Welfare Over Aesthetics (WOA): Our Grooming Policy


Do you remove matts?

Yes, matt removal is standard with all grooms with a non-negotiable £3 surcharge. I will always endeavour to remove the entirety of knotting that I find during a groom. Sometimes this may mean trimming the hair much shorter than you would like, and/or result in completely shaven or even bald patches where the matt has tightened against the skin. Matts are not as harmless as they look. As they develop they begin to pull on surrounding hair, which in turn pulls on the skin beneath and surrounding the matt, causing distress and discomfort – something you might only see as a guinea pig who has gotten less cuddly lately, or who isn’t as lively as they used to be. Matting is a serious welfare issue in all animals and is taken just as seriously when it comes to guinea pigs. It isn’t difficult to remove matts, but it requires extra patience, time, energy and tools from me as a professional to ensure minimal discomfort to the guinea pig in the process of removing the mass of knots altogether.

Do you offer different styles of haircut for long-haired pigs?

In short, no. I’m not a guinea pig hairdresser. I’m not here to make your pet look “pretty”, or “Instagrammable” – much as I’d quite like that. I’m here to help you manage your long-haired piggy’s hair in a way that requires minimal fuss for you, and keeps your guinea pig free from knots and tangles (that can turn into matts).

My aim is to help your guinea pig stay dry and clean for as long as possible – so the hair can’t be left dragging on the floor to pick up bedding and hay and to absorb urine.

I do – despite my WOA Policy – have a passion for aesthetics and always do my best to make your pig look “pretty” by blending the different lengths and trying to achieve an even cut, but my priority is and always will be how the haircut benefits the guinea pig, not how it benefits the owner.

Different breeds will naturally look different when trimmed as there are so many hair types and directions of growth, and at different times of year I do change how I clip accordingly – so I may go shorter all over in summer, but leave more length on the body in winter (focusing on keeping bum and underside shorter).

Similarly if someone is very local and books in for grooms every 2 months, I can leave a little more hair on as I know I will be seeing that pig at the right time to help the owner manage their pig’s hair at the owner’s favoured length. If someone travels a couple of hours to me it is usually of most help to the owner to clip shorter than usual, so that they can make the journey every 3 months instead of every alternate month. The shorter the hair, the longer it will stay in good to fair condition.

Ultimately my primary consideration when giving a haircut is always going to be welfare and how this haircut will work for them: noting how the pig lives, where they live, what they are bedded on, the condition they arrive in, and the particulars of that breed and individual (e.g. prone to urine soaking, prone to matting) – and doing my utmost to prevent those problems from occurring for as long as I can. Only then can I consider how I can aesthetically groom the rest of the pig to make them look “pleasing”. Sometimes going shorter all over is the best thing for pig and owners; other times it’s not a problem to leave a little length, provided I have met the purpose of the haircut, which is to improve hygiene for the pig and to make the ongoing maintenance of the hair easier for the owner.

Do you fully shave guinea pigs?

Extremely rarely, and I really don’t like to do so unless there is a very sound reason or no other option. If I consider a full shave (down to the skin) is needed – typically it would only come up for health reasons – then I will always contact the owner before fully clipping down. Note that I do shave the underside and around the back legs and genitals of long-hairs as standard, as these are the areas which soak up urine when given half a chance.


Do I HAVE to bath my short-haired pig routinely?

No, you don’t have to. What you probably want to ask is should you bath them? There are two camps on this one, and both are pretty vociferous about their “side”. So first up: I am not on either side. The only absolutes I can give on both camps are below. I fully respect personal choice, however I am not satisfied to let myths, rumours and half-truths become widespread.

Bathing is not bad, dangerous or unnecessary. In the wrong hands, yes, it can put the pig at risk, and there are individual cases where you would not want to bath a pig. However, any sensible owner will research how to safely bath guineas, or seek out someone who does have the experience to safely to do. Note that bathing is NOT about immersing your pig in deep water or making them swim; THAT is dangerous. Nor does sensible bathing (using suitable products, correct methodology and appropriate timing) strip the coat or skin of oils. Short-haired guinea pigs get as much debris and have as much dead skin on them as any long-haired. Even Skinny Pigs – a hairless breed – benefit enormously from routine bathing and appropriate skin-care.

