Since water bottles are a man-made invention, not all guinea pigs naturally know how to use them. Some guinea pigs grow up drinking from a bowl and didn’t learn to use water bottles from their mom. In these cases, you may need to teach them to use a water bottle. Most guinea pigs will learn very quickly, sometimes with little intervention from you.
Keep reading for several tips on how you can get your guinea pig to drink from their water bottle. Some tips will work better for one guinea pig over another, so feel free to skip through and try the ones you think will work best.
Choose the Right Water Bottle
The most important factor is choosing a water bottle that your guinea pig can easily drink from. I prefer to use water bottles with a large ball tip at the end. I mostly use Living World plastic bottles for this reason. These allow water to flow out easily when your guinea pig licks the tip.
It’s a good idea to test your water bottle with your finger. If a tiny drip of water comes out, it will likely be a lot of work for your guinea pig to get the amount of water they need.
Spring-loaded water bottles are often harder to get water from as well. You can tell if you have a spring-loaded bottle by tipping the bottle up and down. If the ball at the tip of the nozzle doesn’t move, this means the bottle is spring-loaded. Again, test it with your finger to see how easily the water comes out.
Choose the Right Location For Your Water Bottle
If your guinea pig previously had a water bowl, try placing the water bottle around the same spot the bowl was. Make sure the bottle is placed at a comfortable height to drink from. Shoulder height for your guinea pig is normally best. Place the bottle near their food bowl or hay so it’s easily accessible when they need it.
If you have two or more guinea pigs, it can be a good idea to have at least two water bottles. If two guinea pigs want water at the same time, the most passive pig will likely be chased off and end up drinking less than they would otherwise.
Test the Bottle to Make Sure It’s Working
If your water bottle is still completely full after a few hours, it’s a good idea to test it with your finger. Tap the ball tip at the end of the nozzle and see if any water comes out. Many water bottles will get stuck from time to time.
Usually, a couple of shakes will get the water flowing again. Always test the bottle with your finger each time you refill it as well. This is another good reason to have multiple water bottles in your cage. If one gets stuck or jammed, there’s always a backup for your guinea pigs.
If your guinea pig is already used to drinking from a bowl, it’s a good idea to have a short transition period of a week or two. During this time, have both a bowl and a bottle in the cage. This gives them a chance to check out the bottle at their own pace.
Place the bottle over the top or very close to the bowl, so the guinea pig associates it with the current water source. Some guinea pigs may start drinking from the bottle during this time, and some will simply ignore it. After a week or so, you can take the bowl away and start trying some of the other ideas on this list.
Learn From Another Guinea Pig
One of the most effective ways that guinea pigs learn is from other guinea pigs. If you have one piggy who already knows how to use a bottle, you may want to take the bowl away from the start. Trust that your new guinea pig will learn to use a bottle from their friend.
It’s a good idea to observe, especially around meal times, if your guinea pig has figured it out yet. If you’re concerned, you can provide extra veggies to prevent dehydration.
Use Food to Draw Attention to the Water Bottle
Another thing you can do is use food to attract your guinea pig’s attention to the water bottle. You can use nearly any veggie that your guinea pig likes. For example, if they love cucumber, try cutting a piece of cucumber and rubbing some of the juice around the nozzle. You can do this with bell peppers, grapes, strawberries, apples, or many others.
You can also try wrapping a small piece of lettuce around the nozzle. This can encourage your guinea pig to go over and start nibbling at the bottle. Once they nibble the nozzle a little and realize that water comes out, they will make the connection very quickly.
Remove the Water Bowl At Meal Times
If you’re using both a bowl and a bottle at the moment, try removing the bowl for short periods of time and watch what your guinea pig does. A good time to do this is when you give dry food. Guinea pigs often get thirsty while they eat pellets, so this can motivate them to try the water bottle out. You may need to try this a few times in order for your guinea pig to figure it out.
Tap the Tip of the Bottle and Offer Water on Your Finger
Some guinea pigs will come over to investigate if you start touching the tip of the water bottle repeatedly with your finger. This often piques their curiosity and makes them interested in what you’re doing.
If they come closer to the bottle, try touching the tip and then offer your finger to your guinea pig to sniff and lick. Do this repeatedly a few times. This can sometimes help them put the pieces together and realize where the water is coming from. If they lean closer to the bottle, move your hand out of the way to let them try the bottle on their own.
Take the Water Bottle Off the Cage and Hold it in Front of Your Guinea Pig
Another thing you can do is remove the water bottle from the holder. Hold the water bottle in front of your guinea pig. You can do this with your guinea pig on the floor or on your lap.
Some guinea pigs may be curious enough to start nibbling or licking at it. You can also touch it with your finger a few times to try and show your guinea pig what to do. This doesn’t always work, so don’t be too persistent about it if your guinea pig shows no interest.
Train Them to Touch the Nozzle
If your guinea pig is tame enough to take treats from you, try training them to touch the nozzle. Start by holding the water bottle in front of your guinea pig. Praise and give them a treat every time they turn towards the bottle and sniff it. After a few times, wait to reward until they touch it multiple times or nibble on it slightly.
Give a treat each time they nibble at the tip. As they do this, they will realize how the water comes out. Once they’ve learned to do this outside of the cage, chances are good they’ll know how to get water when you put the bottle back in their cage.
Flavoring and Taste
Some guinea pigs may not like the flavor of tap water. Another option is to try filtered or bottled water and see if they start drinking more.
It’s also important not to add any other types of flavoring to the water. For example, Vitamin C drops. These can change the flavor of the water completely and cause some guinea pigs to refuse to drink. If you want to give Vitamin C supplements, try some chewable biscuit-style Vitamin C treats instead. These are more effective and can be given without mixing into the water.
Some guinea pigs prefer the taste of water from a glass bottle over plastic, so this could be worth trying as well. Be sure to empty and refill your guinea pig’s water bottle daily, regardless of whether they have drunk from it or not. Sitting water does not taste nearly as good as fresh water.
Are Water Bottles Good For Guinea Pigs?
Water bottles are less natural than water bowls, but they can be better in many other ways. Guinea pigs can be very messy, and they tend to get a lot of poop and bedding in their water bowl. This can contaminate the water quickly.
This means that guinea pigs may be either drinking dirty water or drinking less because they don’t like the taste of the contaminated water. Even when changed frequently, there is still a chance that your guinea pigs can mess up the water bowl shortly after it is refreshed. Water bottles keep the water off the ground and eliminate the chance of contamination.
If Your Guinea Pig Refuses to Drink
If you’re worried about your guinea pig not drinking enough or getting dehydrated, you can feed some veggies that are high in water. Cucumber and lettuce are good choices for this. You can also rinse the veggies first, so your guinea pig is getting extra water on top.
Don’t go overboard with too many of these veggies at once, though. Feeding large amounts of watery veggies can potentially give your guinea pigs diarrhea.
Most guinea pigs will learn to drink from a water bottle quite quickly with one or more of these tips. Although it’s easiest for them to learn from another guinea pig, it’s not impossible for them to learn independently or with the help of their people.
Guinea pigs of any age can learn new tricks, whether that is drinking from a water bottle or running in a circle on command. Curious about what else guinea pigs can learn? Check out our guinea pig training page.