Guinea Pigs & Water: Can They Get Wet, Swim, or Bathe?

We all love to watch our four-legged companions enjoy water activities, especially dogs that love to swim or even those odd cats that climb in the bathtub! But this doesn’t mean all of our animal companions love the water. Be sure to always research if your new family pet can get wet and if they’ll enjoy it.  

Before the Guinea Pig was domesticated it roamed the Andes Mountain range. In this rocky environment, they rarely encountered large bodies of water. Even when they did, they had no reason to get into the water! This means that they did not need to learn how to swim as a means of survival and generally do not enjoy being wet. That’s not to say that all piggies will hate the water, but as a rule of thumb, Guinea Pigs prefer to be dry and warm, rather than wet and cold.

Guinea pigs are capable of swimming well enough to save themselves from drowning, but they’re definitely not great swimmers.


Can Guinea Pigs get wet?

Getting wet is not an immediate danger for your cavy, but it’s something that you should try to avoid. If you accidentally spill their water bottle on them or if they’re having a romp around and encounter a wet spot, it is usually not an immediate threat. Be sure to dry them completely though, as their wet fur weighs down on their delicate skeletons and can cause pain, especially in older and long-haired piggies.  In addition, the wet fur can cool them down which can lead to hypothermia. For these reasons, it’s crucial that you dry your guinea pig as soon as possible if it’s gotten wet.

Another issue to watch for when your piggy has gotten wet is matting in their fur. Mats in their fur can cause pain, fungal infections, and odors. Again, always dry them carefully and do light grooming for long-haired breeds to remove the tangles.  

Do Guinea Pigs like water and can they swim?

Guinea pigs can swim, but they do not enjoy doing it. They definitely don’t need their own personal swimming pool and would instead prefer to stay on dry land. This is because most Guinea Pigs do not enjoy the water and become stressed or scared when placed in water, as they’re not natural-born swimmers. With such small bodies, keeping their heads above water is difficult for them and can cause panic, which could lead to drowning. They’re often capable of swimming to prevent themselves from drowning, but they’re not great swimmers by any means!

Now, like all pets and people, there are of course those few who do enjoy what they normally wouldn’t. Some Guinea Pigs have taken to water naturally and enjoy swimming! You can of course safely test out if your little guy will enjoy the water by placing them in an inch or so of water and watching their reaction. If they show signs of stress or become aggressive, remove them immediately. As you become more familiar with your pet, you’ll learn quickly if they’ll go for a swim or prefer to stay on land, like most cavies.

Do Guinea Pigs need baths?

image source: Flickr

While some grooming from their owners may be necessary, especially for long-haired breeds, guinea pigs generally do not require baths very often. When they do need a bath, it’s important that they’re dried off immediately and are never allowed to get cold. 

While in some cases a Guinea Pig may need to be bathed, it is extremely important to follow a few key rules: 

  • Never get water in their eyes or ears
  • Use lukewarm water
  • Use specific Guinea Pig shampoos
  • Completely dry them off afterward
  • Do not completely submerge your guinea pig, only put them in a few inches of water at most

Piggies are prone to catching upper respiratory infections and must be completely dried off so that they don’t catch a chill. They also have sensitive skin that requires gentle rubbing and specific shampoos that won’t cause irritation.

You may have heard of people using hair dryers to dry their piggies, but please don’t do this. The heat is too much for their sensitive skin and the loud noises can spook them. If you do need to bathe your piggy, speak with a vet first.

Can I teach my Guinea Pig to swim?

Especially with longer-haired breeds, it could be beneficial to help your piggy at least accept the fact that they’ll be placed in water. This will make the bathing process a lot smoother when it’s necessary. Always start when they are young and never force them to learn how to swim. No one likes being thrown into the deep end without instruction! Hold them just above the water and let their feet touch it, praise them, give them treats, and repeat the process. 

Each time, you should be placing them further in the water until they begin to paddle. The goal is to let your piggy figure out that water isn’t a bad thing. This will take time and patience, but for those breeds that require more grooming, it can be helpful. Another helpful reason is a common issue in older male Guinea Pigs where their scent gland becomes overactive and requires more upkeep. By having your piggy at least ok with being wet, you can help them be more comfortable and clean. 

Of course, there are also cavies that despise water and will never embrace being in the water. If this happens, do not force your cavy into it.


Conclusion

A quick search on Youtube will show lots of Guinea Pigs swimming in cute pools, wearing little floaties, and even sunglasses! These videos clearly show that cavies are capable of swimming, but they don’t actually enjoy it. Their owners do it more for their own enjoyment than for the enjoyment of their pets. Guinea pigs have no natural desire to swim, so it’s best to keep them away from water except on the rare occasion when they might need a bath if they’ve gotten extremely dirty.

Remember, water is not natural for cavies and should never be forced on them. If they do get wet, be sure to dry them off thoroughly and keep them at a warm temperature.

Jesse A.