In spite of all the rain that’s been pummeling some parts of the country recently, spring is still making its presence felt. Flowers are blooming, the trees are bursting with new leaves, the birds sing us awake every morning...
...and our pets are shedding.
Guinea pigs (even the short-haired ones) shed their fair share this time of year. They get itchy, scratchy, and fidgety. Our clothes acquire a layer of the hair their bodies no longer need. And it’s astounding how much hair can come off one little critter.
Like dogs and cats and rabbits, guinea pigs need the help of a good brush. But while they need the help, and while brushing them gives you another opportunity for some “together time,” the wrong grooming tool can ruin their experience and make them determined to escape your lap at all possible costs!
Most grooming tools for small animals will work at least adequately. The best path to success is matching hair type to the right tool.
#1. Your Fingers
Yes, you read that right. For certain hair types, those 10 digits on your hands can get a lot of work done. They’re not a full replacement for a more traditional grooming tool, but if you’ve got short-haired guinea pigs, running your fingers gently through their hair can attract and remove an impressive amount of the loose stuff.
I’ve had numerous short-haired guinea pigs who shed up a storm every spring, and fidgeted and vehemently objected to every brush and comb I tried. But they’d sit for a good solid hour and let me comb through their fur with my fingers, and I often got out at least three times more than I did with a soft bristle brush.
#2. Flea Combs
Requiring a very gentle hand so that you don’t hurt the skin, the flea comb may be the best all-around tool for detangling long hair and grabbing short, shedding hair. While you often see at least one listed on pet supply websites under “small animal grooming,” you can find suitable combs in the kitten or puppy aisle of your local pet supply store. Flea combs are also easier to wash and dry than brushes.
#3. Soft Bristle Brushes
Soft bristle brushes manufactured for small pets are the most widely available in bricks-and-mortar pet supply stores. The bristles are about as soft as you’d find on a baby’s brush, and the handles fit reasonably well in most adult hands. You don’t feel much of a difference in the bristles themselves between brands; generally, the only real distinction between brands is the style of handle.
Experience showed me that this type of brush doesn’t work very well with long-haired or curly-haired guinea pigs (like Texels). The bristles just don’t get through the top layers of a critter’s coat as well as product marketing would have you believe. In most cases, the brush just glides over the top coat, attracting whatever hair is already loose and near the surface. This brush type, though, can be semi-effective with short-haired pigs and Abyssinians, and seems to be better tolerated by them (especially when they’re being used by inexperienced groomers).
#4. Soft Wire Brushes
For longer-haired guinea pigs, a soft wire brush (like the Pro Slicker Brush) has rounded tips and thin wire bristles that are just strong enough to get to the undercoat and grab the stuff that’s really making your guinea pig feel so itchy. This type of brush, however, requires a very gentle hand to ensure that the bristles don’t go too close to your piggy’s skin and scratch it up. But for longer hair, nothing works better at detangling fur and leaving it silky and shiny than this type of brush.
When you do have a grooming session, having the piggy on your lap will put it at much greater ease than if you worked on a table or counter. Make sure to put a towel on your lap, under the piggy, to keep the hair off your clothes; when you’re done, you can shake the towel off into the garbage or out in your yard. You’ll be surprised at what a difference even one grooming session will make in your guinea pig’s coat, in terms of luster and texture. And your guinea pig will feel infinitely better for having gotten rid of “the itchies.”