Can Guinea Pigs Swim in a Bathtub?

Can Guinea Pigs Swim in a Bathtub_

Have you experienced the classical “full immersion” where someone throws you into a pool so that you can learn how to swim?

If yes, then you will know how the guinea pig is going to feel in such circumstances. Most likely scared! Most of the people that get guinea pigs as pets bath them just like anyone used to give baths to their infants. This is wrong! Guinea pigs don’t like water that much and they certainly don’t like to swim (at least some of them).

Now the question arises, can guinea pigs swim in a bathtub? Yes, guinea pigs can swim in a bathtub. They do swim if the other possible alternative for them is to sink. Guinea pigs typically don’t like swimming. Still, when we visit YouTube and do some internet research, we can find a lot of videos that show guinea pigs while they swim. It proves that guinea pigs can swim, but they only do it when it’s necessary.

You will experience your guinea pig swimming if you decide to bath them. If a guinea pig doesn’t start swimming, you can teach them.

If you are trying this to add some daily activity for your guinea pig, then don’t by implementing swimming. It’s better to introduce an activity like taking it outside so it can run around free and enjoy the fresh air.

Related: What Guinea Pigs Like to Do?

Is Swimming in a Bathtub or a Pool a Good Idea for Guinea Pigs?

Is Swimming in a Bathtub or a Pool a Good Idea for Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs usually don’t like swimming, and it’s something that they will not do on their own. They can swim only if their life is at risk for survival. It is of extreme importance to remember this fact while keeping a guinea pig that is accustomed to living in a dry environment. They find the bathing and swimming activities traumatic. Taking all of this information into consideration, it is not a smart idea to put a guinea pig into a bathtub full of water.

If the guinea pig is paddling crazily to reach at the other end of the pool, it means that it doesn’t like swimming. So typically, the answer to the question do guinea pigs like playing in the water is mostly “no” if they aren’t exposed to water in early life.

Forcing Guinea Pig to Swim Isn’t a Good Idea

Forcing Guinea Pig to Swim Isnt a Good Idea

They aren’t born to swim. Their paws are small as compared to the body, and the back is delicate. It makes swimming stressful and hard for guinea pigs. There are chances that they might get hurt. If the level of water rises above the nose, it might result in upper respiratory infection. Frequent bathing makes their skin dry out and itchy.

Some of the guinea pigs do enjoy bathing, but most of them don’t. If you believe that the guinea pig might like water, you can use the bathtub, but you need to be very careful because the bathtub shouldn’t be huge.

Fill water in the bathtub to a level that it stays below their full legs. They don’t like getting a bath often, but if guinea pig enjoys the water, then you can go for a small bathtub where a guinea pig can enjoy some swimming time.

Swimming is a therapy for guinea pigs who have weak or stiff joints. So, introducing them to water slowly in a bathtub is a great idea. Observe their reaction, and if they are getting stressed by water, you can take them out.

Research: Do Pet Guinea Pigs Enjoy Swimming?

A research was conducted on testing the likelihood of guinea pigs to start swimming on its own and after they have been exposed to swimming. It presented a hypothesis that swimming can be a stressful task for guinea pigs. Most of them got depressed after swimming. If your guinea pig enjoys swimming in a bathtub, there are chances that they gained exposure to water in early life.

Can I Train the Guinea Pig to Swim?

Certainly, it is not recommended to bath your pet guinea pig frequently, but it becomes unavoidable:

  • If their grease gland (located at the bottom of tail) is more active (hint: this is specific for mature male guinea pigs)
  • If their long hair is getting visibly soiled
  • If you want to make them look presentable for a show.

When bathing is inevitable, it might be a pleasant idea to teach your cavy in their early life that water isn’t scary or can even be fun. If it’s the first time you are letting your cavy in the bathtub, it’s better to have another person around to help you out. If the guinea pig desperately needs a thorough wash, you should follow these steps:

  • Select a plastic bathtub that matches their body size, so that they can come in and out as they like.
  • Pour water to the base of the bath bowl but keep the level low to start with.
  • Cup guinea pig in your hands’ palm and hold it gently while taking it to water; it may be helpful to speak comfortingly.
  • After the initial try, admire your pet for the effort. You can consider offering a little treat to encourage their behavior.
  • Keep this cycle of positive encouragement going on until all signs of resistance subside completely.
  • Once you think they are comfortable enough, you can remove your hands.
  • Continue offering encouragement and little delicacies while they are in the bathtub, and later again when they come out.
  • After some time the guinea pig will get used to the water, then you can even try a tub that is slightly deeper. Only after trying a slightly deeper tub and if the guinea pig likes the water you can try and teach it how to swim.

To teach the guinea pig how to swim, you need to be very careful about two things.

First, don’t leave the guinea pig unattended and take it out as soon as they show discomfort or anxiety.

Second, don’t place your cavy in chlorinated water as it could burn their eyes and skin.

Reasons to Give Guinea Pig a Bath

Reasons to Give Guinea Pig a Bath

They don’t like it, but there are some reasons due to which it becomes necessary to bath guinea pigs. Reasons when a bath becomes inevitable for guinea pig might include:

  • They shall be given a bath if the coat of long-haired guinea pigs breed is dry and greasy.
  • The main reason to get the guinea pigs in the bathtub is to clean them.
  • If you want to take your guinea pig for a show.
  • If a guinea pig is suffering from a pesticide or a fungal infection, a bath should be given to guinea pigs after the treatment of parasite infection to clean their skin.

Guinea pigs don’t like water or taking a bath. Due to their delicateness, they quickly get cold. They shouldn’t be given a bath if they are suffering from respiratory illness, or if they are sick for any other reason, or if they live outdoor in winters.

You need to be careful regarding what you put on their fur. Use only recommended bathing products.

While giving the bath you should always make sure that the guinea pig isn’t stressed or cold. This fear could affect their routine activities. This is all the more important as they are very fragile creatures and are prone to pick up health issues quickly.

Related: Do Guinea Pigs Need Baths and Do They Enjoy Them?

How Often Can a Guinea Pig Be Given a Bath?

How Often Can a Guinea Pig Be Given a Bath

Ideally, guinea pigs should be given a bath two to three times in a year, but never twice in a month. It is because they have sensitive skin and taking a bath frequently and swimming in the water often makes their skin dry. This leads to hot spots and itchiness for them. Frequent exposure of their skin to water removes the natural oil that is found on their coat, and it upsets the routine of your pet.

Related: How to Take Care of a Guinea Pig for Beginners – 9 Essential Steps to A Happy Pet

List of Sources

Richardson, V., Care of guinea pigs, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2011.

Donnelly, T. M., Rodent Husbandry and Care, Purdue University, 2007.

NC State Veterinary Hospital, Caring for Your Pet Guinea Pig, Exotic Animal Medicine Department.

Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals Bred, Supplied or Used for Scientific Purposes, Presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 21 (5) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, 2014.

RSPCA, Guinea pigs: Good practice for housing and care, Research Animals Department, RSPCA, 3rd edition, 2011.

Johnson, P., Guidelines for the Housing of Guinea Pigs in Scientific Institutions, Animal Welfare Branch, New South Wales Department of Prima, 2006.

Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.