In 2011 a study (Tschudin et al) was published showing that most rabbits actually prefer to drink from water bowls than from bottles and I’ve certainly found that to be true.
With all of my rabbits I’ve initially given them a choice, providing them with bottles and bowls in different areas and at different heights around their living space. However, eventually I have removed all the bottles as they just weren’t being used at all.
Unfortunately, it can be more difficult to monitor water consumption when offering bowls of water instead of bottles. Water can evaporate and bowls can get tipped over or become contaminated with hay (or even the odd poop) but I find the benefits outweigh the negatives. The benefits of bowls over bottles are:
- Bowls are much easier to clean!
- Rabbits seem to prefer them and can get more water more quickly from them, useful in the summer when they need to keep hydrated.
- Large bowls have a bigger surface area than bottles and are kept inside the shed/hutch so take longer before they freeze.
- You can easily stop them freezing by using a Snugglesafe® microwave heat pad under the bowl. Although, ideally a properly insulated hutch/shed should stop this from happening to a bowl of water anyway.
- Lapping water from a bowl is more natural than drinking from a bottle.
- There is NOTHING cuter than watching a rabbit lapping at water!
Several years ago when I collected my first rabbit as an adult owner I was advised by the rescue to offer a bowl of warm water to my new bunny once home. In my experience this does encourage drinking and I’ve since offered warm water to rabbits recovering from surgery and also to my rabbits on a cold day. It was a really useful tip.
Reference: Tschudin, A., Clauss, M., Codron, D., Liesegang, A., Hatt, J.M. (2011) ‘Water intake in domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) from open dishes and nipple drinkers under different water and feeding regimes.’, Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition,95(4), pp. 499-511.