Technology has come a long way since I had my first cat. Back then, I gave her water from a bowl and never gave it a second thought. I did notice that she preferred to drink from our kitchen faucet whenever she had the chance though. As knowledge of animal health progressed, new products have improved our pets’ quality of life. Cat drinking fountains are one of those inventions.
According to Dr Jennifer Coates, kidney disease is the number one killer of older cats (source). I’m sad to say it’s what killed my first cat. Maybe if we’d got a drinking fountain, she would still be with us. All of our kitties will become older eventually, so this is something that every cat owner need to prepare for.
Keeping your cat well hydrated is one simple way to help prevent kidney disease. Since cats prefer to drink from flowing water, a cat water fountain is a great way to up your cat’s water consumption. There are plenty of brands to choose from nowadays. I’ve taken a look at some of the best cat drinking fountains and their pros and cons to help you decide.
How does a drinking fountain keep your cat healthy?
I’ve explained the basics of how cat drinking fountains help prevent kidney disease and prolong his life, but let’s look at this in a little more detail. Kidney disease is extremely common in domesticated cats but not wild cats (source). Dr Karen Becker states that one of the major reasons for this is that wild cats consume a diet naturally high in moisture (source).
Cats whose diet consists mainly of dry food are particularly at risk (source). Wet cat food contains up to 80% water. This really contributes to kitty hydration. Dr Jean Hofve explains that cats who eat dry cat food get only half the water that those on a canned or homemade diet do. This leads to chronic dehydration which stresses the kidneys over time. The resulting high urine concentration also predisposes cats to lower urinary tract diseases.
The solution seems simple – increase your cat’s water intake. Well, they say you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Try getting a cat to do something it doesn’t want to and you’ll have an even harder time! Since our cats’ ancestors were desert dwellers, the haven’t evolved to drink frequently. A cat drinking water fountain will usually tempt your pet easily.
What about aeration?
Many websites report that water aeration by the fountain is good for health. I can’t find anything to back this up. Yes it’s true that moving water does add oxygen (source). However, this only really benefits things living in the water. This is why it’s important for fish tanks to be aerated. Since your cat isn’t breathing in the water, I don’t think it makes much difference. I’m open to correction but I have studied biology at university level and I can’t figure out how this is a good thing for your cat. If anything, aerated water is more hospitable to bacteria, but this won’t matter if you keep it clean.
Why do cats like running water?
I’ve never seen a cat that doesn’t run to the tap the second I turn it on to get a fresh drink. Ok, Saus is too lazy to jump up to the sink but that’s the only thing stopping her. You see, cats are drawn to running water. There are several theories as to why.
When you think about it, when cats were wild, they had to source their own water in nature. Moving water such as that in a river is usually fresher and tastier compared to stagnant water like a puddle. Cats may have simply evolved to prefer running water (source). Another idea is that tap water is cooler and usually tastes better than water that’s been sitting around all day so it’s more refreshing for your pet.
How to tell if your cat is dehydrated
If you’re worried about your cat being dehydrated, there are a few ways to check. Firstly, you can look at his gums. Raise his upper lip to expose the gum line. the gum should feel moist if your cat is well hydrated. If the gum feels sticky or dry it could be a sign of early dehydration. If the cat is severely dehydrated, his paws will feel cool to the touch (source). In this case, you will need to bring your cat to the vet quickly.
This video demonstrates the skin turgor test for dehydration in cats. Gently pinch a loose fold of skin between the shoulder blades or at the back of the neck. If the skin the skin snaps back when you release it, your cat is hydrated. If it returns slowly, it could be a sign that your cat is dehydrated.
How do cat drinking fountains work?
Cat fountains are usually made up of a water reservoir with an electric-powered pump and filter. The pump sucks the water through the filter. The filter removes contaminants such as dirt, cat hair or food particles. The water flows out either upwards like a small fountain or in a free falling stream to attract the cat.
