Water Bottles, Bowls, and Dishes
A water bottle or bowl is an essential item in every guinea pig cage. Like all animals, cavies rely on a constant supply of fresh, clean water to keep them healthy and free from diseases. Bottles are generally considered to be superior, but there are certain circumstances where you might want to give your guinea pigs a bowl, or even both so that they have a choice.
Your pets will need a bottle or dish in every area that they use regularly, including their cage, run, and playpen. You can either buy one for each area, or move the same one around whenever you move your pets - just make sure that your guinea pigs always have access to water.
Most owners recommend using a bottle rather than a bowl, because they keep the water fresh and clean for longer. They consist of a small tank with an angled drinking spout at the bottom. This spout is made from stainless steel, which is very difficult for your guinea pigs to damage - a good job because they like to chew everything! Guinea pig water bottles simply attach to the side of the cage using the wire clip provided. The spout sticks through the cage bars so that your cavies can reach it.
A bottle keeps your pets' water clean and can be easily topped up.
You need to make sure that your animals' water bottle is at the right height - too high and they will have to stretch to reach it; too low and they'll have to duck down to get underneath. The best height is just above head height, so that when they look up the end of the spout is level with their mouth. Obviously if you have different-sized guinea pigs (such as a sow and her babies), you'll need to find a position that's comfortable for all of them, or give them two bottles at different levels.
Water Bowls and Dishes
These tend to get contaiminated much more easily than bottles, as your guinea pigs will knock bits of hay and food into them. This means that they have to be cleaned out and refilled more regularly. They can also be tipped over, requiring the whole cage to be cleaned - buy a heavy ceramic bowl to minimise the risk of this happening. Although most guinea pig owners prefer a bottle, bowls can be better for sick pigs (who may have trouble reaching the spout of a bottle), or for cavies who have grown up using a bowl and don't know how to work a bottle.
Water bowls tend to get easily contaminated and need to be cleaned and refilled more often than bottles, but some guinea pigs prefer them.
Whether you choose a bottle or dish, the principles of where to put it remain the same. Firstly, keep it away from your pets' sleeping area, to reduce the chances of water leaking onto their bedding. Put their water near their food, but not too close or it can make their food wet or lead to the water becoming contaiminated more quickly. Importantly, try to keep your guinea pigs' water out of direct sunlight, as this will cause algae to grow, and will also make the water warm and unpleasant to drink.
Refilling, Cleaning, and Maintenance
Both water bowls and bottles should be emptied, cleaned, and refilled at least once a day. Check the level and cleanliness of the water several times throughout the day, and refill it if it is empty or dirty. In the summer, you should refill your pets' bottle or bowl several times a day, even if it's not empty, as the water will get warm quickly.
When refilling, give the container a good rinse out before topping up with fresh water. Two or three times a week you should give it a more thorough clean with a bottle brush or scourer, and a small amount of washing-up liquid - just be sure to wash it all off before filling. You can even use an animal-friendly sterilising kit from time to time, particularly if you notice a significant build-up of algae.
Clean your pets' bottle thoroughly with a bottle brush to remove algae.
With bottles, you must also clean the spout thoroughly to make sure there are no blockages. Check that the nozzle isn't damaged and the ball bearing is working properly. When these get jammed it can cause the bottle to leak, or make it difficult for your cavies to operate it.
Regardless of whether you give your guinea pigs a water bottle or bowl, the important thing is that they have a constant supply of clean, fresh, cool water. Along with plenty of hay, a good balanced diet, and lots of exercise and attention, this is one of the keys to keeping your cavies happy and healthy.