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Thirsty Sows Need Answers Now!
You grab your guinea pig’s water bottle and sigh. There’s hay, bits of carrot, and other things floating in it. Our little friends are incredibly messy drinkers and scrubbing water bottles can be frustrating. Surely there’s an easier way, right?
You wonder, can guinea pigs drink out of a bowl? The answer is yes, guinea pigs can drink out of a bowl. But should they? Maybe. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons to allowing guinea pigs to drink out of a bowl vs a bottle. And we’ll consider a couple of alternatives to both. Let’s get to the squeak!
Consideration #1: Bowl Tipping
My guinea pigs always enjoyed having bowls, but they didn’t really use them to drink. Instead, around 5 am, I’d hear “THUMP!”. A joyous chorus of wheeking would follow, then the sounds of guinea pigs rustling around their enclosure.
I’d get up, walk over, and, inevitably, the bowl would be flipped. And this didn’t just mean I’d have to refill the bowl. Everything would be soaked, including the guinea pigs. After a good toweling off, changing their shavings, and refilling the bowl, I’d leave and go grab breakfast.
Three steps down the stairs? THUMP!
While guinea pigs are pretty robust rodent pals, it’s better that they not hang out in wet bedding for any longer than absolutely necessary. And that’s one point where bowls lose against bottles.
Consideration #2: Baby Dangers
If your guinea pigs are very young or if you adopted a sow who came to your home with an unexpected litter of joy, bowls have another hazard. Though hanging out on wet bedding can be an issue, the bowl itself is pretty heavy!
After all, that thump is pretty evident.
Larger guinea pigs may flip a bowl on top of a baby and hurt it. The babies themselves may flip it and get stuck under it. In some cases, drowning may occur. Though young guinea pigs can make a mess of bottles by hiding beneath them, a bowl is a much larger risk.
However, bowls do tend to be a lot lower than bottles. This may allow babies to drink water earlier than babies kept in enclosures with just water bottles. If possible, find a bowl that can be screwed into the side of the cage. These are usually very lightweight and easy to remove.
Consideration #3: Keeping Clean
No alternative is as sanitary as a bottle that is kept clean. Bottles are quick and easy to use, though they may take a while to scrub out if the mouth is small. A top-filling bottle is easiest to use, fastest to clean, and readily available.
With bowls, guinea pigs see another neat place to nest! You probably have a plastic igloo or some kind of hide for your guinea pigs. I know I do. What’s one of their favorite things to do around those areas? They hide hay for later, sneak treats into their nest, and build tiny guinea pig fortresses with their bedding
And that’s what they’re going to do with a bowl, too. For bowls mounted on the side of the cage, they may be spared the worst treatment. It’s still likely that you’ll see a tiny mound of bedding beneath it or hay decorating it.
And when all that water sloshing gets out of hand, check out our tips on bathing your guinea pig.
For bowls left on the bedding, expect to see many tiny guinea pig surprises floating in it an hour after you’ve cleaned the bowl.
2 Cool Alternatives to Bowls and Bottles
There are several alternatives available if you’re tired of bottles and you aren’t interested in bowls! My two favorites are chicken nipples and side bars!
Chicken nipples can be easily routed from a large, main water source with aquarium tubing. Simply set up a gravity-fed system and the waterer is ready to supply. It’s much like a bottle system, but with less backflow and less contamination. Just wipe off the chicken nipple each morning and you should be good to go.
Side bars were originally used for birds as well! These tubes connect to a small plastic or metal dispensers. Just clip them in between the bars of the enclosure and the guinea pig can sip to its heart’s delight. Since the dispenser is so small, it eliminates any chance of drowning.
If you’ve just gotten your guinea pig, take some time to get to know them. You’ll find out how they interact with their environment and be able to make a better call on the best way to water, and feed, your new pet.
For those who have had your cavy pal for a while, consider the risks and rewards before changing the way you offer water. Guinea pigs love new enrichment projects. If you want to introduce a bowl (or a bottle, as the case may be), simply be certain that you do it when you have time to monitor them.
University of Illinois – Housing and Feeding Your Guinea Pig
Lafeber Company – What Do Guinea Pigs Drink?
Guinea Lynx – Guinea Pig Care Guide