Should You Let Your Cat Drink from Water Fountains? The Pros and Cons


Many cat owners wonder if water fountains are healthier for their cats compared to regular water bowls. Water fountains provide constantly circulating water, which can encourage cats to drink more. Since cats have a low thirst drive and are susceptible to dehydration, water fountains may help increase their water intake. This article compares water fountains to standard water bowls to help cat owners decide which is the healthier option for hydrating their feline friends.

Encourage Drinking

Cats tend not to drink enough water which can lead to health issues like urinary tract infections and kidney disease. This is because their instincts tell them standing water may be unsafe or contaminated. Running water from a fountain is more enticing and encourages more drinking. According to WebMD, the flowing motion and sound of fountains often attracts cats to drink more. Some cats even prefer the taste of running water. A study discussed on found that cats drink about the same amount from bowls versus fountains, but many cat owners report their cats drinking significantly more from fountains.


Unlike traditional water bowls, cat fountains filter the water, which helps keep it cleaner for drinking. As this source explains, water left stagnant in a bowl can collect dust, pet hair, and other debris over time. Unfiltered water may also start to develop an unpleasant taste from bacteria growth, which can deter some cats from drinking. Fountain filters work to remove impurities and improve the taste, ensuring the water stays fresh. They can filter out minerals, odors, and also help inhibit bacterial growth. Most fountains have replaceable charcoal filters that need to be swapped out regularly per the manufacturer’s instructions.


Water fountains keep the water circulating and aerating, which helps keep it fresher for longer compared to standing water. As the water circulates through the fountain, it passes through a filter and becomes oxygenated. According to [Closerpets](, this circulation helps keep the water 1-2 degrees cooler than a regular bowl. The constant movement prevents the growth of bacteria, mold, and algae that can occur in stagnant water.

[Rover]( also notes that circulating water is more appealing and enticing for cats to drink. The sound and motion of flowing water attracts their attention. By keeping the water fresh and oxygenated, a cat fountain promotes ongoing hydration throughout the day.


Water fountains provide more convenience for cat owners compared to traditional water bowls. Fountains generally have a larger water capacity and reservoir that holds more water. For example, the ZeePet Stainless Steel Cat Water Fountain holds up to 3.5 liters of water, reducing the need for frequent refilling ( Some fountains also come equipped with sensors that detect when the cat is near and begin circulating fresh water. This convenience feature ensures the cat always has access to cool, flowing water without the owner needing to constantly monitor and refill the fountain.


Proper hydration is critical for supporting kidney and urinary tract health in cats. Dehydration is a common complication of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and can lead to lethargy, weakness, and constipation (Source). Canned food, even if not made specifically for kidney disease, provides significant hydration benefits compared to dry food. The extra fluid intake helps dilute toxins and flush the kidneys (Source). For cats with CKD, administering subcutaneous fluids corrects dehydration and makes the cat feel better by reducing the excessive urination associated with kidney disease (Source). Keeping your cat properly hydrated with wet food, a fountain, fluids, or other sources helps maintain kidney and urinary tract function.


While water fountains have benefits, there are some considerations pet owners should be aware of. Fountains tend to be more expensive than regular water bowls, with costs ranging from $20 to over $100 depending on features. They also require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep fresh and prevent buildup of bacteria and mold (PetMD, 2022).

Some cats may ignore the fountain entirely and prefer to drink from a regular bowl. It may take time and experimenting with different fountains for your cat to start using one. Cats can be particular about the location, noise level, and flow of water from the fountain (Litter-Robot, 2021). Pay attention to your cat’s preferences. Additionally, some fountains may splash water outside the basin or leak, creating a mess.


When transitioning your cat from a water bowl to a fountain, go slow. Place the fountain near their food bowl to start. Over several days, gradually move the fountain further away. This allows them to get comfortable drinking from it in a familiar location before having it in a new spot.

If your cat seems hesitant about the fountain at first, try different styles. Some cats prefer fountains with a flower design, others like a cascading stream style. Offering multiple fountain options can help them find one they feel safe with.

Be patient, as some cats take weeks to adapt to a fountain. Make sure to keep their old water bowl available too during the transition. With time and positive encouragement, most cats will come to see the fountain as their new water source.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing between a water fountain or bowl for your cat, there are pros and cons to consider for each option.

Water fountains provide constantly circulating water, which many cats prefer over stagnant water in a bowl. The flowing water encourages cats to drink more, helping to promote hydration and urinary tract health. Additionally, fountains filter the water to keep it cleaner and fresher. However, fountains do require more maintenance like regular cleaning and filter changes. They also take up more space and use electricity.

Bowls are simple and convenient. But water can quickly become stale, and some cats don’t drink enough from bowls. Stagnant water may also collect bacteria and particulates faster.

Overall, while a bit more expensive up front, a fountain is usually the healthier option if it succeeds in getting your cat to drink more water regularly. The benefits of better hydration and filtration generally outweigh the extra cost and maintenance. However, bowls can also be a fine option, especially if your cat seems perfectly happy drinking from one.

When choosing a fountain, look for dishwasher-safe parts, quiet operation, and filters that are affordable and easy to replace. Place it in an easily accessible area. For bowls, ceramic and stainless steel are durable, easy to clean materials. Change the water daily to keep it fresher. Try elevated bowls as an alternative if your cat has trouble bending down to lap.

As always, observe your individual cat’s preferences. The healthiest option is the one that your cat will use consistently.


American Kennel Club. (2017). How Often Should You Wash Your Dog’s Water Bowl?

Banfield Pet Hospital. (n.d.). Is It Better for Cats to Drink Water from a Bowl or Fountain?

Hill’s Pet Nutrition. (n.d.). Cat Water Fountains: Better Hydration for Your Cat.

PawTracks. (2020). The Pros and Cons of Water Fountains for Cats.

PetMD. (n.d.). Do Cats Need Fountains or Filtered Water?

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