Stop Slime in Its Tracks. 3 Ways to Prevent Biofilm in Your Cat’s Water Fountain


Biofilm is a thin, slimy film that can form on the inside of cat water fountains. It is created when bacteria adhere to the fountain’s surface and begin to colonize and produce extracellular polymeric substances that create the slimy substance. Preventing biofilm buildup is crucial for cats’ health because biofilm can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. If a cat drinks from a fouled water fountain, they can develop gastrointestinal illnesses or infections. Biofilm also creates an unpleasant odor and bad taste which may cause cats to drink less water, leading to dehydration. Regular cleaning and proper care of cat fountains is important to inhibit biofilm growth and keep the water fresh and appealing to pets.

Choosing the Right Fountain

The material and design of your cat’s water fountain can impact how easily biofilm develops. Plastic fountains tend to allow more biofilm buildup compared to ceramic, stainless steel, or glass models (Is Your Cat Water Fountain Slimy?). Ceramic fountains with a smooth glaze are ideal since they inhibit bacterial growth and are easy to clean. Stainless steel is also a good option as it resists corrosion and does not absorb odors or flavors (Pet Fountain Slime – The Good News).

When choosing a fountain, opt for a large capacity, wide basin design. Narrow tubes or spouts allow slimy buildup and clogs. Make sure the fountain is easy to take apart and has accessible nooks and crannies for thorough cleaning. Simple, open designs without lots of corners or crevices make cleaning easier. Also ensure replacement filters are readily available (tired of cleaning slime from your plastic pet fountain).

Consider your cat’s preferences too. Some cats prefer a bubbling drinking fountain while others like calm, still water. Cats that gulp their water may do better with a gentle waterfall flow from a raised source. Provide at least one fountain per cat in multi-cat households to prevent competition. Place fountains away from food bowls to keep the water cleaner.

Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is crucial for preventing biofilm buildup in your cat’s water fountain. The general recommendation is to clean the fountain at least once a week. Some experts suggest cleaning it every 3-4 days for fountains that are used heavily. The actual cleaning process involves disconnecting all parts of the fountain, washing each piece with hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly, and allowing to air dry before reassembling (PetCo, 2017). It’s important to scrub off any visible biofilm, as this is where bacteria can thrive.

When cleaning the fountain, be sure to get into every nook and cranny. Pay close attention to areas around the pump and filter, as these tend to accumulate the most gunk. Use a bottle brush or pipe cleaner to get into tight spaces. Avoid using harsh chemical cleaners, abrasive scrubs or bleach, as these can degrade the plastic and defeat the purpose of routine cleaning (Whisker City, 2022).

Some pet owners opt to clean the fountain filter more frequently than the whole unit, such as every 2-3 days. This helps remove particulate matter before it clogs up the filter. Rinsing just the filter between full cleanings can extend the life of the pump and other parts (Reddit, 2022).

Overall, the takeaway is that regular, thorough cleaning is the best way to prevent biofilm accumulation in your cat’s water fountain. Be vigilant about cleaning at least weekly and consider more frequent filter rinses for a healthier drinking experience.

Using Filtered Water

Using filtered water in your cat’s fountain can help prevent biofilm buildup. Tap water contains minerals, contaminants, and other particles that can provide nutrients for biofilm growth. Filtered water has many of these impurities removed through a filtration process like reverse osmosis or carbon filtration.

Research shows that filtered water tends to resist the development of biofilm better than unfiltered tap water. The lack of nutrients in filtered water starves potential biofilm and inhibits its ability to spread in the fountain ( Using a filtered water source for refilling your cat’s fountain removes one of the key factors promoting slimy biofilm growth.

It’s recommended to use filtered or bottled water in your cat’s fountain if possible. This provides a less hospitable environment for biofilm while also giving your cat cleaner and better tasting water. Be sure to follow the fountain manufacturer’s guidelines on water type as well.

Location Matters

When deciding where to place your cat’s water fountain, opt for a spot away from direct sunlight or heating vents. Excessive heat promotes the growth of biofilm and bacteria. According to Laika Pets, it’s best to place the fountain in a shaded area of your home. Avoid setting it near windows where the sun’s rays can heat the water. Basements or bathrooms often offer cooler spots ideal for fountains.

