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Silkie Guinea Pig (2021 Comprehensive Care Guide)

With their soft and long hair, Silkie guinea pigs are one of the most elegant and stunning breeds of guinea pig.

But compared to short haired breeds like the American guinea pig, the Silkie definitely takes a bit more work to keep.

When I first owned a Silkie guinea pig, I was surprised at how much time went into keeping their grooming needs – that’s not including the other care requirements of a Silkie like cage maintenance and nutrition.

So, to help you determine whether the Silkie is the right guinea pig breed for you, I’ll be going over all the things you need to know about their care like feeding, grooming, and habitat.

Origins of the Breed

The Silkie guinea pig breed was first discovered in the 1970s in the United Kingdom as a result of crossbreeding the Peruvian guinea pig with an American short-haired guinea pig.

This was most likely due to experimental reasons.

Silkie guinea pigs are a long-haired variety of guinea pigs, similar to the Peruvian guinea pig and Coronet guinea pig.

The difference between the Silkie and other long haired breeds is its hair – it flows from front to back instead of along the spine.

Appearance and Characteristics of Guinea Pigs Silkie Breed

Coat

Silkie guinea pigs have very long hair, though it isn’t quite as long as the Peruvian guinea pig’s hair.

Their hair tends to stay all one length as it sweeps backwards unparted, with the hair at the rump usually being the longest point.

Silkie guinea pigs can also have a satin coat, which is much glossier and softer than this breed’s standard coat.

Colors of Silkie Guinea Pigs

Silkie Guinea Pig on White Background
Silkie Guinea Pig on White Background

The Silkie guinea pig comes in a huge number of colors, including white, red, brown, black, and grey.

They can be a solid color, roan, brindle, tortoiseshell, and many other color combinations.

Body Size

Silkie guinea pigs normally reach between 8 and 16 inches in length, but they can look a little bigger due to the amount of long hair they have.

This breed can weigh around 1 to 3 pounds, with males sometimes being a little heavier than females.

Did you know that the Silkie guinea pig breed are also known as Teardrop guinea pigs?

If you look at this breed from the top, they look like the shape of a teardrop.

Distinct Features of the Breed

The most distinct feature of the Silkie guinea pig is its smooth long hair.

Unlike the Peruvian guinea pig, the Silkie’s hair sweeps back unparted across their body. It kind of looks like a male lion’s mane.

It took my two piggies about 6 weeks before they began to come out of their shell and be more relaxed around me.

But every cavy is different – some may take longer or even less time to tame.

Are Silkie Guinea Pigs Friendly?

As I mentioned earlier, the Silkie has one of the gentlest demeanour out of all the guinea pig breeds.

This breed can be very friendly, especially if socialized from a young age.

That said, all guinea pigs breeds can be a bit reserved when first brought home.

Adjustment Period

It can take some time for guinea pigs to become accustomed to their new surroundings and new owners.

Take things day by day – don’t expect your guinea pig to be confident and affectionate immediately.

It usually takes a while for guinea pigs to trust people, particularly strangers.

Two Cavies Eating Veggies
Two Cavies Eating Veggies

My Cavies

My guinea piggies, Jake and Finn, were very nervous around me when I first got them.

Every time I walked past their cage, they’d scurry into their hideaway and refused to come out.

Over the course of a few weeks, my piggies started to trust me and realize that I wasn’t a foe but a friend (one with tasty treats!).

Now, they’re right little snuggle bugs and love being the center of attention.

Are Boy or Girl Silkie Guinea Pigs Nicer?

It’s thought that male Silkie guinea pigs are a bit more confident and outgoing than females.

That said, a lot of your guinea pig’s friendliness is determined by their individual personality.

Some guinea pigs are very curious and affectionate, while some are more timid and skittish. Every guinea pig is different!

I’ve had male cavies that have been very nervous and shy, even with months of taming. And, I’ve had female cavies that have been playful and loving from day one.

Do Silkie Guinea Pig Bite?

Guinea Pig Standing
Guinea Pig Standing

Silkies don’t normally bite without reason as they much prefer to flee from a threat than stay and fight.

