Bottles & Bowls - The Big Debate!

Bottles & Bowls - The Big Debate!

Bottles or Bowls? The Big Debate!

There is a wide range of drinking bottles available that are targeted specifically for small animal use - and many are designed just for rabbits - often a higher capacity than those targeted for the very small. Bottles come with a range of different cage attachments, made of glass or plastic and have varying spout constructions. Some boast a drip-less feature, and some can be filled in situ for greater convenience. Such choice!

The most common bottle type works by having a small vacuum in the bottle which prevents the water from dripping out when not in use. This means water has to be ‘encouraged’ to come out by the animal during drinking. Those bottles with a double ball bearing construction are designed to reduce leakage even more. A few bottle designs feature a small value at the end of the spout which can be lifted (by the tongue) to allow water to escape. We currently only sell some of the Savic range of bottles as they are generally robust and feature a long, wide sput to help facilitate easier drinking.

All well and good, practical and convenient. But what about the animals having to use them? Most get the hang very quickly and will spend much time licking the end of the spout. Have you ever wondered why they spend so long at their water bottle or wondered just how much water they actually get when they do?? 

And is this really the best way of providing water for your little ones? The renowned rabbit specialist Frances Harcourt-Brown has reviewed a study carried out by a number of scientists investigating rabbit drinking preferences. The findings were clear; rabbits prefer drinking from a bowl rather than a bottle as it is an easier, more natural way of drinking. The study also showed that rabbits drinking from a bowl achieve a significantly better level of hydration than those drinking from a bottle. 

This is very important and cannot be understated; hydration is vital for normal function and is imperative for normal digestive function. In order for the gut to function correctly and cope with ingested fur, for example, it must be adequately hydrated as well as receive a high fibre intake. And don’t forget that dehydration occurs rapidly with gut stasis, and then a digestive issue can turn into a dangerous situation very quickly. Gut stasis can be life-threatening within a day or two.

Of course, there may be a few health-related reasons why a bowl may not be practical (such as with a disabled rabbit for example), though with a little creative DIY most potential issues can be easily overcome to allow safe bowl use.

So if you’ve always used a bottle, why give a bowl a try? We suggest using a heavy, ceramic bowl to prevent spillage, and the use of a heat pad underneath in winter to prevent freezing.

Start by providing both bottle and bowl next to each other and see which your little ones prefer. You can also measure the amount of water they consume from the bottle and compare it with what they consume from the bowl… may well be very surprised at the difference!

Happy drinking, little ones :)


Harcourt-Brown, F. (2011), Importance of water intake in rabbits. Veterinary Record, 168: 185-186.

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