Are you wondering whether to give your rabbits a water bowl or a bottled water feeder? There’s a lot of debate between the water bowl and bottle feeder options. If you’ve own rabbits before, you may have seen or used both options. But which one is actually better?
Through my years in owning rabbits, I’ve used both methods and learned quite a lot about both options. In this article, we’ll look at whether you should use a water bowl or bottle feeder for your rabbits. Keep reading to find out the best way to give your rabbit water.
Why Proper Hydration is Crucial for Rabbits
Rabbits normally drink up to 150 ml per 2.2 pounds (1kg) of body weight a day. Obviously, given that calculation, this means that larger breeds like the French Lop or Flemish Giant will drink much more than smaller breeds such as the Netherland Dwarf or Mini Lop. So, you’ll need to make sure that you have a properly sized bowl or bottle for the amount of water they’ll need to drink.
Your pet rabbits need constant access to clean water. Beyond hydrating the body, water provides essential lubrication for the digestive system and other organs like the liver, kidneys, and bladder.
Rabbits can dehydrate quickly, especially if they’re stressed. So, it’s extremely important that whatever watering method you choose, that your rabbit always has fresh water available.
Using a Water Bowl for Your Rabbits
Water bowls are the favorites of the two options. Rabbits actually prefer the water bowl over the bottle.
Research has shown that water intake tends to be significantly higher with a water bowl and rabbits drink up to three times more water from open dishes. In addition, a study with rabbits kept in groups has shown higher levels of aggression when water was provided in a water bottle compared to a bowl.
Here’s what to expect when using a water bowl for your bunnies:
- Easy to drink from: Water dishes and bowls are much easier for a rabbit to drink out of when compared to bottles. Not to mention they can drink water freely, instead of one drop at a time.
- Water is fresher: Water dishes usually need to be filled up or washed out more often than bottle feeders. And, while this may seem annoying, it does mean that because the water is constantly being refilled and rabbits drink more from a bowl at a given time, the water is typically fresher.
- Need to be cleaned and refilled more often: One thing to keep in mind when using a water bowl for your rabbits is the fact that you’ll need to fill and clean it more often. Not only because they may get tipped or get dirty, but also because your rabbit will drink more.
- Easy to dump or get messy: Bowls are really easy to tip over, which can leave your rabbit without water until you notice the dumped dish. If your rabbits make a habit out of it, it can add up quite a bit of water and bedding waste. If your bunny keeps tipping over their bowl, switch to a heavier dish, “no tip” dog bowl, a gravity water bowl, or a bowl that screws into the pen wall to avoid this issue. Also, when rabbits drink their backwash will leave a film in the bowl that will need to be washed daily.
Using a Water Bottle for Your Rabbits
Bottle feeders might seem like the more convenient method, being lower maintenance, but they’re actually not a good option for rabbits.
- It’s awkward for rabbits to use: Drinking from a bottle isn’t natural for rabbits. Having their head and neck tilted upward is really awkward positioning that can cause damage in later years, especially because they have to drink for longer. This is especially if you don’t put it at the right height. If it’s high enough to keep their neck straight, then it’s better.
- Significantly less water distribution: Bottled water feeders only let your bunny drink one drop of water at a time, which can become tedious, even for a thirsty rabbit. This also means that your bunny spends longer trying to drink an adequate amount of water with its head in an awkward position.
- Bottles can get clogged: Another downside to giving your rabbits water from a bottle feeder is that the ball can get stuck, and the spout can get clogged easily. Rabbits that go back and forth while eating and drinking can will cause a buildup of kibble residue that can cause the ball to get stuck or for the spout to clog. It can also happen if the spout isn’t cleaned properly.
- Bacteria buildup: Not only can the spout of a bottle feeder get clogged, but that kibble buildup will be a breeding ground for bacteria, which, if not cleaned properly and regularly, can make your rabbit sick.
What is Best?
Bottles are more convenient for us pet parents, but they generally aren’t very convenient for rabbits. As mentioned, studies have shown that rabbits drink significantly more water when given water in a bowl, compared to a bottle. Also, when given the choice of both bottled water feeder and water bowl, rabbits generally opt for the water bowl.
This is because it’s much more natural to drink out of, and your rabbit gets more than one drop at a time, which decreases the chance of dehydration.
I find that it’s best to give them the bowl, even if they have been using a bottle for most of their lives. If they resist or they’re bowl tippers, leave the bottle just in case. That way, your rabbit will have access to water, no matter what.
Yes, rabbits can drink out of a bowl without any issue. In fact, bowls are the best way to offer water to your bunny because it allows them to drink more naturally. Bowls also ensure better hydration than water bottles, which release water drop by drop.
Studies have shown that most rabbits opt for using a bowl when they’re offered both options, and they drink significantly more water from a bowl.
- Drinking preferences in rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus – Vet Times
- Preference of rabbits for drinking from open dishes versus nipple drinkers – The Veterinary record