If your Silkie is spooked, stressed, or uncomfortable, they may lash out.

Most cavies will let you know when they’re unhappy, either through behavior or a warning nip (one that doesn’t break the skin).

Discomfort

If your cavy is fidgety, wriggly, or squeaky, then these are all signs that they’re unhappy with the current situation.

If you’re holding your cavy and they exhibit the above signs, they may need the bathroom or have had enough of being handled.

If you ignore these signs, they may give you a warning nip.

Warning Bite

If you ignore your pet’s warning nip, they may eventually resort to a bite – one that is usually painful and can break the skin.

Whenever my cavies don’t want to be handled, they’ll give me a very soft nip to let me know to leave them alone.

Sometimes cavies bite simply because they mistook you for food, so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before handling your pet.

Silkies can also bite without warning if you accidentally touched a painful area or spooked them.

TIP

Always make sure you pay close attention to your guinea pig’s behavior when you’re interacting with them so you can avoid being bitten.

Similar Breeds to Silkie Pig Guinea

Silkie guinea pigs are one of the most popular long haired breeds of guinea pig, no doubt due to their striking and graceful appearance.

Similar breeds of guinea pig to the Silkie include the Peruvian guinea pig, Texel guinea pig, and Coronet guinea pig.

The Peruvian guinea pig breed has extremely long hair that parts along the spine, and naturally extends to their face to create a fringe.

The Texel guinea pig looks similar to the Silkie guinea pig, but it has curly long hair.

The Coronet guinea pig breed looks almost identical to the Silkie breed, but it has a rosette or coronet in the center of its head.

Lifespan – How Long Does a Guinea Pig Silkie Live?

Silkies have an average life expectancy of 4 to 8 years, but their lifespan is determined by a range of factors, including genetics, environment, and diet.

To help make sure your pet lives as long as possible, give them a large diet, plenty of exercise, and a nutritious diet.

Do Silkie Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets?

All guinea pig breeds can make great pets, but especially the Silkie due to its naturally calm and easy-going nature.

As a result, these animals can be excellent pets for children as they’re usually more tolerant than some other guinea pig breeds.

However, Silkies require daily grooming, so you’ll need to make sure you stay on top of brushing and coat maintenance.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll have the time to care for a Silkie’s long hair every day, then a short haired guinea pig might be a better pick for you.

Is the Silkie Guinea Pig the Best Breed for You?

Cavy on Top of a Bed
Cavy on Top of a Bed

If you’re looking for a gentle and good-natured guinea pig breed, then the Silkie is the right choice for you.

Their laidback nature paired with their gorgeous coat make them one of my personal favorite breeds of guinea pig.

But, that beautiful long hair needs regular grooming to keep it free of tangles and matts.

That’s not including all the other care requirements of these pets like feeding, cage cleaning, exercise, and enrichment.

NOTE

Guinea pigs definitely aren’t low maintenance pets, so make sure your schedule is able to accommodate the care needs of a Silkie guinea pig before you get one.

Do Silkie Guinea Pigs Recognize Humans/Owners?

Silkies and other breeds recognize their owners. When you have gained the trust of your pet, they will normally display their affection in a few different ways.

They will run up to greet you when you approach their cage, usually squeaking in the process.

The noise cavies make when they are happy is different from when they are frightened or stressed.

Cavy Sounds

A content or excited cavy will make a “coo” squeaky sound rather than a “cooing” sound when they are scared.

It might not seem like a big difference, but you’ll definitely be able to notice it when you hear it!

Happy Silkie cavies may lick or groom their owners, and generally want to be around you.

My cavies do all of the above when I interact with them, but they’re very cautious of strangers.

Guinea Pig Noises & What They Mean

Do Silkie Guinea Pigs Get Attached to Humans?

The Silkie can become very attached to humans, especially if you put in the time and work to properly care for them.

My piggies enjoy being around me, but they weren’t always that way.

It took some time before they bonded with me, but when they finally started to trust me, it was a very heartwarming moment!

Is It Hard to Keep a Pig Silkie Guinea?

