Besides being cute and fluffy, guinea pigs are totally entertaining little pets. Since they like to stretch their legs out of their cage, you might have thought of placing them in a small tub or even in your swimming pool to vary their daily exercise sessions. This brings us to this article’s topic: do guinea pigs know how to swim, and most importantly, do they like it?
Yes and no. Yes, guinea pigs can swim, but no, they don’t enjoy it. If they have no other option in their natural habitat, swimming will allow them to escape predators. They may also decide to get their paws wet if there is a food source nearby. But their desire to go in the water stops there. You should, therefore, never put your little rodent in the tub, or worse, in your swimming pool, as it could be fatal to them.
But Isn’t the Guinea Pig Related to the Capybara?
The guinea pig is a rodent belonging to the Caviidae family, like the capybara, which is the largest rodent in the world. In the wild, guinea pigs live in the Andes and are even praised for their meat in Peru, where some individuals can reach almost 9 pounds! The domesticated guinea pig, on the other hand, generally weighs between 2 and 3.3 pounds.
Why mention the capybara? Because, unlike this distant cousin, a semi-aquatic animal that LOVES water, the guinea pig does not have the same physical attributes. Although considered to be a good swimmer, the guinea pig is not a fan of water and does not like to get wet at all. Knowing how to swim and enjoying swimming is, therefore, an important distinction to be made in the case of this friendly little rodent.
Why Is Putting Your Guinea Pig in the Water Not a Good Idea?
Because guinea pigs do not have a good perception of water depth.
Your little rodent could, therefore, easily drown if you leave him unattended. Although he can swim for short periods, he will tire quickly by trying to keep his head above the water if his tiny paws cannot touch the bottom. Furthermore, since he obviously cannot breathe underwater, he will stress himself unnecessarily, trying at all costs to keep his head above water. Worse, if he does put his head underwater, he could be suffering from an ear infection due to bacteria entering his ear canal. Indeed, like a human, the guinea pig can contract otitis or even pneumonia, which will require immediate veterinary care.
Indeed, although ear infections are rare in guinea pigs, they can still cause serious health problems for your little furry companion.
Why Should a Guinea Pig Never Be Put in a Swimming Pool?
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, putting your guinea pig in your pool would be cruel and irresponsible. Indeed, these small animals should never be exposed to chemicals, such as chlorine, which is abundantly found in a swimming pool. This can cause skin and respiratory infections in your guinea pig, in addition to stressing him.
Are There Any Guinea Pigs That Love Water?
There are exceptions to every rule. Thus, your small rodent may be one of the rare guinea pigs who appreciate being put in the water. If you suspect this is the case, do a supervised test in your tub or kitchen sink:
- Fill the sink or bathtub with just a few inches of lukewarm water.
- Gently place your guinea pig in the water and watch it carefully.
- If you notice any sign of distress, immediately take it out of the water and dry it with a towel.
What if Your Guinea Pig Is Dirty and Smells Bad?
Although guinea pigs are clean animals that are perfectly capable of doing their grooming on their own (or with the help of a congener), there are times when your pet is so dirty that it may require a bath.
Indeed, the bath can be recommended for long-haired species whose hairs hang around in their urine and stool. Their long coat is then soiled, and the bath will undoubtedly be the only ultimate solution.
Since your guinea pig hates being in the water, try running a stream of water over it first. The water should be lukewarm, and you should rinse your pet thoroughly afterward. Also, this small rodent is extremely sensitive to soap, which causes skin irritation, dandruff, or allergic dermatitis; therefore, you will need to use a specific shampoo for guinea pigs.
Dry it thoroughly with a hairdryer. However, if your pet panics, let him dry naturally in a warm place.
Note: Sometimes, your guinea pig’s long hairs may still smell like urine and look filthy despite repeated baths. A little scissor bite in his fur should solve the problem for several weeks. But unless you have experience grooming guinea pigs, you should have these treatments done by a professional groomer.
- Related Read: How to Take Care of a Guinea Pig (Care Sheet & Guide)
If there’s just one thing to remember about guinea pigs and swimming, it’s this: just because they can do it doesn’t mean they like it. However, under certain conditions (for example, your pet is so dirty it cannot clean himself properly), you may need to give him a quick bath. But don’t make it a habit, especially if your guinea pig is clearly showing you that he hates being in the water.
Featured Image Credit: Ase, Shutterstock