Cat water fountains: Best types and how to use and clean them

Cat water fountains are designed to motivate your cat to drink enough, but do they work? Seeing as it has become a bit of a trend, it's worth taking a look at a few different models, how they work, and what they cost.

Cat drinking fountains are meant to help keep your cat hydrated.
Cat drinking fountains are meant to help keep your cat hydrated.  © 123RF/vershininphoto

Nothing screams love and obsession more than getting your cat its very own water fountain. These little fellows are more than happy with a bowl, right?

Well, yeah, but innovation is the name of the game, and these brand-spankin' new plastic appliances are becoming more and more popular. So, what's going on?

In this cat guide, TAG24 will dive into the perplexing new cat water fountain trend. How do cat fountains work, and how much do they cost? What are the different kinds of water fountains, and do they actually do what's advertised?

How much water should cats drink?

Cats need to drink plenty of water, not just to stave off dehydration, but also to avoid urinary tract infections and kidney disease. Fluid intake through food is also not enough, cats need a dedicated water supply that is easily accessible and constantly available. The water you provide also needs to be clean and fresh.

As a result, Preventive Vet writer Dr. Beth Turner suggests that cats should drink around four ounces of water for every five pounds of body weight each day. For example, if you have a 20-pound cat, it should drink 16 ounces of water every day.

Is a cat water fountain or a bowl better?

In general, it is a good idea to offer as many drinking opportunities as possible. Don't replace your water bowl with a water fountain, as you don't want your feline friend to get dehydrated because it doesn't understand what's going on. The idea with a fountain is that the running water with encourage drinking, but that won't work for every kitty.

A water fountain is a good way to motive your cat to drink, but not a perfect solution. For some cats, a bowl of water will be far better and also cheaper and easier, for other cats a fountain will make a world of difference.

What is the best cat water fountain?

There are a vast assortment of different cat water fountain brands, each coming in various shapes and sizes. They offer different functions and features, some including options such as filters, water flow settings, and more. On top of that, cat water fountains are also made from a variety of materials.

Here are some of your best material options for cat water fountains. Try to use this as a guide when shopping.

Cats have been known to drink from human water fountains too!
Cats have been known to drink from human water fountains too!  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Ceramic cat water fountain

Ceramic devices, much like stainless steel, are heat-resistant and easily cleaned in the dishwasher. The advantage that ceramic cat water fountains have over plastic and metal ones is that it is better for your cat's oral hygiene. Due to the nature of the ceramic material, you are less likely to see a build-up of unwanted substances like chalk and calcium on the device itself.

The biggest benefit of a ceramic water fountain, though, is that they remain pleasantly cool and are outstandingly refreshing. The material can be a bit expensive, though, as you want to stay away from cheap materials that could have been treated with nasty chemicals.

Stainless steel cat water fountain

Much like ceramic devices, stainless steel fountains can usually be washed in the dishwasher. You need to steer clear of anything that could rust, though, as it will be continuously wet. If your metal fountain does start to rust, it needs to be replaced as this can poison your cat.

It is not uncommon for stainless steel cat water fountains to get all scratched up, especially if they are not cleaned properly. They are not usually very aesthetically pleasing, either, so we're not the biggest fans.

Battery operated and plastic cat water fountains

Plastic is the most inexpensive and common type of cat water fountain, usually coupled with a plastic pump that is run via a commercial battery (either an AA or an AAA). Keep in mind that plastic is susceptible to scratches and that this is of particular concern because these scratches can harbor pathogenic bacteria and a vast variety of different germs.

Make sure to regularly clean your plastic water fountain and inspect it for potentially troubling scratches and breaks. On top of that, make sure that the plastic used is BPA-free, for obvious reasons.

How to clean cat water fountains

Cat water fountains should be kept very clean, to guarantee that your kitty won't get sick.
Cat water fountains should be kept very clean, to guarantee that your kitty won't get sick.  © 123RF/pfotenweltfoto

You need to be careful when cleaning your cat water fountain, and the reason for this is quite straightforward. These devices have working electronic components that are designed to pump the water up through the fountain but have not been designed to get wet themselves. Don't worry, though, it's still relatively easy.