Additionally, choose an out-of-the way location that will limit contamination. High traffic areas where pets, kids, or dust could introduce germs are not recommended. Place the fountain in a quiet corner without frequent activity. This helps prevent foreign particles from getting into the water. An optimal placement is elevated, like on a counter or shelf, to discourage pets walking near it.

Sanitizing Solutions

To prevent biofilm buildup in a cat’s water fountain, it’s important to use an effective sanitizing solution when cleaning the fountain. Veterinarians recommend using a mild bleach solution for plastic fountains, mixing 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Let the fountain soak for 5-10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with clean water ( For ceramic or stainless steel fountains, vinegar or lemon juice can be used as a natural sanitizer. Mix equal parts vinegar or lemon juice with water, soak the fountain for 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse clean.

Look for cat fountain cleaners that contain ingredients like sodium percarbonate or citric acid, as these break down biofilm effectively. You can find cleaners specifically formulated for pet fountains at pet stores or online retailers ( When using any cleaning product on a cat fountain, be sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards so no chemical residues remain.

Sanitizing cat fountains regularly, about once a week, can help prevent excessive biofilm accumulation. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning methods for your specific fountain.

The Right Diet

A cat’s diet can play an important role in preventing biofilm buildup. Dry, crunchy kibbles help scrape plaque and tartar off teeth during eating, which also helps disrupt biofilm formation in the mouth. According to one source, a study found that kibble fed cats had less plaque and gingivitis compared to canned food fed cats.

Feeding a nutritionally balanced cat food designed to support urinary tract health may also help inhibit biofilm growth. Some veterinarians recommend catheter food for cats prone to urinary issues, as the controlled magnesium and pH levels create an environment less favorable to bacteria growth. Reducing carbohydrates and fillers in cat food can also minimize biofilm formation.

Additionally, staying hydrated supports a healthy urinary tract. Feeding wet food with high moisture content, or adding water to dry food, can encourage proper hydration. With adequate water intake, cats will urinate more regularly, helping flush bacteria from the system before substantial biofilm develops.

Routine Fountain Replacement

Replacing the entire fountain every 2-3 years is recommended for optimal hygiene and performance according to Over time, minerals, debris, and biofilm buildup can degrade plastic and ceramic materials, making thorough cleaning difficult and providing an environment for bacteria to grow.

Look for signs of cloudy or discolored water, slimy buildup, strange odors, low water flow, or mold/mildew. These are indicators that biofilm and bacteria have taken hold in tiny cracks and crevices. At this point, a deep clean may not resolve the issues and full replacement is likely needed.

While fountains can last over 5 years with proper maintenance, replacing them routinely after a few years helps prevent more rapid deterioration and potential health issues. Consider setting a reminder to purchase a new fountain every 2-3 years. Investing in a new fountain ensures your cat has a hygienic, bacteria-free drinking source.

Signs of Biofilm Buildup

There are a few key signs to look out for to determine if biofilm is building up in your cat’s water fountain (Glacier Point):

Cloudy or murky water that smells bad is one obvious indicator. Biofilm often has a filmy, slimy texture and appearance. You may see strand-like formations in the fountain or residue on the sides of the bowl.

If you notice the fountain flow seems clogged or reduced, that could mean biofilm buildup inside the tubing. Hard water stains that are difficult to remove can also signal biofilm presence.

Your cat drinking less water from the fountain or seeming reluctant to use it can be a sign of off-putting biofilm odor or taste. Aggressive licking around the mouth after drinking may indicate biofilm residue.

Routine cleaning and maintenance will help spot early signs before major biofilm accumulation. But frequent cleaning alone may not prevent biofilm, depending on fountain material and quality.


To prevent biofilm buildup in your cat’s water fountain, the most important steps are choosing the right fountain made of antibacterial materials, cleaning the fountain regularly according to manufacturer instructions, using filtered water, keeping the fountain in a convenient location for your cat, and sanitizing with solutions designed to inhibit biofilm formation. Replacing plastic parts routinely, feeding your cat a nutritious diet, and replacing the entire fountain every 3-6 months will also help prevent slime accumulation.

Look for signs of biofilm like cloudy water or slime around the fountain. Stay vigilant about cleaning and sanitizing to provide your cat with a healthy drinking station.

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