In 1999, a Canadian ad ran on children’s programming about the “North American House Hippo” to teach kids not to believe everything they see on TV. While house hippos might not be real, skinny pigs are, and you can have one as a pet. (1)
Skinny Pigs: The Real North American House Hippo
A generation of Canadian children grew up with one wish: That the North American House Hippo they saw in a Concerned Children’s Advertisers’ PSA was real.
Those kids, now adults, might actually be able to have that dream come true – sort of. Meet the skinny pig: Hairless guinea pigs that are pretty close to being the same thing.
What Are Skinny Pigs?
Skinny pigs are hairless guinea pigs that only grow whiskers and a small amount of hair on their feet and legs. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, however of course the black ones are the most hippo-like. (1)
According to skinny pig owners, these animals are very loveable, social, and outgoing creatures. They are the result of some cross-breeding that was done in a lab back in the ‘80s. They have since become wildly popular pets in North America and Europe. (1)
Skinny Pig Care
These special little creatures have similar needs to regular guinea pigs, however, they do have some extra care involved due to their lack of hair. (2)
1. They must be kept warm.
The house hippo makes its bed in bedroom closets, using “socks and mittens, dryer lint, and bits of string.” Skinny pigs require extra bedding care, as well, in order to keep them warm. Small blankets for them to curl up into in their cages will suffice. (2)
Moreover, you must make sure to keep your house at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) at all times. (2)
2. They need plenty of hay.
While the fictional house hippo enjoys a diet of chips, raisins, and the leftover crumbs from peanut butter and toast, skinny pigs’ diet consists mainly of hay. They must always be provided with lots of hay as it makes up about 80% of their diet. (2)
Skinny pigs eat more than typical guinea pigs to help them keep warm. (2)
3. Vitamin C
Skinny pigs, like guinea pigs, are unable to produce vitamin C on their own. This means you must also feed them pellets that have been fortified with the nutrient. You can also feed them some high vitamin C rich vegetables or vitamin C tablets. (2) Fun fact, guinea pigs are one of few animals that cannot produce their own vitamin C.(3) Others that cannot include certain fish, birds, apes, and monkeys. This includes humans too! (3)
Read: The National Cat of Norway: Norwegian Forest Cats Are Said To Have Been “Pets of the Vikings”
4. Sunscreen and lotion
If you decide to take your skinny pig outside on a warm day, make sure they spend most of their time in the shade and that you apply sunscreen on them before heading out. Their skin is highly sensitive to sunlight. (2)
Skinny pigs’ skin is also susceptible to becoming dry, so you may need to apply lotion on occasion. (2)
5. They can’t see very well
Skinny Pigs have poor eyesight, so if you have your pet out of the cage you must supervise it at all times. They are at a higher risk of injuring themselves falling off of furniture, etc, because they can’t tell how high up they are. (2)
6. Don’t let them play with other pets
Fur acts like a soft armor for your pets, so when they play they are less likely to hurt each other. Skinny pigs don’t have this extra protection, so keep them away from your cat, dog, or other pets. (2)
These pets are more expensive than a traditional guinea pig, as to be expected. They range from $100 to $250. They also require a large cage to run around in and frequent cage cleanings. (2)
Though the desire to own your very own house hippo might be strong, make sure you know all what goes into having a pet such as this before you get one so that it can live a long, happy life.
Keep Reading: Woman saves $28,000 in travel expenses by watching other people’s cats in places she visits
- “These hairless guinea pigs, known as ‘skinny pigs,’ are like having a mini hippo as a pet.” Insider. Allison Millington. May 17, 2020.
- “10 Skinny Pig Facts Everyone Should Know.” Skinny Pig Care. Joan. December 6, 2016.
- “The Mystery of Vitamin C” Cell Origins and Metabolism. 2010.
This article originally appeared on The Hearty Soul in December 2020 and has been published here with permission.