Silkie guinea pigs aren’t too difficult to keep, but they’re not the sort of pet you can feed and simply forget about.

These pets need to have their hair groomed every day to keep it in tip-top condition, as well as a minimum of 3 hours of exercise each day.

Needs

They also need their cage cleaned every 3 to 7 days and a well-balanced diet twice daily. The latter includes fresh veggies – Silkie guinea pigs can’t survive on commercial guinea pig pellets alone!

And last but not least, guinea pigs need interaction and enrichment to prevent them from getting bored.

As long as you give your pet all of these things, they’re sure to be one happy piggy.

Maintenance

Do Silkie Guinea Pig Breeds Smell?

Cavy on a Blanket
Cavy on a Blanket

This small pet isn’t typically smelly if you keep its environment and coat clean. However, poor cage and coat maintenance can cause the Silkie breed to be a bit pungent.

That’s why you need to ensure you keep your Silkie’s habitat hygienic and regularly brush their coat.

Due to the Silkie’s thick hair, urine and feces can get stuck around their rump.

Hair Trimming

It’s a good idea to trim the fur around your guinea pig’s bottom frequently to keep their coat tidy.

Health issues like diarrhea or an ear infection can also make your Silkie guinea pig be a bit stinky, as can dirty grease glands.

The latter is quite easy to identify on Silkie guinea pigs as it will look like your pet has dark earwax around their rump.

You can get rid of grease gland dirt by giving your pet’s lower body a quick bath with some small animal or guinea pig shampoo. If the stain persists, a bit of coconut oil can help remove it.

How to Care for a Guinea Pig – Silkie

Caring for a Silkie requires a little more work than short haired breeds, mainly due to Silkie’s long hair.

This breed needs to be brushed daily to keep their coat matt and tangle free.

Diet and Exercise

In addition to grooming, you’ll need to provide your Silkie with a varied and nutritious diet of grass hay, fresh vegetables, and guinea pig pellets.

Around every 3 to 7 days, you’ll have to clean out your pet’s cage.

Last but not least, you’ll need to give your Silkie plenty of exercise (about 3 hours daily) outside of their cage to keep them in good shape.

TIP

If you want to keep your Silkie guinea pig indoors, it’s a good idea to use a cover or lid to prevent your cavy from escaping or to protect them from other pets.

Choosing a Cage for a Silkie Guinea Pig

Placement

You can keep your Silkie inside or outside as long as the temperature is between 65 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you plan on keeping your pet in an outside hutch, consider placing it in a quiet location away from loud noises.

You might want to install fencing around your pet’s hutch to help keep them safe from predators like foxes and cats.

Size

Although classed as a small animal, Silkie guinea pigs need a spacious cage in order to thrive.

Subjecting your pet to tight and cramped living quarters can lead to stress, boredom, and behavioral problems.

Your guinea pig’s cage should provide a minimum of 7.5 square feet for a single pet, and between 7.5 square feet and 10.5 square feet for two pets.

If you can, try and go bigger than these sizes.

Ideal Temperature

The ideal temperature for a Silkie guinea pig is around 65 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite having long and thick hair, Silkies can still get cold if their habitat is too chilly.

In contrast, if the temperature is too hot, your Silkie is at risk of overheating and developing heat stroke.

NOTE

Always keep an eye on the temperature of your guinea pig’s habitat to ensure your pet’s safety and comfortability.

Cage Types

Commercial/Store Bought Cage

A commercial cage can be a good option for a Silkie guinea pig, but a lot of store-bought enclosures don’t provide adequate space for even a single cavy.

That’s why you should always check the dimensions of a commercial cage before purchasing one.

Coroplast and Cube Grid Cage

Coroplast and cube grid cages are a popular choice for guinea pig owners. They’re cheaper to craft than commercial cages, and bigger too!

As you’ll have full control of designing the cage, you can make it as large as possible.

Don’t worry if you’re not the best at DIY – C&C cages are simple to set up.

Materials

All that’s needed is some cube grids, Coroplast (corrugated plastic), cable ties, and standard connectors.

You should be able to find all of these items online, but a shower curtain is a good substitute for Coroplast if you’re having trouble finding it.