Cat water dispensers are great not only because they encourage your pet to drink more, they keep the water supply pure. This means they don’t require refilling as often as a regular bowl. Flowing water also inhibits bacteria growth compared to still water.
Choosing the best cat drinking fountain
There are a few factors to consider when choosing the best cat drinking fountain for your pet. Here are the most common variations between different models:
Cat water fountains come in a variety of sizes. If you have more than one cat, it’s wise to pick one a cat fountain with a large reservoir. Some models can hold around four liters. It’s recommended that cats drink a minimum of 60mls per kg of weight per day (source), so you can do the math and see what size fountain will suit your feline family best.
Cats also prefer wider bowls. If their whiskers touch the edges, it’s probably too small. If you have more than one cat, a bigger fountain will allow them both to drink at the same time. My boy always tries to push my girl away from the water bowl…he’s a meanie! There’s enough room for both to drink but he likes to boss her around for some reason. Luckily he gets bored quickly and she can drink her fill when he’s done.
Most cat drinking fountains are made from plastic. This means they are slightly more fragile than the usual stainless steel drinking bowl. They can get scratched and chipped and grow bacteria. If a cat drinks from a plastic fountain which harbors bacteria, it can cause feline acne (source). Feline acne causes blackheads and inflammation on the cat’s chin. It can be uncomfortable and painful for your cat. If you do go with a plastic model, inspect it regularly for damage. You should also make sure it’s BPA free.
Ceramic and stainless steel models are available. If you have kids or other boisterous pets that are likely to damage your cat fountain, I recommend stainless steel. Ceramic can chip too but you have to be pretty rough with it. In addition, if your cat is used to drinking from a plain stainless steel or ceramic bowl, sticking with the same material will make the changeover easier.
Most cat fountains use filters made with activated charcoal/carbon. Carbon filtering works because impurities like dust, bacteria and chemicals in water stick to the carbon and become trapped (source). It’s a pretty neat chemical process that produces very pure water. It even keeps it smelling fresh. Some cat fountains include a pre-filter. This is usually a larger mesh barrier to trap cat hairs and larger food debris. A pre-filter means your carbon filter will last longer as it’s not getting blocked with big impurities.
The filters are an ongoing cost as they need to replaced regularly. Some manufacturers recommend as frequently as every two to four weeks. Check the price of the filters before purchasing a cat fountain as you’ll probably end up spending more on these than the fountain itself over its lifetime.
Ease of Cleaning
One big point against cat drinking fountains in comparison with water bowls is that they’re generally more complicated to clean. Make sure the model you choose is easy to disassemble and dishwasher safe. Otherwise, cleaning will be quite a chore.
Almost all cat fountains operate via a plug. This means you need to put the water fountain near a power outlet. There are some non-electric models but these are rare.
This isn’t hugely important but even the cat drinking fountain does make noise constantly. Either the trickling sound of the water or the humming of the pump. If you have the fountain in the same room as you sleep in, this could present a problem. Some cat water dispensers have design features to ensure that they’re extra quiet. Examples are ramps at the base of the bowl where the water falls and specially designed silent pumps.
My cat drinking fountain reviews
Taking the above factors into consideration, I’ve selected some of the best cat drinking fountains to review. To be honest, there isn’t a huge difference between the top models, other than the material and capacity. I hope this list will help you make your mind up.
The Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain from PetSafe is one of the best rated cat drinking fountains all round. It’s a well-established American brand in the world of pet accessories and their customer support is pretty great. This fountain is made of BPA free plastic and uses an activated carbon filter derived from coconut shells. Yay, coconut. The water falls from the top of the fountain, similar to a tap, so it’s sure to entice the majority of cats.
Its capacity is 136oz. That’s pretty huge and should satisfy households with multiple cats. It also means you won’t have to refill it as often as a smaller fountain. One feature that sets it apart is the pre-pump filter. This catches large debris such as cat hair, in order to prolong the life of the filter. The pump is relatively quiet. There’s a ramp at the base to decrease noise from splashing water.
