Do Cats Prefer Bowls Or Fountains?


Cats are unique pet companions with specific needs when it comes to their hydration. As a cat owner, ensuring your furry friend stays adequately hydrated is a top priority. This article explores the question of whether cats prefer drinking from bowls or fountains. We’ll examine the benefits and potential drawbacks of each option, look at cat drinking behaviors, and provide advice from veterinarians and experienced cat owners. The goal is to understand the key factors in a cat’s drinking preferences so owners can make the best choice for their pets’ health and happiness.

History of Cat Drinking Vessels

Cats have come a long way in terms of the vessels used for their water over the centuries. In the past, cats would often drink water from saucers or other makeshift containers. But these were not ideal, as they allowed debris and bacteria to collect in the water. By the 20th century, purpose-built cat bowls became standard, which kept the water cleaner.

More recently, water fountains designed specifically for cats have emerged as another option. Water fountains provide a continuous flow of fresh, circulating water. The moving water entices cats to drink more since stagnant water does not appeal to their natural instincts. Fountains are considered healthier as the water stays fresher. But bowls are still very common, as they have been for decades.

Benefits of Bowls

Bowls have been around for centuries as the standard water vessel for pets. They continue to remain popular today for several good reasons:

Widely Available – Bowls can be purchased at virtually any pet supply store, grocery store or online retailer that sells pet products. Their ubiquity and mass production makes bowls very easy to find and purchase. Pet owners do not have to hunt around for bowls, as they are a basic staple sold everywhere.

Affordable – Basic pet bowls are quite affordable, often costing $5 or less. Even higher quality ceramic and stainless steel bowls designed for durability and easy cleaning rarely cost more than $20-30. Because they are mass produced and use minimal material, bowls have remained an budget-friendly option for pet owners through the years.

Easy to Clean – Bowls tend to have simple shapes and smooth surfaces, making them easy to clean with soap and water. Owners can use scrub brushes to clean bowls thoroughly. Bowls without cracks or crevices leave little place for bacteria to grow. Daily cleaning and replacement ensures fresh, sanitary water.

Downsides of Bowls

Bowls have some significant downsides that pet owners should consider. One major issue is that water in bowls can become stagnant over time. The still water provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, algae, and fungus ( As cats drink from stagnant bowls repeatedly, they ingest contaminants that can make them sick. Bowls require vigilant cleaning and refilling to try to avoid this problem.

Another downside of bowls is the unnatural lapping motion cats use to drink from them. The lapping causes cats’ teeth to scrape against the hard surface. Over time, this can lead to dental issues like worn enamel or sensitive teeth ( The scraping motion also kicks up food particles in the water, which cats then ingest. This contributes to plaque buildup. Fountains provide a healthier drinking method that doesn’t have these dental side effects.

Benefits of Fountains

One of the main benefits of cat fountains is that they provide pets with a constant source of fresh, flowing water. This encourages cats to drink more, as the water is cooler and tastes fresher compared to water that has been sitting stagnant in a bowl. Cats tend to prefer drinking moving water, similar to streams and puddles outdoors, so a fountain replicates that natural drinking experience. Research shows that increased water intake can help prevent urinary tract infections and problems in cats. According to one source, the circulating water in a fountain also receives more oxygen, which improves taste.

Additionally, fountains have a larger water capacity than regular bowls, so they require less frequent refilling. The continuous flow and larger volume mean a fountain can serve multiple pets in a household. Owners appreciate the convenience of not having to constantly refill water bowls throughout the day.

Downsides of Fountains

While cat water fountains have many benefits, they do come with some downsides to consider as well. The most notable downside is that fountains tend to be more expensive upfront compared to simple water bowls. A quality cat fountain often costs $20-50, whereas basic bowls can be purchased very cheaply. The higher cost can be a barrier for some cat owners.

Fountains also require more cleaning and maintenance than regular bowls. The pump, tubing, and filter need to be cleaned regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Pet guides recommend cleaning a cat fountain once a week (Litter Robot). This cleaning takes time and effort on the part of the owner. With a regular bowl, fresh water only needs to be poured in daily.

Some other potential downsides are that fountains can be noisy, take up more floor space, and technical problems can develop over time. Overall, the higher costs and maintenance requirements are the biggest cons to weigh when deciding between a fountain or bowl.

Cat Drinking Behavior

Cats have unique drinking behaviors compared to other pets. Cats lap water with their tongues very quickly, sometimes taking just a few laps per drink. This is an evolutionary advantage to avoid dangerous predators. Cats lap water at a speed of 4 laps per second, with each lap bringing in 0.1 ml of water.

Proper hydration is extremely important for cats. Water makes up about 70% of a cat’s body weight. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues like kidney disease and urinary tract infections. Monitoring your cat’s water intake can help identify potential illnesses early. Any significant increase or decrease in drinking should be discussed with a vet.

Cats prefer fresh, clean water. Some dislike drinking water near their food, so having multiple water bowls around the house can encourage drinking. Providing a water fountain with circulating water may entice picky cats. Ultimately each cat has unique preferences when it comes to hydration.

Owner Experiences

Many cat owners prefer fountains over bowls due to the benefits of encouraging more water intake. As one cat owner said, “I got a fountain for my cat after she had a urinary tract infection. The vet said getting her to drink more would help prevent another infection. She loves the fountain and drinks so much more now!” (source:

However, some cats are wary of the fountain’s running water at first. “When I first got a cat fountain, my cat wouldn’t go near it. But after a few days he got curious and tried it out. Now he loves it and drinks from it all the time.” (source:

Many owners who have tried both say the fountain keeps the water cleaner. “I kept having to change my cat’s bowl water multiple times a day because of cat hair and dust. The fountain filters the water so it stays cleaner longer.” (source:

Vet Recommendations

Veterinarians generally recommend providing cats with easy access to fresh, clean water at all times. This helps promote proper hydration and urinary tract health.

According to Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert, “cats should drink 50 ml of water per kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day.” He notes that water fountains can encourage drinking by providing a continuous source of oxygenated, flowing water that mimics natural drinking sources.

Veterinarians caution against letting water sit for too long, as bacteria and biofilm can accumulate quickly. Bowls should be washed daily, while fountains should be cleaned and filters changed regularly per manufacturer instructions. Stagnant water sources can cause health issues.

Dr. Jean Hofve, holistic veterinarian and founder of Spirit Essences recommends, “Use stainless steel, ceramic or glass. Avoid plastic, which can harbor bacteria and chemicals that may leach out over time. Place multiple bowls around the home.”

Ultimately veterinarians suggest providing cats with easy access to fresh water in clean vessels, and monitoring intake and urination daily. Increased thirst or changes in urine volume warrant a vet visit to check for potential health issues.


In summary, both bowls and fountains have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to providing water for cats. Bowls are more traditional and familiar, as well as being simple and inexpensive. However, stagnant water in bowls can collect bacteria and debris. Fountains provide a constant supply of filtered, circulating water, which is more appealing and healthier for cats. But fountains have a higher upfront cost, require cleaning and maintenance, and some cats may be hesitant to drink from running water.

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer on which cats prefer. It depends on the individual cat’s personality and tendencies. Some cats are perfectly content drinking from a bowl, while others prefer the fresh taste and movement of fountain water. Owners should observe their cat’s drinking habits and preferences to determine if a fountain is warranted or if a bowl will suffice. Vets typically recommend fountains for optimal hydration, but bowls can also be suitable if cleaned frequently. The key is providing easy access to fresh, clean water that the cat will be motivated to drink.

In the end, cat owners should aim to provide abundant water options to promote hydration. This may mean offering both a fountain and bowl, placing water sources in multiple locations, and paying attention to your cat’s desires. As long as your cat is drinking adequate amounts of water and staying properly hydrated, both bowls and fountains can be appropriate vessels.

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