can cause pieces to become matted on their rump along with bedding materials, dirt, and even food. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria and is easily remedied by shaving the affected area.
Shaving is necessary for medical procedures. A veterinarian will usually advise shaving a certain section of a guinea pig before a surgical operation is scheduled to take place.
There are certain health issues that can also warrant the need to shave a certain part of the cavy. For example, if you suspect your pet of having a lump or tumor anywhere on its body, a medical expert may suggest shaving in order to be able to see the area clearly.
Although this reason isn’t really a good one, many owners shave their cavies because it makes it easier to groom them. While this is probably true, it does certainly seem to defeat the purpose of having bought a long-haired in the first place.
If you find that grooming a long-haired guinea pig takes up too much time, try going for a short-haired breed instead that is more easily maintainable.
Long-haired cavies have evolved to adapt to their environments and they are quite comfortable with the weight of their coats. Shaved guinea pigs will lack an important source of their protection from injury and the elements. Without it, bare skin can be easily scratched or punctured by sharp objects, and the guinea pig will be unable to protect itself from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Cold weather is also easily deterred when a cavy has its long fur coat to stay warm.
Some owners believe that shaving off hair can help keep long-haired guinea pigs cooler during hot weather. This isn’t true. In fact, long hair actually helps cavies stay cooler when it’s hot outside. How? The hair pulls the hot air out of the body and out towards the tip, and it will have cooled down by the time it arrives.
Shaving can be a scary and traumatic experience for any guinea pig. An electric shaver creates a high-pitched whirring noise that your pet is definitely not familiar with and as the object gets nearer, its terror will intensify.
Most guinea pigs will not stay still or allow their hair to be shaved without a fight. Even in veterinary clinics where shaving must be done for medical purposes, the staff has to very carefully and firmly hold the guinea pig down to prevent it from harming itself.
Long-haired cavies are frequent participators in guinea pig shows and competitions. Their hair conforms to a breed standard which dictates the pattern, hair length, color, and various other criteria. Shaving off a cavy’s hair will most certainly not only detracts from its appearance but also probably makes it ineligible to participate in shows. Even if it is accepted, a low score is inevitable.
If the reason for shaving is to reduce allergic reactions to guinea pig hair which some people have, then it’s a bad idea. It will ultimately turn out to be ineffective, as the allergens are not located in the hair or fur but in the skin itself. Even hairless breeds of guinea pigs have been found to still trigger allergic reactions for people.
For whatever reason you may have to shave your pet, here are a few alternatives that may make you reconsider.
If your reason is about maintenance issues, try rescuing a short-haired cavy. “Skinny Pigs” are breeds that resemble the Sphynx cat breed and naturally are devoid of most of their hair. These are both excellent options if you’d like to try a guinea pig that needs less maintenance.
If for some reason you insist on cutting the guinea pig’s hair, at the very least, consider using scissors instead. Electric clippers can really freak out your cavy but using scissors in a careful and controlled manner will allow you to get the job done without scaring your pet.
If you’re concerned about the safety of the pet in regards to the sharp scissors, use a towel to hold them down securely while you do the trim work.
Trim only around areas where it’s needed. If you’re cutting away all of its hair simply for cosmetic purposes, there are not many people that would agree with you on the validity of that reason.
And finally, when in doubt, visit a vet. Not only can they provide advice as to whether or not shaving your guinea pig is actually needed, but they can also carry out the shaving for you in case you’re feeling antsy about it.