The near-80-degree weather in Connecticut yesterday and forecasted for today is making small pet owners start shifting their thinking to "summer mode." Hydration is always important for animals, but when temperatures start climbing above 70 degrees and higher humidity starts kicking in, hydration becomes exponentially more important.
So, it's essential to keep water bottles in top condition. Some of the reasons a water bottle can discourage a guinea pig (or any small animal) from drinking include:
- The bottle isn’t cleaned frequently and/or properly. A buildup of “backwash particles” (commonly from the food pellets that small animals eat) gunks up the drinking spout and the bottle. Regular rinsing of both with hot water, and frequent cleaning with water bottle brushes (available at most pet stores for $1.99 to $2.49) will prevent this buildup.
- The bottle was washed with detergent and water, leaving a residue that puts an icky taste in the water. Water bottles should be washed or soaked in hot water only; hot water and a bottle brush will more than adequately clean bottles.
- The water isn’t changed frequently enough, causing the water and the inside of the bottle to get a little slimy (thus giving the water a bad taste).
- The water bottle was filled with water that was too cold. Really cold water has a habit of jamming up, or “freezing,” the ball bearing in drinking spouts.
- The rubber ring inside the bottle cover could be degrading. Some of the old bottles had black rings instead of clear ones; when they start degrading, they put an undesirable taste in the water. If your water bottle has a black ring in it, rinse the ring and dry it with a white cloth. If you see a black smudge on the towel, it’s time to replace the bottle.
- If you have hard water, it could be leaving residue in the drinking spout; as this residue builds up, it interferes with the ball bearing in the spout. (Also, if you have hard water, there’s a good bet your animals don’t like drinking it any more than you do.)
In the weeks between now and the real start of summer, give your water bottles a thorough once-over to make sure they're operating properly and are free of buildup. If something is amiss or the bottle is showing clear signs of age, toss it in the recycling bin and buy a replacement. Your guinea pigs will thank you!