There are many reasons why you may want to use a bowl over a water bottle for your guinea pig. Since bowls are more natural for guinea pigs, some piggies will naturally gravitate to drinking from them with little effort on your part.
However, if your guinea pig has been drinking from bottles their whole life, it can take some time and patience to teach them how to use a bowl again. In this article, I’ll cover some tips you can use to transition your guinea pig smoothly from a bottle to a water bowl.
6 Tips to Teach Guinea Pigs to Drink From a Bowl
Below are a few tips you can use to get your guinea pig drinking from a water bowl. If they have been used to drinking from a bottle for a long time, it may take more time and persistence to get them to drink from a bowl. However, with some patience, even older guinea pigs can learn.
1. Learn From the Example of Another Guinea Pig
The easiest way to teach guinea pigs to drink from a bowl is for them to follow the example of another guinea pig who already knows. Baby guinea pigs can learn these things easily from their mom if she already knows how to drink from a bowl. However, adult guinea pigs can also pick up on this quite easily from another adult.
This method is not viable in many circumstances, though, so let’s move on to some other training tips you can effectively use to get your guinea pig drinking from a bowl.
2. Transition Gradually
The best way to teach your guinea pig to drink from a bowl is to transition gradually. Have both the water bottle and a bowl in the cage for a couple of weeks before taking the bottle away entirely. This gives the guinea pigs time to investigate and learn about the new object in their cage.
It’s best to put their water bottle directly above their new water bowl. This helps them to associate the bowl with their current water source. Eventually, they may realize on their own that drinking from the bowl is much easier than trying to lean over it to get to the water bottle. If you see your guinea pigs drinking from both water sources, it’s safe to remove the bottle from their cage completely.
3. Take the Bottle Away for Meal Times
Taking the water bottle away for a short time during meals can be a quick way to get your guinea pigs to try out their new bowl. Guinea pigs usually get thirsty right after eating their pellets, so this can be a prime time to test them with the water bowl. Place the water bowl near their food, right where their water bottle would normally be.
Watch them for 20 minutes or so and see if they drink from the bowl. If not, go back to using both the bowl and bottle for a while longer. You can try this a few different times. Your guinea pigs may change their minds and decide to try it another time.
4. Put Some Veggies in the Water Bowl
Sometimes putting some of your guinea pig’s favorite veggie treats helps attract your guinea pig’s attention to the bowl. Try pointing out the treats and encourage your guinea pig to get them.
You will likely need to use some relatively big pieces of veggies. Guinea pigs don’t like to get too wet, so they will usually give up on fishing out small treats. While trying to bite at and grab the food, they will often touch the water and realize they can drink from there as well.
5. Dip Your Finger in the Water
While not as effective as learning from another guinea pig, you may be able to show the guinea pig how to drink yourself. Try dipping your finger in the water bowl in front of your guinea pig and encourage them to lick it off your finger. This may work for some guinea pigs and not others.
6. Flavor the Water With Something Your Guinea Pig Likes
Another thing you can try is flavoring the water with a tiny bit of organic juice. Only do this if it’s a flavor you know your guinea pig loves. For example, if your guinea pig really likes apples, mix just a little bit of organic apple juice in their water bowl. Dip your finger in the water and offer it to your guinea pig to sniff and lick off.
Try to draw them closer to the water bowl so they can smell it. This can sometimes work well to get guinea pigs initially interested in the water bowl. Once they’ve investigated and maybe licked some of the water, refill the bowl with fresh water again. Don’t leave flavoring in the water all the time.
Choosing the Right Type of Water Bowl
It’s important to choose a sturdy, solid bowl as your guinea pig’s water bowl. A heavy ceramic-style bowl is best. You can also use plastic crock-style bowls that fasten to the side of the cage.
Guinea pigs like to put their paws up on bowls while they eat and drink. They also lean on things in their cage and sometimes even jump and walk over their bowls. For these reasons, a non-tip bowl is important. Also, choose a bowl that is wide and low to the ground. This allows easy access and ensures that a smaller guinea pig won’t fall in trying to lean into the bowl.
Pros and Cons of Using a Bowl Instead of a Water Bottle
Water bottles and bowls both have benefits and drawbacks. Either option is perfectly fine for guinea pigs. Knowing the pros and cons of each can help you choose which option is best for your situation. Some guinea pigs may take a preference for one option over the other as well. It can be good to take your guinea pig’s preference into account when choosing which water source to use.
Pros of Using a Water Bowl
Water bowls are more natural than water bottles. In the wild, guinea pigs would drink from pools of water. Water bottles are a man-made convenience and, therefore, less natural.
In addition, guinea pigs will often drink more from a bowl than a bottle. Water bottles usually require more work to get the water out. For this reason, water bowls are great for stone-prone guinea pigs. They can also help prevent stones in piggies that tend to leave a lot of calcium deposits (white powdered dried pee) around the cage.
Water bowls are also easier to clean thoroughly. Water bottles have edges and corners that are very difficult to scrub clean completely, even with a bottle brush. Water bowls are much quicker and easier to get completely clean. This keeps them free of bacteria and germs without as much effort.
Additionally, water bowls are quieter than bottles. The ticking noise of guinea pigs drinking from a bottle can be loud, especially at night. Some guinea pigs like to play with their water bottles and drain them completely. Bowls effectively eliminate this problem.
Finally, bowls can be more comfortable to use for older or sick guinea pigs. Water bottles require guinea pigs to tilt their head upwards and repeatedly lick the metal ball in the bottle. Older guinea pigs may have more difficulty with this, and this in turn can cause them to drink less water. Water bowls are closer to the ground and easier to access. They also require the guinea pig to tilt their head down to drink, which is a more natural angle for them.
Cons of Using a Water Bowl
The biggest disadvantage of water bowls is that they can get messy fast. Guinea pigs can be pretty messy sometimes. In addition, they like to jump and run around, effectively flicking poop, bedding, and hay into their water bowl. Guinea pigs also track around poop and bedding on their paws, which can fall into the water bowl every time the guinea pig puts their paws on the bowl to get a drink.
For this reason, water bowls should be checked multiple times throughout the day and replaced with fresh water as needed. If you’re home frequently and have the guinea pig cage in a central spot in the home, this may not be a big deal. However, if you’re out a lot or have the pigs in a bedroom, this can easily be forgotten about. Regardless, it can be more time-consuming to use bowls over a water bottle.
Since water bowls can get messy quite easily, it’s best to have at least two bowls in your cage. This way, if one bowl gets messy within five minutes of cleaning it, the guinea pigs still have another water source.
You can also reduce the potential mess by placing the bowls in areas of the cage where the guinea pigs don’t poop as much. Make sure the bowl is easily accessible but not right beside the food source. Guinea pigs often poop a lot where they eat. In addition, guinea pigs can get wet chins from drinking from a bowl. If the food and water bowls are side by side, this can make the pellets soggy as the guinea pig goes back and forth.
Finally, guinea pigs can tip or splash the water in the bowl and get their cage wet. This can require more cleaning and cage maintenance, especially if your guinea pig makes a habit of this. This is also why it’s essential to use very heavy bowls that are difficult to tip. Choose a bowl with thick, smooth edges so the guinea pig cannot pick up the bowl by the rim.
Water bowls, just like bottles, have many pros and cons. Water bowls can be very beneficial in many situations, especially for sick or elderly guinea pigs. Transitioning your guinea pig from a bottle to a bowl can be tricky sometimes, but with enough time, most guinea pigs will make the shift without too much trouble.