Bottle or bowl? The age old debate of small animal owners. One side says one thing and the other says the opposite… Who’s right?
Plot twist. Both are right. There are pros and cons to each. One thing that both sides agree on: Guinea Pigs need to drink water. It is up to you to decide what’s best for your guinea pigs. If you are unsure, use both and see which one they use!
Claim: Guinea pigs would rather have a bowl.
Reality: Some pigs do have stronger preferences, especially if they were raised having to drink from a bowl. But it’s not that’s not generally the case. When given a choice, this National Library of Medicine study showed that guinea pigs liked the bottle better.
Claim: Water bottles don’t give enough water and can make them dehydrated.
Reality: False. A guinea pig water bottle works by pushing the ball inside the nozzle. When the ball moves, it releases the vacuum behind it and lets water flow. The amount that flows in is typically about the same amount that a guinea pig would receive if they “sipped” from a bowl (my own observation from looking at the size of their mouth and the anatomy of their tongue). Guinea pigs will press on the ball to receive water, then pull away to swallow and grind their teeth before going back. This is the same process they do if they were drinking from a bowl. Besides, any owner with a leaky water bottle can tell you that there is no shortage of water coming out of the nozzle.
Note: While cleaning my guinea pigs’ water bottle, I found a rubber band inside the nozzle. I experimented testing the flow of water with and without it. Without it, the water flowed nonstop like a hose. If “not enough water” still concerns you, check your bottle and see if you can remove the rubber band.
How to tell if your guinea pig is dehydrated? It sounds crazy, but looking at your guinea pigs’ poop is actually a great way to get a sneak peak at their health. If your guinea pigs’ poop is round on one end, but pointy on the other, your guinea pig is dehydrated.
Claim: Water bowls are easier to clean.
Reality: It depends. “Easier to clean” is subjective in this case. Bowls must be cleaned with soap and water at least twice a day. It should be cleaned by rinsing and scrubbing under water. Bottles can be cleaned every other day (some choose to clean more often, but because it is a closed container, it is not subjected to dust, pee, and fur which does not need to be deep cleaned as much as a bowl). It should be cleaned by using a bottle brush inside and then a straw brush inside the nozzle.
Some claim that cleaning bowls is easier because you do not need to unscrew anything to clean it. Personally, I find it easier to clean something once every other day, than twice a day. Same idea with fleece bedding. I think fleece bedding is much easier to clean, while others think it’s very difficult to clean. It’s a personal preference–I don’t think it can be claimed one way or the other universally.
Claim: Water bottles breed bacteria.
Reality: Correct. Guinea pig water bottles need to be deep cleaned in order to avoid bacteria growth. Don’t forget to clean inside the nozzle.
Claim: Water bowls breed bacteria.
Reality: Correct. Besides being open to the air (have you ever drank stale water left out overnight?) and collecting pieces of hay and fur, guinea pigs also enjoy peeing in their water bowl. It needs to be changed and cleaned more frequently throughout the day in order to avoid bacteria growth.
In conclusion, there is no such thing as a perfect solution. Someone will find “something wrong” with anything pet owners do. The decision of which water solution works for you depends on your guinea pigs’ preferences and your lifestyle. I believe that the best course of action is to use both and see which one they use most often!
Squeaks, scales, and tails has a great article on what to expect while using water bottles or bowls
Let’s learn more about guinea pigs: