Have you ever wondered if guinea pigs like water or even if they can swim? You’re not alone. Having researched the topic extensively, I would like to share all the key takeaways. If you are a guinea pig owner, here is what you simply need to know.
So, do guinea pigs like water? In the vast majority of cases, guinea pigs do not like water. While guinea pigs are similar to cats in their obsession with being clean, they do so via self-grooming. If your guinea pig does get wet, they must dry off quickly and thoroughly to keep warm; they are susceptible to Pneumonia if they get too cold.
A quick search on YouTube will produce numerous videos showing guinea pigs swimming, but it is essential to remember that this is the minority and not the rule!
In reality, this is not the kind of pet you are going to bathe. At least regularly!
In fact, keeping them away from water is a pretty good idea.
And here is why; guinea pigs are not particularly fond of water.
And there is a good reason for it.
It’s actually a pretty significant risk to them.
Surprisingly, they can swim, but like most mammals, it’s more of a method for survival than a fun hobby!
Guinea pigs in the wild won’t typically enter the water for any reason, so it’s safer to assume that your guinea pig would avoid water wherever possible.
Of course, the one caveat here is water to drink.
Just remember, guinea pigs are pretty skittish, especially when they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation.
So, always bear this in mind when considering any sort of water activity, including bathing.
Let us now explore the topic further!
Do Guinea Pigs Like To Swim In Water?
A guinea pig would never swim for pleasure, so if you placed one in a bowl of water, it would probably become fearful very quickly.
As pet owners, we all want the best for our pets, so it is important to remember that any situation outside of a guinea pigs’ usual environment is considered stressful.
In the wild, a guinea pig will only enter the water out of fear from a predator or by accident, and swimming is certainly not something they are comfortable with.
Therefore, landing in a body of water is most likely to elicit a ‘fight or flight response rather than an enjoyable one.
The paddling motion you see when they are in water is purely a method to get out as quickly as possible!
Unfortunately, many people see this behavior as ‘swimming’ but is more likely to be panic-related.
The Cavy family, to which domestic guinea pigs belong, is comprised of a number of rodent species found in South America, including the largest rodent in the world – the Capybara.
These giant rodents live next to large bodies of water and are proficient swimmers.
They use their aquatic abilities to hide from predators by submerging themselves under the water’s surface, which they can do for up to five minutes before they need to surface to take a breath!
They also scour river beds for water plants, which make up a large proportion of their diet alongside grasses and select shrubs.
However, unlike their giant cousins, guinea pigs have evolved to live on land and in burrows dug underground.
In the wild, guinea pigs would typically live in groups called a herd at the edges of fields, where tall vegetation can shelter them from predators.
Their diet would usually consist of various grasses and leaves which contain high amounts of water, so their need to drink water is reduced because it is supplemented by their diet.
When they do need water, they seek out puddles, lakes, and streams to drink from.
So now we have established that guinea pigs have evolved to be land-dwelling creatures. We now need to consider whether it is safe to bathe our little rodent companions.
Can Guinea Pigs Sit In Water?
Guinea pigs do not particularly like water in any form, so they are unlikely to be comfortable sitting in it. Ideally, the only time you should be allowing your guinea pig to get wet is during an infrequent bath.
And there are certainly ways to do so properly, as you will have discovered in the section above.
Saying that it is essential that you provide your guinea pig with access to drinking water at all times.
Dehydration is just as bad for them as it is for us, so clean, fresh water is very important.
Inadequate water consumption can lead to malnutrition which carries its own dangers and can increase the risk of certain diseases.
Adding a variety of fresh veg to their diet will also help with water consumption as guinea pigs can get water naturally from these.
A piece of watery veg such as cucumber or celery would especially be appreciated on a hot day!
Fresh water can be provided in a number of ways; however, the most widely accepted method is via a water bottle as it keeps the water cleaner for longer.
You also have the option of using a shallow water bowl, which closer mimics how a guinea pig would drink water in the wild.
Bear in mind that a bowl would need to be cleaned more often, as guinea pigs often knock bits of hay and food into it as they move around.
Guinea pigs can also tip some bowls over, which often means a whole cage clean needs to be done!
For this reason, heavy ceramic bowls are the best variety to use.
Generally, owners will only pick a bowl over a bottle if their guinea pig is sick and struggling to reach up to drink from a spout or for guinea pigs that have grown up with bowls.
The most important consideration with a bowl is to ensure it is placed out of direct sunlight to avoid algae growth in the water.
You also need to make sure the bowl is shallow enough for your guinea pig to easily reach into without the risk of falling in.
As long as they have grown up with them, guinea pigs should know exactly what to do when they see a bowl of water.
A guinea pig will generally drink around 20% of its’ body weight in water every day, although this can vary over the seasons.
Tap water, should suffice in most cases.
If you notice your guinea pig is drinking less than usual, you can monitor its intake and seek advice from a vet if you are concerned.
Do I Need To Bathe My Guinea Pig?
You are probably thinking, ‘I have seen many guinea pigs enjoying a bath, so it should be fine’; this may be true, but a guinea pig’s basic instinct when it finds itself in water is to panic. So, this is something you should always bear in mind.
The dangers of bathing a guinea pig are not quite as severe as those associated with bathing rabbits; however, some precautions must be taken.
Guinea pigs can be bathed successfully, but it takes time, preparation, and patience to do so properly, with the minimum amount of stress forced onto your guinea pig.
As mentioned above, guinea pigs are amazing at keeping themselves clean, and they can be pretty obsessive about it!
Inevitably, there will be times when a bath may be necessary, but it should not be a regular occurrence.
The general recommendation is once a month at most, with the majority of short-haired varieties only needing a bath once or twice a year!
Bathing your guinea pig too often can actually do more harm than good because you risk stripping their skin of its natural oils.
This can lead to dry skin, which can progress to infection very quickly, especially if your guinea pig is damp for an extended period of time.
Unfortunately, many owners see signs of dandruff and think that a bath will soothe their pet, but bathing can actually exacerbate the situation.
This then creates a vicious cycle where the problem just gets worse and worse.
Another vital point to remember is that guinea pigs have very small leg and arm muscles, so they should never be fully submerged in water.
They are not built to be natural swimmers!
If you want to bathe your guinea pig, you will need to make sure the water level is shallow enough for its’ feet to easily touch the bottom; an inch or two of water is perfect.
Ideally, you should also wait for the weather to be warm, to reduce the risk of your guinea pig getting too cold, and use a towel or hair dryer to dry them off fully.
NEVER leave a guinea pig unattended whilst in a bath!
As an owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your guinea pig remains calm whilst in the water, so you should keep one hand on them at all times to prevent panic or injury.
For you to do this properly, it is beneficial to prep everything before you place your guinea pig in the water.
There are a number of shampoos on the market that are specifically designed for small mammals, so these should be used.
Human shampoos often contain chemicals that can be too harsh on a guinea pigs’ sensitive skin, even ones made from natural ingredients.
Baby shampoos can be used if absolutely necessary, but it is always best to use ones specifically made for guinea pigs (like this best seller on Amazon).
Can Guinea Pigs Die If They Get Wet?
Guinea pigs can die if they get wet; either shortly after they have left the water or from complications that could arise from any sudden temperature changes.
There are a number of issues that can arise when your guinea pig gets wet, especially if it is for an extended period of time.
Guinea pigs are not the best at maintaining their own body temperatures, which should sit between 27-39.5 degrees Celsius.
Therefore, they are very susceptible to sudden temperature changes in their environment. Always test the temperature of the bathwater before placing your guinea pig in it, as a drastic change can cause shock.
After a bath, it is essential to keep them as warm as possible and dry them thoroughly before you release them back into their cage to reduce the risk of Pneumonia or similar conditions.
It is not advisable to bathe your guinea pig if it is suffering from any sort of respiratory condition as you run the risk of making its condition worse.
A guinea pig that is feeling under the weather is also more susceptible to ear infections if the water gets into its ears, which can be fatal or cause long term damage.
Stress is another significant factor for a wet guinea pig because this lowers the efficiency of its’ immune system even further, and can cause physical exhaustion, which heightens the risk of drowning.
While baths are possible and sometimes necessary, always remember that your guinea pig will be at its most comfortable on land!
Do guinea pigs like water? Not really.
Do they need it? Only really to drink.
That being said, there are times and contexts where bathing may be necessary. But this is a lot less frequently than you might think.
Guinea pigs are thankfully very hygienic and clean animals; they’ll routinely clean themselves.
At the same time, these social animals know how to keep busy and stay entertained.
They do not need to swim for entertainment, nor would they likely derive much fun from the activity. Instead, it is much more likely to be stressful.
So, all in all, consider water as a simple means of hydrating your cavy.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.