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How To Choose a Cat Water Fountain for Your Picky Cats

Oct 07, 2023

A cat water fountain can be one of the best combatants for dehydration in cats. Cats are often quite picky and refuse to drink from stagnant bowls of water that aren’t constantly filled with fresh, clear H2O.

A cat water fountain can solve this by making the water much more appealing to cats, encouraging them to drink more, keeping them hydrated and healthy, and avoiding serious health complications that can arise when they don’t take on enough fluids.

Cat water fountains are often just as appealing to cats with a healthy water intake, so they shouldn’t only be considered by owners worried for their cats’ immediate health.

Dehydration in cats is rare but not something you can ignore. If a cat becomes dehydrated, it can suffer serious health problems similar to those in humans, including a shutdown of critical organs and toxicity due to a build-up of waste and harmful bacteria inside the body.

Even the symptoms of dehydration can cause cats to feel further unwell and then avoid eating, which can have a knock-on impact on their well-being, too. Health problems become compounded as cats don’t take on the nutrients required.

Dehydration is often caused by other illnesses, which are worsened by the lack of water. Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common factors in feline dehydration. Still, it can also be caused by diabetes and renal disease. These conditions will, in turn, intensify through a lack of fluid intake.

Cat owners must monitor their cats for signs of dehydration, especially if there are concerns over an untouched water bowl.

Some typical signs of feline dehydration include a loss of energy, regular panting, and a loss of appetite or outright refusal to eat. Owners can check their cat’s gums too – when healthy, the gums will be moist, but in dehydrated cats, the gums will be dry or tacky. Sunken eyes are an extreme indication that a cat is low on fluids.

There is a test owners can try to identify dehydration. They should gently lift a part of the skin around the shoulders and let it go. When healthy, the skin will snap back into place fairly quickly. If it’s slow, the cat will be at least partially dehydrated. If it remains raised, this indicates severe dehydration and veterinary intervention would be the suggested path of action.

It’s essential to note cats don’t need to drink high volumes of water to stay hydrated. Experts say 3.5 to 4.5 ounces of water per 5lb of body weight is enough. And even then, many cats don’t need to actively drink this water to meet their needs.

That’s because cats get most of their water content from their diet – provided they are eating either wet food or, ideally, raw food. These foods have a high water content and can contribute significantly to a cat’s daily needs. However, they don’t completely negate the need for a water bowl or fountain.

Because many cats are fed a diet of dry food for convenience, they need to drink more from a water bowl. And when the cat is particularly picky, a cat water fountain can become extremely useful – although they are a good option for all cats, not just those on a dry diet.

A cat water fountain is exactly how it sounds – it’s a miniature fountain that provides cats with fresh, flowing water to drink. And because the water constantly flows, it is oxygenized – fresh oxygen is added to it as it bubbles.

This makes the water taste much more refreshing and helps cool it. Because the water isn’t completely stagnant, it’s much more appealing to cats and encourages them to drink. Cats are fascinated with running water and are drawn to a fountain more than a simple water bowl.

Some cat water fountains are designed so the cat is still drinking from a pool rather than from the fountain itself – but it’s still more interesting to cats as the fountain and the movement of the water have freshened it up.

Cat water fountains are manufactured using different materials, with three primary options – ceramic, metal, and plastic.

Plastic fountains are the least recommended since they can often harbor bacteria. Plastic cat water fountains and other bowls are known as one of the leading causes of cat acne. They are the cheapest options, though.

Metal bowls – typically stainless steel – are solid and better from a bacteria perspective, but ceramic fountains are the more premium options. And because a ceramic pet fountain is heavier, they aren’t pushed around when cats drink from them.

Of course, being heavier, they can also be harder to clean.

While a cat water fountain is designed to encourage cats to drink more and avoid dehydration, it offers another benefit – many are filtered and can purify their water.

Fountains will typically have at least a basic filter to capture fur and other debris that falls into the fountain bowl. Cats aren’t the cleanest drinkers, and there’ll always be loose hairs, cat litter, or food crumbs that get into the fountain – the filter removes them as the water is cycled back through the fountain, helping to keep it fresh.

But more advanced models may purify the water more, encouraging cats to drink and removing bacteria.

One of the potential drawbacks of using a cat water fountain is the noise level they can sometimes generate.

Premium cat water fountains are better – they use pumps with a low noise level, so when switched on, there may only be a gentle hum in the background, along with the more pleasing sounds of splashing water from the fountain.

But cheaper cat water fountains, or those made poorly, will have a louder pump. And because picky cats already may not want to drink, the addition of rumbling noise from the fountain will only deter them even more.

Cat owners should switch on a cat water fountain when the cat isn’t around. The sudden noise of a pump kicking into action can spook the animal. Once the cat associates fear with the fountain, they may not want to drink from it.

Some cat water fountains are designed purely with the cat in mind. Others also consider the human element, including maintenance. They’ll have removable parts that may be dishwasher safe, so cleaning the fountain is much easier.

This is critical when trying to help a cat that doesn’t drink enough water. If the cat owner can’t easily keep the fountain working correctly and free of food debris and fur, then the cat isn’t going to be tempted and will still not be getting hydrated enough.

An effective filter that can be removed and emptied with ease, combined with a bowl that is simple to wash and remove any grime or residue, will make the owner’s life significantly more manageable and ensure the fountain is always providing fresh, tasty water that is more appealing to a picky cat.

Many cat water fountains are large enough to comfortably accommodate multiple cats simultaneously. Owners with more than one cat need to ensure the fountain is accessible to all cats since they may not be willing to wait their turn – which can undermine the attempts to convince a fussy cat to drink.

Larger fountains have the space and access points for more than one cat to drink at once. Some will even have multi-directional fountains so cats who enjoy lapping at the moving water aren’t fighting for the same spot.

The alternative would be to purchase multiple smaller cat water fountains to have available. When cats risk dehydration, it’s often a good idea to offer water in various locations around the home anyway – it reminds the cat of the option to drink. If it isn’t happy with the site of its main drinking bowl, it offers alternative spaces that may be quieter or less stressful.

The cost of a cat water fountain varies depending on the style of fountain chosen. A plastic fountain will be cheaper and may cost as little as $40-50, whereas the best cat fountains made from metal or ceramic can cost much more.

Owners also need to factor in the cost of any replacement filters. Some filters have a limited lifespan and must be swapped out once they’ve been used up. Buying a cat fountain may become a longer-term expense. However, it may be a worthwhile investment if it is purchased to help tackle potential dehydration issues.

Many cat owners buy a plastic cat fountain first to try it out. Not all cats will take to a water fountain, so buying a cheaper model first lets the cat get used to the idea. Once it proves popular, you can upgrade the water fountain to a premium model that won’t cause bacterial issues like acne.

Jenny is the founder of, a website dedicated to uniting (Ragdoll) cat lovers worldwide. Since 2008, Jenny’s no bull-crap and honest approach to cat care helps cat owners live more harmoniously with their kitties.