How to Make a Good C&C Cage

My guinea pigs are housed in a C&C cage, but they used to live in a commercial hutch. Since I made the switch, they’ve been a lot happier and cozier.

If you don’t want to craft your pet a C&C cage, there are other materials you can use to craft a cage for your Silkie. I know owners who have made their own hutch using wire mesh and wood (a cavy safe one).

Bedding Types

Even after you’ve got your Silkie’s cage all set up to go, the work’s not quite over yet. You’ll need to think about the type of bedding you want to use for your pet’s enclosure.

A good-quality bedding is soft, absorbent, and helps mask odors. There are a few beddings types to choose from, including paper-based bedding, aspen wood shavings, and fleece blankets.

Fleece

Fleece blankets might seem like an odd choice, but you’ll be surprised at how many cavy owners use them (myself included). Fleece is warm, comfortable, and inexpensive to purchase and maintain.

Unlike paper-based bedding and aspen wood shavings, you don’t need to throw out fleece blankets when they become soiled.

You can put them in a washing machine to be cleaned and used time and time again!

How to Look After Your Silkie’s Hair

What You’ll Need

Your Silkie’s grooming kit should include a bristle brush, a guinea pig comb, a soft brush, and a pair of round-edged scissors.

Bristle brushes are great for untangling minor knots in your pet’s coat, as well as removing excess fur.

A guinea pig comb is helpful for getting rid of any persistent tangles, while a soft brush is useful for brushing around your pet’s face.

Lastly, a pair of round-edged scissors are beneficial for cutting out any matts you can’t remove with a brush.

High Maintenance Hair

As Silkies are a long haired guinea pig breed, their grooming needs are greater than short haired breeds.

Guinea pigs with long hair like the Silkie, Coronet, and Peruvian guinea pig require more time and work to own than ones with short hair.

Make sure you have the time to brush your Silkie’s hair every day.

How to Brush a Silkie’s Hair

When you’re ready to brush your Silkie’s hair, place them on your lap or on the floor.

You can use a piece of romaine lettuce or another tasty vegetable to keep them distracted while you brush their hair.

Get your bristle brush and slowly start to go through your pet’s long coat

TIP

Make sure you only brush your Silkie’s hair in the direction it lays.

Be Gentle

Brushing a Guinea Pig
Brushing a Guinea Pig

Take care when brushing through any tangles or matts in your cavy’s hair as you don’t want to accidentally hurt them – Try not to pull your guinea pig’s skin too.

Once you’ve brushed your guinea pig’s long coat (don’t forget their legs and rump), you can use a guinea pig comb to get rid of any persistent knots.

If you can’t remove a knot or tangle in your cavy’s hair, use a pair of round-edged scissors to cut it out.

When your pet has no tangles left in their long coat, use a soft brush to smooth out their hair.

Applicable to Other Cavies

This grooming method can also be used for other long haired guinea pig breeds, including the Coronet and Peruvian guinea pig.

Bear in mind that not all Silkies like being brushed – some can get very fidgety or agitated during grooming.

However, with time, your pet should start to become accustomed to the routine.

Hair Trimming

Silkies or other long haired breeds like the Peruvian guinea pig benefit from regular haircuts.

This helps make their coats more manageable.

You should also trim the hair around your pet’s rump to prevent it from getting soiled from urine or feces.

Use Round Edged Scissors

When cutting your Silkie’s hair, use a pair of round-edged scissors and make sure you don’t snip too close to your cavy’s skin.

Be very careful and don’t go too quickly to prevent any accidents if your pet wriggles.

TIP

Ask a friend or family member to help you cut your Silkie’s hair if you’re worried. You could also check online to look for groomers with experience in small pets.

Ear Cleaning

Alongside daily hair care and grooming, your Silkie breed should have their ears cleaned regularly to prevent infections and wax buildup.

I tend to clean my piggies’ ears every two weeks, but I like to look at their ears every day for signs of mites or other issues.

When it’s time to clean your cavy’s ears, get a cotton swab and dampen it with guinea pig ear cleaner or mineral oil, then wipe it over the outer surface of each ear.

