You’ve probably seen all the numerous videos on YouTube showing guinea pigs swimming. They may look like they are good swimmers because they don’t drown in the water.
Are they really good swimmers? Let’s look into it.
Can guinea pigs swim?
Yes, guinea pigs can swim. However, they will not swim because they like or enjoy it. Guinea pigs swim as a survival instinct and a defense mechanism. They swim so that they don’t drown. Actually, swimming can have some negative side effects on your pet and could even cause death.
Do guinea pigs enjoy being in the water?
No. Guinea pigs do not enjoy being in the water because they don’t like water.
Guinea pigs are clean animals and you will find them grooming themselves every now and then just like cats. This makes it unnecessary for guinea pigs to get in the water for bathing or grooming.
When out in the wild, guinea pigs will not even drink water unless it’s absolutely necessary. They will get their water from the plants and grass they are eating.
They prefer dry land compared to wet places. Even when hiding they will burrow holes underground.
Can they swim in bathtubs?
Yes, guinea pigs can swim in bathtubs. They’ll swim around but only to try to escape from the bath you are giving.
When you are bathing them, make the water as low level as possible reaching just the feet. Remember that they don’t require frequent baths as they groom themselves every now and then.
Are guinea pigs comfortable swimming?
Guinea pigs find it uncomfortable when they are forced to swim. Most of the guinea pigs who seem like they know what they are doing have been trained to do it since they were young.
Well, speaking of discomfort while swimming, a good example of this is the 2007 study that was done by researchers to test the effectiveness of antidepressants. Guinea pigs are used in many studies concerning humans.
As expected, they were pulled in for this study too. The study was called ‘guinea pig forced swim test’.
The name alone is enough to show just how much guinea pigs do not like swimming. The study relied on the fact that guinea pigs get stressed if they swim.
This stress would make them perfect subjects for the antidepressant drug test. They were given the drugs to see if they worked.
Effects of swimming on guinea pigs
Swimming has many negative effects on guinea pigs and that’s why they will never like it even if you are offering them a town full of treats. These effects include:
Guinea pigs will be swimming to keep from drowning. They will paddle around in the water to survive and that stresses them out.
Stress will not only make your guinea pig unhappy but also withdrawn.
As guinea pigs are in the water, it will most likely get into their ears. Ear infections are not common in guinea pigs but water getting in their ears could bring about the infections.
Imagine being scared of water and somebody shoves you into a pool. That’s the kind of situation a guinea pig is usually in.
They are scared of all that water and this will make them depressed because they are not sure if they’ll live.
Guinea pigs are not able to control their body temperatures. Being in water can make them extremely cold and they wouldn’t be able to get themselves warm again.
They could develop a cold that turns into pneumonia very fast. Even when you only bathe them, they should be towel dried immediately.
Swimming can make guinea pigs get very tired because of their tiny arms and legs. Their delicate muscles are also not equipped to do all that stroking. This will lead to a fatigued inactive guinea pet.
Being scared of water, guinea pigs can panic when put in it. This could cause them to have trouble breathing and they could even swallow the water.
A guinea pig will be swimming to avoid drowning and dying. They will work hard to try to get out and this may, in turn, make them tire and be unable to swim anymore leading to drowning.
Another cause of drowning would be if they swallow up the water and can’t breathe or stay afloat.
Water usually takes away natural oils from a guinea pig’s skin. If they are swimming that means they’ll stay a while in the water which is not okay.
They are prone to getting sick and they could even get infections in cuts that could be on their skin.
Keeping pets means taking good care of them. If swimming is not fun for guinea pigs yet you still insist on putting them in water for a swim, then that’s pure cruelty to the defenseless pet.
Swimming alternatives for your pet
Instead of swimming, there are better activities you could indulge in that your pet will love and enjoy. These activities are:
- Playing with toys – toys will entertain your pet, keep them occupied, assist in wearing out of their ever-growing teeth, and give your pet a good exercise.
- Tunnels and mazes – creating tunnels and mazes for your pet will give them a much needed mental stimulation and exercise.
- Venture outside – take your pet out in an enclosed place where they’ll have small fun adventures while still being safe and protected.
Should you teach your guinea pig how to swim
As we have seen, swimming is dangerous to guinea pigs and it causes a lot of harm both mentally and physically. Considering all these facts, would you still want your pet to swim?
It is unsafe and not recommended no matter how tempting those YouTube videos are. So no, it’s not okay to do it.
Guinea pigs can swim but only to save their lives, not for fun. If you want to see your pet doing cute things, look for alternatives like teaching new tricks and playing games.
Do not put your guinea pig in danger to entertain yourself and others at your pet’s expense. The delicate animal looks up to you for protection, give it that at least.
- Karsten M Wicke et al Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2007 Nov:195(1)