Basic Bunny Supplies: Water Bottle or Water Bowl?

When I was growing up, my family gave our rabbits water bottles, and I believe that is more in-line with the traditional, old way of caring for pet rabbits. However, over the years I have come to learn that giving your rabbit a large water bowl is overall better for their health. 

It’s much more natural for rabbits to drink from a bowl rather than a water bottle. That means that a bowl encourages better hydration, which in turn reduces the risk of urinary tract infections and improves overall gut health.

Important: This post contains affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Why a water bowl is better for bunnies than a water bottle

The main reason bowls are better than water bottles for rabbits is that, given the choice, rabbits will always go for the bowl. During my time working with rescue rabbits, I’ve known one rabbit (out of hundreds) who chose to drink out of the water bottle when there was a water bowl available. It’s simply more natural and more comfortable for rabbits to drink out of a bowl.

A study in 2010 confirmed this, finding that rabbits who have access to bowls rather than water bottles do, in fact, drink more water. They have better hydration overall, which is extremely important for rabbit gut health and in preventing urinary tract infections.

You’ll also find that you can more easily keep a water bowl clean than a bottle. Bottles can harbor bacteria in hard-to-reach spots (especially inside the little spout thing), but a bowl can be cleaned regularly with minimal effort.

Getting a bowl rather than a bottle also means you don’t have to deal with an infinitely leaking water bottle (I swear, they all start leaking eventually). I find it’s much easier to get a heavy water bowl that your rabbit can’t flip over than to try to find a water bottle that doesn’t leak.

Rabbit bowl vs. a rabbit water bottle
Water bowls are usually the better option for a pet rabbit. Sometimes a rabbit will be a sloppy drinker or try to flip over the bowl. In those cases a water bottle is a good option.

When should you get a water bottle anyway?

At the shelter where I volunteer and work with rescue rabbits, we actually give them both a bowl and a bottle. Most rabbits will only use the bowl for drinking, but sometimes they like to flip over their water bowl, so we want to make sure they still have a water bottle available in those scenarios.

If your rabbit is a notorious bowl flipper, you probably want to get a water bottle too so that your rabbit is never completely without water.

The other time you may need to consider getting a bottle instead of (or in addition to) a bowl is if your rabbit is extremely messy. If the bunny keeps throwing food, poop, hay, toys, and anything they can find into their water bowl, you may need to find a more sanitary way to give them their water.

Of course, in this scenario it’s better if you can move the water bowl to a separate area, away from hay, food, and the litter box. That’s usually all that’s necessary to keep everything out of the water bowl, but some rabbits are particularly messy. In these rare cases, a water bottle may be a better option.

How to prevent your rabbit from flipping their water bowl

Rabbits may flip their water bowls for any number of reasons, ranging from boredom to natural digging instincts. Here are some practical steps you can take to help mitigate this behavior:

  1. Give your rabbit a large bottom-heavy or ceramic bowl (usually something like this dog bowl works best). Sometimes this is really all you need to stop the bowl-flipping behavior.
  2. Place the bowl on the wall-side of the enclosure or pen. Rabbit’s are more likely to try to throw around their bowl if there is someplace behind it that they want to get to. Placing the bowl against the wall means your rabbit is much more likely to leave it alone.
  3. Make sure your rabbit has a large enough enclosure (a puppy playpen is great for rabbits). Rabbits who are in a too-small cage will display bored and irritated behavior. A large enough enclosure means your rabbit will be more likely to relax and stop throwing around their food bowls. (learn more about how to give your rabbit enough space)
  4. Keep the water bowl away from the food bowl and litter box. This prevents your rabbit from dumping their food into the water bowl.
  5. Make sure the bowl does not have a lip. This will make it harder for your rabbit to grab onto and throw around.
lip vs non-lip bowls
Bowls with a lip give rabbits a teeth-hold making it easier to flip the bowl. Instead get a ceramic or heavy bowl with straight sides.


A Tschudin, M Clauss, D Codron, A Liesegang, J-M Hatt. “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. November 2010. Accessed:

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Recommended Products and Brands

Important: These are Affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and, I may receive a small commission from qualifying purchases.

The two brands that I use when buying food for my rabbit are Oxbow and Small Pet Select. These both have high quality rabbit products and are companies that care about the health of our small animals. If you are purchasing anything from Small Pet Select use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout to get 15% off your first order.

Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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