NOTE

Never stick the tip inside your Silkie’s ears – doing so can cause severe damage. If you suspect your pet has a problem with their ears, take them to a vet as soon as you can.

Nail Trimming

Trimming Guinea Pig Nails
Trimming Guinea Pig Nails

Nail trimming is another essential part of this breed’s care. Silkies need to have their nails cut to keep them healthy and to stop them from getting too long.

If your pet’s nails are too long, it can make it difficult for them to move and walk around.

You can easily identify when your guinea pig’s nails need a trim as their nails will look curled.

Don’t Rush

Most pets don’t like having their nails trimmed, which can make doing it a bit hard.

Your cavy might be a little wriggly or agitated, particularly if they’ve never had their nails cut before.

Be very careful when cutting your pets’ nails – only trim a small section at a time and go as slow as possible.

Quick

Make sure you avoid the quick as cutting into it will hurt your cavy and cause bleeding.

If your pets have light colored nails, the quick will be easy to spot as it will look like a pink or red root. Unfortunately, the quick is harder to find in pets with dark colored nails.

Look at your cavy’s nails from the bottom – the nail tip should look thin and hollow, allowing you to see the quick a bit easier. If you can’t find the quick, it’s normally safe to cut around ¼ inch of nail from the tip.

A groomer, vet, or other guinea pig professional can help you cut your cavy’s nails if you’re worried about doing it yourself.

Bathing a Silkie’s Hair

Guinea pigs don’t need baths very often, but breeds with a lot of hair like the Silkie and Peruvian guinea pig every now and again.

Hair around your pet’s bottom can get a bit gross, so giving your cavy a quick bath can help remove stains and grime.

Additionally, if your pet is sick, elderly, or unable to groom their hair properly, they may require extra help to keep their hair clean.

Guinea Pig Silkie Diet – What Can a Silkie Guinea Pig Breed Eat?

Hay

Hay is a vital component of your cavy’s nutrition – it should make up 80% of their diet.

Not only does this aid with these pets’ digestion, but it also helps wear down their teeth.

Grass hay like Timothy hay is the best option for this breed as it’s low in fat, calories, calcium, and protein.

This type of hay is also high in fiber, which is beneficial for your Silkie’s digestive health.

Vegetables

Guinea Pigs Eating Vegetables
Guinea Pigs Eating Vegetables

While hay should make up the bulk of these pets’ diet, fresh vegetables should also play an important role in their nutrition.

Cavies cannot produce their own vitamin C, so they need vitamin C supplemented via vegetables, fruits, and pellets.

You should offer your Silkie breed fresh vegetables every day, preferably leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, parsley, and kale.

Amount

These pets need around 1 cup of vegetables daily.

You can give your cavy other vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and broccoli but not as regularly.

Root vegetables in particular shouldn’t be given too often as they can cause diarrhea.

Bell peppers are also advantageous for cavies as they are high in vitamin C.

Remove any leftover veggies within 24 hours so your cavy doesn’t get sick.

Fruits

Fruits are a great snack to give your Silkie breed every once in a while but not all the time. Fruits are high in sugar and can cause diarrhea and other health issues if given in excessive amounts.

A couple of bite-sized pieces a couple of times a week is plenty for your cavy.

TIP

Try to choose fruits that are high in vitamin C like tomato, papaya, and kiwi. You can also offer this breed apple (remove the seeds first), strawberries, blueberries, and cucumber.

Pellets

Food Pellet
Food Pellet

Lastly, offer your cavy a small portion of guinea pig pellets/nuggets daily. The best pellets for this Silkie should be high in vitamin C and low in fat.

Try and use pellets that contain grass hay if you can.

Avoid guinea pig muesli or any other treats/foods that contain seeds. Seeds are very high in fat and can be a choking hazard to your pet.

When Should I Feed My Silkie Guinea Pig?

You should feed your Silkie once in the morning and once in the evening.

How Often?

Feed your Silkie twice a day to keep them healthy and in good shape.

Stick to a consistent feeding schedule daily so your pets don’t get overweight or underweight.

