Why Does My Guinea Pig Drink Upside Down?

Guinea pigs are cute, quirky pets that often exhibit cute, quirky, and sometimes mystifying behavior. Their twist on everyday activities may cause you to wonder if everything is as it should be. Learning what specific behaviors signify is important to properly caring for and understanding a guinea pig.

So, why does my guinea pig drink upside down? This behavior is most likely due to the shape of guinea pigs’ bodies and the placement of their mouths. Some guinea pigs seem to enjoy playing with their water bottle sippers, but stress, dental disease, and badly positioned water bottles may also be to blame.

This article will provide a thorough overview of the various reasons that could be behind a guinea pig’s preference for drinking upside down.  We’ll then explore situations in which this behavior may be problematic and advise on how to address it.

The Guinea Pig Physique

Guinea pigs are short and long with stout bodies and heads. Their front legs are shorter than their back legs and their mouths are located on the lower side of their snout. These distinctive physical characteristics are one of the most likely explanations for why guinea pig often turn their heads sideways or even upside down to drink out of a water bottle.

Short and Long

Unlike other small animals that use water bottles, like hamsters, mice, and rabbits, guinea pigs are unlikely to sit or stand up on their hind legs to drink from the bottle. This is mainly due to their long, body shape and short front legs. Instead, they may twist their heads to comfortably reach their water supply.

Mouth Placement

Guinea pig’s mouths are also placed rather low on the underside of their snout. For this reason, it may simply be easier for many of them to get their mouths under the water bottle sipper by turning their heads sideways or upside down.

Water Bottle Placement

If your guinea pig’s water bottle is mounted in a place that is difficult for your guinea pig to access for some reason, this could also be a reason for upside down drinking. A water bottle that is hung too high or too low will force your guinea pig to hold its head in unusual positions just to get a drink.

Malocclusion or Mouth Sores

A guinea pig may also turn its head oddly or fidget with the water bottle sipper if it is having a difficult time drinking or finds drinking painful. Dental disease is a common reason for mouth pain or drinking difficulties in guinea pigs.

This is because a guinea pig’s teeth are constantly growing. They should naturally wear off as it munches hay and food and chews on wooden toys, but if your guinea pig doesn’t do enough chewing, its teeth can become overgrown making it difficult for it to eat or drink and may even cause sores inside of its mouth.

The Guinea Pig Psych

Odd behaviors related to the water bottle are fairly common in guinea pigs. Basically, they appear to do whatever they think makes water come out of their water bottle more quickly. If a certain head position has worked for them in the past, they may return to it in the future.

Playing or Fidgeting

Along with drinking sideways or upside down, guinea pigs are occasionally observed to play or fidget with the sipper of a water bottle. Some will lick, chew, or suck on the sipper, often causing water to leak out all over them and the cage.

Although it may appear that your guinea pig is just being cute, playing or fidgeting with the water bottle can have negative consequences, and it may spring from anxiety or stress.

Stress-Related Water Bottle Antics

A stressed guinea pig may drink much more than usual or spend a large amount of time just fidgeting with the water bottle. Stress may be caused by boredom, a recent change in environment or schedule, loneliness, or too much noise and activity around the guinea pig’s cage. Along with odd water bottle-related behaviors, it may show up in the following ways.

  • Hiding
  • Change in appetite or drinking habits
  • Change in activity level
  • Pacing or circling cage
  • Chewing cage bars or water bottle sipper
  • Overgrooming
  • Hunched posture or reluctance to move
  • Avoiding contact

Try to determine what could be causing your guinea pig stress and address the underlying cause. As these can also be signs that your guinea pig is suffering from a physical ailment of some kind, it’s always best to check with your vet as well.

The Problem with Water Bottle Fidgeting

Besides the fact that fidgeting with the water bottle could indicate that your guinea pig is anxious or unwell, it can also cause problems on its own. Playing with the sipper or taking the entire thing into its mouths will allow water to leak out of the water bottle, all over your guinea pig and its cage.

Damp fur and skin can lead to irritated or infected skin, and the damp bedding can become a breeding grown for bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

When and How to Fix Odd Drinking Behaviors

As we’ve mentioned, drinking sideways or upside down is a pretty normal guinea pig behavior, and there’s really nothing wrong with a guinea pig drinking this way. Many guinea pigs just seem to find it to be a comfortable way to drink or think it’s necessary for getting the most water possible out of the water bottle.

When to Be Concerned

To figure out whether your guinea pig’s drinking method is a cause for concern, you can begin by asking the following questions.

Are your guinea pig’s teeth and mouth in good shape? Is it losing weight or becoming dehydrated? If you notice sores, overgrown incisors, or your guinea pig seems to be struggling to get enough water and food, it’s time for a trip to the vet.

Is your guinea pig constantly fidgeting with the water bottle? Have there been any recent changes that could be causing it stress or anxiety? It can also be helpful to know and watch for other signs that your guinea pig is bored or upset.

Is your guinea pig allowing all of the water to leak out of the water bottle onto its chin and neck or into the cage? Is it developing any irritation from the moisture or causing bacteria or mold growth in the cage?

Is there anything wrong with the water bottle? Are there any cracks or clogs? Is it placed at a level and in a position that is easily accessible for your guinea pig?

How to Correct

If you determine that your guinea pig’s strange drinking method is due to malocclusion, stress, or an ill-placed water bottle, or if its fidgeting is causing secondary issues, you can take the following steps to correct this behavior.

For dental disease or other mouth issues, take your guinea pig to an experienced exotic animal vet. They will be able to painlessly file down any overgrown incisors, treat mouth sores, and advise you on how to avoid this issue in the future.

If fidgeting with the sipper is caused by anxiety or boredom, try to pinpoint the exact reason for your guinea pig’s mental distress. You can alleviate boredom by providing a larger cage, more interaction and enrichment. Once you have determined what is stressing your guinea pig, you can take steps to resolve it or slowly desensitize your guinea pig to the change.

A guinea pig that has made a habit of playing with the water bottle and allowing all the water to leak out may be more difficult to dissuade. The best thing you can do is regularly replace wet bedding, gently dry off your guinea pig when it is wet, and try to provide distractions to busy your guinea pig elsewhere. In extreme cases, you may wish to switch to using a water bowl.

Actual water bottle issues are the easiest issue to fix. If you realize your guinea pig is drinking upside down because the bottle is too high, too low, or just too difficult to access, simply reposition the water bottle. The best place for a water bottle is mounted on the side of the guinea pig’s cage at head level (for the guinea pig). Cracked or clogged sippers should also be replaced or cleaned.

Conclusion

Every guinea pig has its eccentricities, and drinking upside down is not unheard of. Although this may just be an interesting behavioral quirk, it’s important to rule out dental issues, anxiety, or boredom. Also make sure that your water bottle is in good shape and that your guinea pig can easily access it without having to hold its head at an odd angle.

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