You can adjust the speed of the water flow to make it more quiet or to entice your cat with faster movement. Rubber at the bottom of the fountain helps keep it from moving and spilling. It’s easy to disassemble and safe to wash in the top shelf of the dishwasher. The platinum pet fountain is powered via a plug and operates at low voltage (12V).
If you prefer your cat drinking fountain in stainless steel then the Raindrop Stainless Steel Fountain from Pioneer Pet is a good choice. The high grade stainless steel construction makes is super robust. The design is sleek and aesthetically pleasing – in my opinion at least. The Raindrop is smaller than the Drinkwell fountain at 60oz but still a decent size.
It’s easy to take apart and dishwasher safe. One filter lasts up to 30 days. It’s powered via a low voltage plug and the cord is extra long so you don’t have to keep it right next to a socket. This is something I worried about particularly as my cats can splash water around while they drink. The pump is designed to be “ultra quiet” and positioning of the water outlet minimizes splash. It uses a charcoal filter.
Also from Pioneer Pet, we have what may be the best ceramic cat drinking fountain. Like the stainless steel version, it’s got a 60oz capacity and is dishwasher safe. There are only three parts so it’s simple to take apart and clean. The design is very modern and it’s available in both black and white. It’s powered via plug and almost silent. It also uses a charcoal filter.
If you’re looking for a model that you don’t need to plug in, you were probably thinking of a cat drinking fountain that’s battery operated. However, I’ve found one which I think is even better. It’s the Torus Ultimate Pet Water Bowl from New Zealand brand Heyrex. It doesn’t use a power source at all – it works by gravity. This means it’s extra portable and economical. It holds 67oz of water and is made from plastic with an activated carbon filter. The lack of a pump makes it almost silent. One big negative is that it’s not listed as being dishwasher safe.
Caring For Your Cat Water Dispenser
As cat drinking fountains are more expensive than regular bowls, you want to make sure they last a long time. There are a few things you can do to get the most from your cat water fountain.
- When putting your water fountain in the dishwasher, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s too hot, it can cause the ceramic to crack or plastic to warp.
- If you wash by hand, only use cleaning products as directed by the manufacturer. A mixture of vinegar and water is safe for cats. If you use something caustic, it can damage the fountain.
- Pay close attention to the water level in the fountain. If it becomes too low, the pump will make a loud sound and can burn out if it runs dry. Then you will need to replace the whole thing.
- Wash your fountain at least once a month. Every two weeks is better. If you don’t wash it enough, your cats can get sick from bacterial growth. The pump can also get blocked and damaged.
- If you live in an area with hard water, you may notice a white, chalky substance in the fountain. This is a mineral deposit from your water. You will need to clean the fountain more frequently or buy pre-filtered or purified water.
- If the surface of the fountain feels slippery, even though you wash it regularly, it’s probably from your cat’s saliva. This is fine but you should wash it more frequently if this keeps happening. Other possibilities are that you haven’t washed off soap residue or it could be bacterial growth. In both cases, the fountain needs a thorough cleaning.
- If you see black particles at the bottom of the bowl, it’s okay, it’s just charcoal from the filter. Just clean out the water.
Overall, the PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum Fountain is the best cat drinking fountain I’ve found so far. The pre-pump filter and large capacity really sets it apart. I don’t know about you, but my cats shed a lot so hair quickly accumulates in their water bowls. The pre-filter allows you to get more value from your filters as they’re not getting blocked up with hairs.
If there’s any chance you’re not going to notice a crack in the fountain or clean it as often as you should, choose the Raindrop stainless steel fountain. It’s tougher and you won’t be putting your cat at risk of feline acne. As I explained earlier, feline acne arises when bacteria grow in the cracks of plastic fountains.
I hope this article has addressed everything you wanted to know about choosing the best cat drinking fountain. If there’s anything else you want to ask, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment.