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Sheltie Guinea Pig: Pictures, Lifespan, Behavior & Care Guide

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By Nicole Cosgrove

two sheltie guinea pigs sitting in a basket

The Sheltie guinea pig is a relatively new breed of Cavie having been developed in the UK at the end of the 20th Century. It is recognizable for its long, silky coat. It is a small breed and is generally calm but, like all guinea pigs, it does need plenty of living space, should be provided a high-fiber diet consisting primarily of hay, and does require more care than most breeds.

Breed Overview

Size: Small
Weight: Up to 3 pounds
Lifespan: 4–6 years
Similar Breeds: Peruvian guinea pig, Silkie Satin guinea pig
Suitable for: Experienced owners with plenty of time to manage the Sheltie’s coat
Temperament: Calm, gentle, shy, high maintenance

The Sheltie guinea pig is commonly known as the Silkie guinea pig because of their silky-smooth coat. For the same reason, they are also known as Hollywood guinea pigs, and you may hear them referred to as Shetland guinea pigs.

They are friendly and docile, which makes them a good choice of pet breed, and the coat can look stunning when properly cared for, which means they are also popular for showing and competing. The coat does mean that this small Cavie species is higher maintenance than most guinea pigs, though, so it may not be the best choice for first-time owners.

Sheltie Guinea Pig Breed Characteristics

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

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How Much Do These Guinea Pigs Cost?

Shelties are quite common guinea pigs. Their popularity comes from the fact that they are placid and make good pets, while their beautiful coat also makes them good for showing and exhibiting. This popularity means there are plenty of breeders that offer Shelties and their cost is reasonable. You can usually buy one for around $20 to $50, although you may have to pay more for one that is of show quality.

Some owners are surprised by how much care is needed to maintain the coat, and this surprising level of maintenance does mean that Shelties can find themselves in rescues or looking for a new home. This means you may be able to find Shelties in rescue centers. Some shelters do not charge for animals like guinea pigs because they want to free up space and because fewer owners are looking for rescue guinea pigs than other species.

You can still leave a donation, and some rescue centers may ask for a $20 to $50 donation to cover the cost of care while the guinea pig is with them.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Sheltie Guinea Pig

Silkies are popular as pets and for exhibiting because they have a favorable temperament, are docile, and they have stunning coats. They do need plenty of space and should be provided with time out of the cage, and you should always take care of guinea pigs around other pets because their small size and their tendency to run away from trouble can mark them as potential prey.

Do These Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets?

Shelties can make excellent pets for the right owners. Guinea pigs are relatively low-maintenance pets, generally speaking. They don’t need walking and their diet is easy. However, they aren’t maintenance-free, and some care is required. This is especially true of the Sheltie because its coat will require regular brushing, ideally using several brushes of different lengths, and it will need trimming when it reaches the ground.

fluffy sheltie guinea pig in a cage
Photo Credit: Kleo foto, Shutterstock

Does This Guinea Pig Get Along with Other Pets?

In general, guinea pigs can get along with other animals. They are not natural predators, so they won’t attempt to prey even on smaller pets.

However, they are small, and they can run quickly when spooked, which encourages animals like cats and dogs to give chase. You should ensure that guinea pigs are kept separate from cats and dogs, and keep larger animals out of the room when the guinea pig is out of its cage.

Guinea pigs are social animals, and they can become depressed and ill if they are kept alone, even if you spend a lot of time with them personally. As such, it is recommended that you keep two guinea pigs, so they provide company for one another.

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Things to Know When Owning a Sheltie Guinea Pig:

As well as being very popular for shows and competitions, which take place across the country, Sheltie guinea pigs make good pets. Usually, Shelties are better for experienced owners because they do require more care and attention than other species.

Food & Diet Requirements

Like all guinea pigs, Shelties require a high-fiber diet that consists primarily of high-quality guinea pig hay. Hay should be accessible at all times, and it should be given freely.

Not only is hay high in fiber, which is important for guinea pigs, but the constant grinding of hay also maintains healthy teeth. If your guinea pig isn’t grinding its teeth down naturally, it means that the teeth will need cutting.

Timothy Hay is the preferred grass, and you can combine this with a small amount of guinea pig pellets each day. You can also feed some fresh vegetables to offer variety and ensure a good variety of vitamins and minerals in your Cavie’s diet.

feeding shot of a sheltie guinea pig
Photo Credit: ocean1881, Shutterstock

Habitat & Hutch/Enclosure Requirements

As terrestrial animals, guinea pigs don’t really climb, and they spend the majority of their time on the ground or burrowing into the ground. This means that their hutch, or cage, should have more horizontal space than vertical.