Here's how to clean your cat water fountain:

  • Step 1: Disassemble your cat fountain, separating all the plastic, metal, or ceramic pieces from the electronic components.
  • Step 2: The non-electronic parts of your cat fountain should be washed in the sink with warm soapy water. Use soft soaps that aren't too abrasive and a sponge that won't bite into the plastic.
  • Step 3: Once the non-electronic components are all washed, give them a deep and thorough rinse to properly get all the soap off.
  • Step 4: Now let it drip dry as you clean the electronic component.
  • Step 5: Take apart the pump and wash the fan blade and the filter in the same way that you washed the rest of your fountain.
  • Step 6: When it comes to the main electronic component of the pump, simply use a pipe cleaner to dust the crevices and make sure that everything is in working order and not too dirty.
  • Step 7: Allow everything to drip dry, and then go over it all with a dishwashing cloth to make sure it is perfectly clean and dry.
  • Step 8: Reassemble your cat water fountain, test that it is still working, and put it back into use.

It is always best to read the instruction manual for your specific cat water fountain, as each model is different and will require different cleaning techniques.

How often to clean a cat water fountain

If you don't regularly clean your cat fountain, your kitty will start drinking dirty water. This can lead to serious health issues and is, in general, less than ideal. As a result, regular cleaning is absolutely critical if you get a cat water fountain. You wouldn't let a bowl stay dirty, so treat your fountain the same way.

It is important to clean the top of your cat's water fountain (the bit which the cat comes into direct contact with) at least once a week. The water should be replaced on a daily basis, and the rest of the device should be cleaned at least once a month, preferably once a fortnight.

How to put a filter into a cat water fountain

Different cat fountains will have different capabilities. If you need to filter your water, you need to check with the retailer whether the fountain you buy can be used with a filter. There isn't much else to really say because it is entirely based on the specific cat water fountain that you have purchased.

Ultimately, whether a filter is necessary or not entirely depends on where you live within the United States. Water quality can be variable, and it may end up being necessary to fill up your fountain with bottled water if you live in an area that is particularly bad. If you start to use a filter, make sure that you clean it regularly.

Some cats love water fountains, others will need prompting to get them to use it.
Some cats love water fountains, others will need prompting to get them to use it.  © 123RF/Thvideo

How to get a cat to use a water fountain

Cats are creatures of habit, and those habits can be very hard to break. If your kitty is used to drinking from a bowl and ponds in the garden, it might take a bit of time to convince it to use a new water fountain. Don't worry, though; with a little bit of effort, it'll be lapping it right up in no time!

Here's how to get your cat using its new water fountain

  • Tip 1: Make sure to place your cat fountain in an elevated position where the cat can see widely around. Your kitty will feel more comfortable when it is high up and has a good view.
  • Tip 2: If your cat fountain is electronically operated, try to make sure that it is as quiet as possible. Loud devices will scare away your cat and prevent it from approaching the fountain at all.
  • Tip 3: You need to allow your cat to explore and drink from the fountain first while it is switched off so that it understands that this is a drinking device. You then need to slowly turn up the settings and get it used to a slow dribble at first, before moving on to the full fountain stream.

Please note: You must not allow your cat to get dehydrated. If it isn't drinking from the fountain and you haven't managed to convince it, give it water in a bowl and try again tomorrow. Keep it running, and your cat will eventually use it, but don't go trying to force the matter.

Cat water fountains keep your kitty healthy

In theory, cat water fountains will incentivize your kitty to drink more, the running water triggering the behavior and reminding them of their need for hydration. That's in theory, though, because in practice, a lot of cats will simply ignore the confusing thing and move on with their already stress-free day.

That's the crux of the matter. If your cat doesn't drink enough, a water fountain could potentially trigger their need to drink and could improve their health. To most, though, it's nothing more than a strange new fad.

Cover photo: 123RF/vershininphoto

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