Silkie (Sheltie) Guinea Pig Breed Profile: History, Appearance, Care, and More!

Long haired Black Silkie Guinea Pig

Sheltie Guinea Pig, also known as Silkies because of their long silky hair, is one of the most popular long-haired guinea breeds. Because of their dapper coat and dazzling looks, they are pretty popular as show animals. That said, given their calm and friendly nature also makes them a widely sought-after pet guinea pig breed.

The dazzling coats that have made them popular as Silkie guinea pigs come with great responsibility—it needs to be brushed daily and bathed regularly to prevent knotting and matting.

Charmed by the long silk coat and easy-going nature of Silkie guinea pigs, you may want to rush into buying one as soon as you see an ad for Silkie guinea pigs for sale. But wait, there is a lot more to this long-haired guinea pig breed than its silky hair; continue reading to learn it all. And at the end, you can decide if a Silkie guinea pig would make good for you. To help you make that decision, we will list the pros and cons of keeping a Sheltie guinea pig as a pet at the end.

Silkie Guinea Pig

Before diving into the details, let’s take a quick look at the breed overview of this novel guinea pig breed.

Silkie Guinea Pig Breed Overview
Scientific NameCavia porcellus
Common NamesSilkie Cavy, Sheltie, Silkies, log haired cavy, Teardrop guinea pig
OriginUnited Kingdom
Developed by crossbreedingPeruvian guinea pig with American guinea pig
Length7 to 12 inches
Weight1.5 to 2.5 pounds
Lifespan5 to 8 years
Coat ColorVariety of colors and combinations
DietHerbivores (timothy hay)
CageAt least 30×60 inch enclosure
Ideal temperature range65 to 79° F
TemperamentExtremely laid-back, docile, calm, and friendly
Suitable forFamilies with children, who are in for grooming
Silkie Guinea Pig Scoreboard
Like to be held4.5/5
Grooming Requirements4.5/5
Good with other pets2/5
Good with other Guinea Pigs4.5/5
Good with Children4.5/5

Silkie Guinea Pig History

White, Black, and Orange Silkie Guinea Pig

This unique guinea pig breed was established during the 1970s in the United Kingdom. It was developed by the crossbreeding of long-haired Peruvian guinea pigs with shorthaired American guinea pigs. The resulting Sheltie guinea pigs have long-haired coats like Peruvian guinea pigs due to the same genetics, thus being often confused.

Since then, Silkie guinea pigs have come a long way and become quite popular not only in shows but also in homes as pets

Silkie Guinea Pig Personality and Temperament

Though almost all the guinea pig breeds are gentle and docile, Silkie guinea pigs top the list—they are the gentlest of all guinea pig breeds. Thus make a perfect pet for children, provided there is some adult to take care of Silkies’ grooming requirements.

Sheltie guinea pigs have an extremely laid-back personalities. In the beginning, they would shy away from you or any other person around, but as they make acquaintance, they will start to warm up to you and play with you. But know that they usually take more time than other guinea pig breeds. That said, every guinea pig has its personality, so if you are lucky, your Silkie cavy may start playing and interacting within a few days.

If you want your Silkie cavy to be the friendliest and most sociable, you should socialize them at an early age so that they are comfortable being held and playing with you. If you just brought home a Silkie cavy, you should know that it will take some adjustment period to get comfortable with your presence, let alone touch and smooches. You should wait for your new piglet to warm up to you, once they are comfortable, Silkie guinea pigs love to be held and interact with their loving parents.

Silkie Guinea Pig Appearance

White and biege Silkie Guinea Pig

Silkie guinea pigs have short and cobby bodies covered with long silky hairs. They have a large head, broad muzzle with rounded nostrils, big and bright eyes, and large drooping ears.


Silkie guinea pigs are one of the large guinea pig breeds, and so they will be bigger than the average guinea pig’s size. A full-grown Sheltie can be anywhere between eight to 16 inches. As far as their weight is concerned, it will vary between 1.5 to 3 inches depending on their size.

That said, given their longhaired coat, Silkie cavies look even bigger than their actual size.


Silkie guinea pigs have the silkiest coat. They are actually named Silkie because of their silky coat. They have long hair, which can grow up to 24 inches long, up to the floor length.

Because of their shared genetics, their longhaired coat is quite similar to that of the Peruvian guinea pigs, and oftentimes it is hard for novice guinea pig lovers to tell them apart.

Where Peruvian guinea pigs have hair covering their heads, Silkies’ hair is swept back as if they have been styled using some hair gel. Moreover, Silkie guinea pig’s hair at the back is a bit longer comparatively, which makes them look like a unique teardrop shape when looked at from above.

How to Care for a Silkie Guinea Pig?

White and Brown Longhaired Silkie Guinea Pig


While Sheltie guinea pigs have no special dietary requirements and would do just fine if fed like other guinea pig breeds, their elegant silky coats can benefit from daily dosages of omega-3 fatty acids.

Besides that, you should ensure that your Sheltie guinea pig has a constant supply of fresh Timothy hay. This will not only provide them with fibers but also help them contain the growth of their teeth. You can also feed your guinea pigs some fruits and vegetables in small amounts as treats every now and then.

You should also know that, like other guinea pigs, Silkie cavies are also unable to make their own vitamin C, so they will be dependent on you to provide for their vitamin C requirements. You should either treat your Silkie with vitamin C supplements, spray, or tablets or feed them quality guinea pig pellets that will contain all the supplements, including vitamin C for your guinea pigs.  