And, considering you should keep at least two guinea pigs, the minimum hutch size that is considered adequate for this species is 4 feet x 2 feet. You will also need an additional run or extra space where your guinea pigs can run around and exercise. The run should measure approximately 6 feet x 4 feet.

Exercise & Sleeping Needs

Regardless of how big a guinea pig cage is, your Cavie needs time in a run or getting exercise out of its cage. You should try and provide four hours of free run time every day. This is usually provided in a run, which can be placed indoors or in the garden. If you do let your guinea pig run around the garden, ensure there are no predators, and don’t let your guinea pig out in bad weather.

If you let a Cavie have the run of a room, you need to make sure it is guinea pig-proofed first. Hide away any wires or anything that would be easily chewed and check to ensure that pot plants and houseplants are not toxic. Be sure that you have blocked off any potential exits and remove cats and dogs from the room.

Guinea pigs only sleep for around 6 hours a day, and they do so by taking regular naps, rather than one long sleep. Make sure there is plenty of hay bedding in the cage so your guinea pig can burrow and enjoy some privacy when it wants it.

beautiful sheltie guinea pig portrait outdoors
Photo Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Training

Surprisingly, guinea pigs can be trained. Shelties are considered a friendly species, which makes them easier to train, and because they do respond to vegetables, you can use these treats to make training go a little smoother.

Your guinea pig won’t be trainable if it isn’t hand-tamed, however, so the first step in successful Cavie training is getting yours used to being picked up and handled. Then, use food to encourage whatever movement or action you want, generally by leading the guinea pig, and then give the reward when it completes that action.

It can take time, but it is possible to teach a guinea pig to stand, push a ball around, or even roll over.

Grooming

Although the Sheltie guinea pig is considered a good pet species because it is friendly, it is a high-maintenance pet thanks to its distinctive coat. The coat needs regular brushing. Ideally, you should use brushes of different lengths and work towards using the finest brush you have. When the coat reaches floor length, it will need trimming, too. Sheltie guinea pig hair does not have a natural parting and the fur doesn’t grow over the piggie’s face, but it does have sideburns.

Check claw length regularly and always ensure that the teeth are a suitable length. If your Cavie’s teeth do get too long, you will need to have them cut down.

Adorable sheltie white and ginger red guinea pig side shot
Image Credit: Poppy Pix, Shutterstock

Lifespan and Health Conditions

Shelties are no more or less healthy than other guinea pig breeds, but there are certain conditions and ailments you should look out for.

Minor Conditions
  • Inner ear infections
  • Urinary conditions
Serious Conditions
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Cancer

Male vs Female

Generally, males are heavier and longer than females, and males also live longer, although this obviously isn’t always the case. Males can be more outgoing and easier to handle than females, but this confidence also means that males can be more aggressive. Regular handling and adequate exercise and diet should help ensure that guinea pigs, regardless of gender, are easy to handle and less inclined to nip.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Sheltie Guinea Pigs

1. They Go by Many Names

The Sheltie guinea pig is also known as the Silky guinea pig and the Hollywood guinea pig because of their unique, long, smooth coat. They are also known as the Shetland guinea pig, named after the Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie. The Sheltie guinea pig and Sheltie dog breed have very similar-looking coats.


2. They Sleep Very Little

Guinea pigs are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. However, Cavies only sleep between 4 and 6 hours every 24 hours and this comes in multiple power naps of only a few minutes at a time. If your guinea pig is sleeping longer than this, it could be a sign of illness, and if long sleeping patterns continue it can make a guinea pig ill because it needs to be chewing and eating virtually all day.

close up shot of sheltie guinea pigs
Image Credit: ocean1881, Shutterstock

3. They Can Be Very Chatty

Known for making a wide variety of different noises, guinea pigs are surprisingly chatty little pets. They chatter as they go about their daily routine and shriek with excitement. They also scream in fear and can even purr like cats. As you get to know your guinea pig better, you will soon learn the different noises and know what they mean so you will have a good idea of your pet’s temperament and mood.

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Final Thoughts

The Sheltie guinea pig is a small guinea pig breed that is recognizable for its stunning long coat. As well as being considered an especially friendly breed, the Sheltie is known for being high maintenance, as you will need to brush daily and trim the coat regularly. Owners also need to ensure that their Silkies get plenty of exercise and time out of the cage because this provides enrichment, which is further enhanced when a Cavie shares its habitat with another guinea pig.


Featured Image Credit: absolutimages, Shutterstock

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