What I Shouldn’t Feed My Guinea Pigs Silkie – Toxic Foods

  • Dairy products (like yogurt, eggs, milk, and cheese) – Cavies lack the enzymes in their GI tract to digest dairy products.
  • Meat and insects – As they are herbivores, guinea pigs don’t require meat in their diet. In fact, feeding them insects or meat can make them very sick.
  • Bulb foods – White potatoes, garlic, onions, and other bulb foods are poisonous to piggies.
  • Avocado – In addition to being very fatty, the skin and pit of an avocado is toxic to any guinea pig breed, including the Silkie and Peruvian.
  • Leeks, chives, shallots, and onions – All of these are toxic to cavies – they can lead to blood disorders. Anything from the onion family should be avoided.
  • Rhubarb – All parts of this vegetable is poisonous to guinea pigs, even the leaves.
  • Cauliflower and cabbage – These vegetables, as well as other veggies known for being gassy, can cause bloat in guinea pigs.

Can Silkie Guinea Pig Live Alone?

Silkies can live alone, but it’s best to keep them in a pair or small group as cavies are social animals.

These pets can get lonely and bored without companionship, so I wouldn’t recommend owning just one.

However, if there are reasons why you can’t keep more than one Silkie, make sure you spend a lot of time interacting with your pet each day.

NOTE

A single cavy will need a lot more attention and time each day than a pair or group.

Compatible Breeds

Silkies can be housed with other cavy breeds, including Peruvian, Texel, Teddy, and American guinea pigs.

Cavies Roaming
Cavies Roaming

Gestation Period and Pregnancy

Like all cavy breeds, female Silkie guinea pigs (sows) have a gestation period of between 59 to 72 days.

The most common is around 69 days.

Silkie guinea pigs can have litter sizes ranging from 1 to 8 pups (baby guinea pigs), but 3 is usually the standard.

Silkie Guinea Pig Breed Health

When guinea pigs get sick, they may not groom themselves as often or as well.

If you notice your pet’s hair is starting to look dull, patchy or dirty, that could indicate a potential problem.

Healthy cavies will be active and agile, and look healthy in general.

You shouldn’t be able to feel their spine or ribs. On the flipside, they shouldn’t be obese either!

NOTE

If your Silkie breed has lumps, bumps, sores, labored breathing, dental issues, lethargy, or any other signs that something is amiss, take them to see a vet as soon as possible.

Vitamin C Deficiency

A vitamin C deficiency can occur in your cavy from poor nutrition or if other health concerns are restricting their ability to eat, digest, or absorb vitamin C.

When cavies don’t get enough vitamin C in their diet, it can lead to scurvy.

This affects your cavy’s collagen production, which is something they need for healthy bones and tissue.

Vitamin C For Guinea Pigs – It’s Confusing!

Symptoms

Scurvy can lead to joint, skin, and blood clotting issues.

Pets with scurvy usually display symptoms like:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Swollen joints and poor mobility
  • Diarrhea/loose stools
  • Rough coat
  • Spots or subcutaneous bleeding under the skin surface
  • Cuts or small wounds that bleed excessively or are slow to heal
  • Internal bleeding in the muscles, brain, intestines, membranes around the skull
  • Sudden death (if left untreated)

If your cavy has any of the symptoms above, get them checked out at a vet as soon as possible.

Vitamin C deficiencies can be prevented by ensuring your Silkie is given fresh vegetables and pellets that are high in this compound.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever wanted a miniature lion for a pet but without the fangs, then look no further than the Silkie guinea pig.

Their voluminous and luscious locks are even more striking in person!

I hope I helped you learn more about Silkies and what goes into their maintenance and care. What do you think of the Silkie guinea pig?

Let me know on social media, and be sure to send me some photos of your guinea pigs.

If the Silkie doesn’t seem like the right breed for you, then take a look at our other in depth guides on guinea pig breeds, including other long haired varieties like the Peruvian.

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Michelle Dees
Michelle Dees
Founder of GuineaPigOwner. I love to keep and learn about my guinea pigs and have spent the last 10 years learning and teaching everything there is to know about guinea pig care. 🐹