You should also make sure that your guinea pigs have a constant supply of fresh and clean water round the clock. As guinea pigs like their cage dry and clean, you can use a drip bottle system instead of putting water in their enclosure in a bowl or water dish. You should, however, change the water in the bottle daily.


Get ready as there is a lot of grooming involved. Because of their high maintenance level, they have not been deemed good pets for children. However, if there is a responsible adult in the house, who is ready to take the responsibilities of daily grooming the guinea pig and trimming its nails, you can get your child a Sheltie guinea pig. Otherwise, you should forget longhaired guinea pigs and get your kid a short-haired American guinea pig.

Like other long-haired guinea pig breeds, long silky coats of Sheltie guinea pigs are also going to need daily coat brushing and bathing every now and then to prevent knotting and matting. Daily brushing would help unknot knots and stop them from developing into mats.

You should know that Shelties are not big fans of bathing and get really stressed even at the sight of water. Therefore, it is advised that instead of bathing them more often, you should spot-clean them regularly and only bathe them when it is absolutely necessary. It is also recommended that you start developing the grooming habits of your guinea pigs in the early stage, this way, they will be accustomed to grooming sessions and won’t act fussy even when they are fully grown.

Enclosure Setup

Silkie guinea pigs are one of the largest guinea pig breeds, thus requiring a comparatively greater enclosure cage. They need a spacious cage wherein they can run around. While one may think that the exercise wheel is a must for a Silkie guinea pig cage setup, it is not. In fact, an exercise wheel would be a bad idea as it will increase the risk of back damage in guinea pigs.

You should try to make your Sheltie guinea pig’s cage as big as you can afford; your silky little friend would really appreciate it if you provided around 7.5 square feet to 10.5 square feet big cage. If you were to add another guinea pig to the habitat, you would have to give some extra space as well.

Big is Better!
Big is always better when it comes to the guinea pig cage size.

Signs of a Health Silkie Guinea Pig

A healthy Silkie cavy is a happy cavy. You will often find your healthy guinea pig self-grooming to make sure they have a clean and glossy coat, is free of tangles and mats, and won’t be experiencing any hair loss. It will be active and agile and would be interested in its toys and treats. If your guinea pig is healthy, you won’t be able to feel its spine or ribs—it should have ample flesh on it. On the flip side, you should also make sure that your piggy is not obese either.

Signs of a Healthy Guinea Pig
A clean and glossy coat free of tangles and matsLots of self-groomingAgile and active No visible spine or ribsNo hair loss

Silkie Guinea Pig Health

Silkie Guinea Pig is an overall healthy guinea pig breed, but still, they could experience some health issues during their lifetime.

The silky longhaired coat of Sheltie guinea pigs which makes them one of the most widely sought after pet guinea pig breed is also responsible for their susceptibility to various health issues.

To begin with, like other longhaired guinea pigs, Sheltie guinea pigs are also susceptible to fly strikes. This only happens when shelties are kept in dirty and unsanitary environments and are not adequately taken care of. Their hair mats and the accumulation of dirt, excreta—urine and feces, and debris on the coat attract flies. These flies settle in the matted fur and lay eggs from which maggots are hatched. These maggots feed upon the infected skin of guinea pigs, worsening the infection and deteriorating its health. Depending on the severity of the flies’ strike, a guinea pig may die within days of getting the disease. Therefore, you must never compromise on grooming your guinea pig and its cage.

Besides causing flies to strike, matted fur also makes it difficult for guinea pigs to move around. The restricted movement of shelties interferes with their feeding and drinking as well and thus leads to the deterioration of the overall guinea pig’s health.

Like all other guinea pig species, Sheltie guinea pigs are also unable to make their own vitamin C and thus require an external source of it. In case they experience vitamin C deficiency, their skin and coat health will immediately deteriorate, and if left unaddressed, it may lead to compromised immunity.

Last but not least, when Silkie guineas are not provided an unlimited supply of fresh hay, they may experience digestion and teeth issues. Eating hay throughout the day offers fibers that help with digestion, and the constant munching contains the teeth’ growth.

Silkie Guinea Pig Health Issues
Health IssuesHow To Avoid
Flies strikeJust keep them clean and well-groomed
Unhealthy coat leading to hair loss due to Vitamin C deficiencyProvide vitamin C supplements
Digestion and teeth problemsProvide a constant supply of fresh hay

Silkie Guinea Pig and Other Pets

While Silkie guinea pigs are amiable creatures, they should not be left alone with any pet—cat or dog. It is because of the hunting tendencies of cats and dogs—no matter how trained and well-behaved our cats are dogs are, their hunting instincts are often triggered by a moving object. So watching a guinea running a cat may pursue her. Similarly, a dog with strong hunting skills would also do the same.

That said, guinea pigs make great companions for other guinea pigs. So if you want something or some pet to keep your guinea pig company, you should bring home another guinea pig instead of a cat or dog.

Should You Get a Silkie Guinea Pig?
Long silky coatNeeds a lot of grooming
Easy-going, friendly, amiableTendency to knot and matt
Overall healthySusceptible to flies strike
Quite popular at shows 

Silkie Guinea Pig Names

With their silky longhair coat and dazzling looks, Silkie guinea pigs require a dashing name, that would reflect their aura. This could be a bit hard. But worry not, here is a brief list of suitable names for silkie guinea pigs.

CozyFriskyGrizzly BearFluffington

 Unable to find a fitting name?

Check out our guinea pig name treasures: Guinea Pig Names, Boy Guinea Pig Names, Girl Guinea Pig Names, and Cute Guinea Pig Names

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