Some pigs are clean without needing as much intervention as a bath. Not every short-haired pig needs routine bathing. If they look and smell clean, if the skin across the body is completely clear and clean, and their coat is free of parasites, skin flakes and dirt, then I see no reason to give the pig a bath just for the sake of it. Some chronic health conditions and living conditions may also make bathing difficult to perform safely; in such cases, these pigs need to be managed on a case by case basis and that may involve having to think outside the box to achieve the same outcome without resorting to a full body bath.

Frankly, it does not matter to me if you are on one side or the other, or if you want to hear my views on the subject. All I ask is that, agree or disagree, you treat me and my other clients with respect, and respect that I am a professional putting welfare above all else. I am happy to see pigs who are not routinely bathed, I am happy to see pigs bathed every other month, I am happy to see pigs who only get bum baths or foot baths or who are only bathed once a year. I will advise owners that their pigs may benefit from bathing if I see evidence to back this up, but equally I am content to concur with owners who feel their pigs don’t need bathing at this point provided I am seeing clean and healthy skin and hair.

Being able to respect both is important. I don’t bath them for any reason other than it is needed for therapeutic or hygiene reasons, and the benefits outweigh any likely risks.

Do long-haired pigs get bathed?

Yes, long-haired breeds will always be bathed AFTER having a haircut. The combination of haircut followed by bath is important as long hair holds and hides urine, dirt, parasites and skin problems especially well. I am aware most dog and cat groomers will bath first before cutting the hair, but my experience of dealing with guinea pigs with long hair is that removing the length – ergo the dirtiest hair – is the priority, and it is then vastly easier to access the skin for bathing. Matted hair especially usually leaves behind very dry skin, which you can’t get to while the pig is still tied up in its own hair. Bathing is also incredibly soothing to pigs who have developed sensitive skin as a result of their longer hair either pulling or knotting.

Guinea pigs are so clean though, why should I get involved?

Guinea pigs are seen as very clean creatures. I tend to argue against this. Think: how often do you need to tidy their cage of droppings and wet bedding? How often do you spot clean; how often do you fully clean? They are rarely toilet trained – if they are, good for you, but you are in a very small minority. Coming at it from another angle: do your pigs love to go out on the grass? Do they like to dig and burrow in hay? Do you feed them any natural forages or fresh fruit and veg?

By nature, domesticated guineas are not good housekeepers. They don’t clean up after themselves and, as already mentioned, they are almost never toilet trained. Any guinea pig owner knows how much upkeep it is to keep their living quarters “clean”, even just going in twice a day for 5 minutes to clean up, and still the poops begin appearing again by the dozen within minutes. True, their droppings are uniform and solid and should not cause “mess” as such…but they are still faeces. Flies are still attracted to them. Fungus will still grow on them. Pigs will very happily sleep with their head on droppings! They really are not a nice sterile pet that keep a tidy house.

You can say that a large cage will minimise mess and take the concentration out of any mess, and I’m not disagreeing with that, but I am seeing the reality that many pigs don’t have access to cages that are essentially unlimited in space (think at least 2-3 times as large as the minimum recommended cage sizes to achieve a successful dilution).

Then there’s outdoor access and the essential inclusion of hays and grasses for them to not only eat in abundance, but to play and forage in. Some days my pigs love nothing more than snuggling up on a fleece bed; others they get their kicks building a big hay nest and sleeping in it. But hay is a natural product. It grows outdoors in fields, and because our animals are eating it, it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides, biocides or fungicides. It’s a raw untreated product. Now, it’s possible to find a way to feed a “sterile” hay, but the reality is, if your pigs eat hay, they are going to be exposed to unwanted nasties, be it parasites or fungal spores.

Their environment is a large contributor to how clean the animals themselves are, but it should be clear by now that no matter how clean you think everything might be, there’s an awful lot more going on at a level you cannot see.

Piggies do groom themselves, but anyone who has witnessed this will have seen something very obvious. They have a very limited range. They clean their faces, some of their underside, a little bit of their flank, and a small spot somewhere in the middle of their back. They’ll tuck their head under to tidy up their groin and genital area, and also give their nails a clean too sometimes using their teeth. Sounds quite thorough, but where do I find the highest concentration of parasites? Everywhere they can’t reach.

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