Water Bowls vs Fountains. Which is Best for Keeping Cats Hydrated?

The Importance of Proper Hydration for Cats

Cats need a healthy amount of water to maintain their health and wellbeing. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, when cats don’t get enough water, they are at risk for developing urinary and kidney problems later in life.

In the wild, cats get most of their moisture from the food they eat. But domestic cats eat dry food, which contains only <10% moisture. This means they need to drink water regularly throughout the day.

When it comes to providing water for cats, pet owners have two main options – bowls or fountains. Bowls are the traditional choice, but fountains circulate and filter the water. Understanding the pros and cons of each can help owners make the best choice for their feline companions.

Hydration Needs for Cats

Cats require adequate daily water intake to stay hydrated and healthy. According to research, the typical daily water intake recommendation for cats is approximately 3.5-4.5 ounces (about 1⁄2 cup) per 5 pounds of body weight. A 10-pound cat on a dry food diet should get about 1 cup of water per day.

Dehydration can lead to serious health issues in cats. When cats don’t get enough water, they are at risk of developing kidney disease, constipation, urinary tract infections, and other problems. Severe dehydration requires immediate veterinary treatment.

Certain factors influence a cat’s hydration needs. Kittens and senior cats need more water relative to their body weight. Cats eating a dry food diet require more water than those eating wet food, which has higher moisture content. Hot temperatures, pregnancy, nursing, and illness can all increase a cat’s necessary water intake.

Pros and Cons of Bowls

Using a regular bowl for your cat’s water has some advantages and disadvantages to consider:


  • Bowls are typically very affordable and easy to find.
  • They are simple to clean and maintain – just wash occasionally with soap and water.
  • Replacing them is easy if they get damaged.


  • Water in bowls can become stale and develop bacteria if not changed frequently (at least daily).
  • Bowls can collect dirt, hair, and other debris.
  • Some cats may push bowls around causing spills.
  • Water level goes down as cat drinks requiring frequent refills.

Overall, regular bowls are an inexpensive and convenient option, but require more maintenance and cleaning to keep water fresh.

Pros and Cons of Fountains

Fountains provide flowing water, which many cats prefer over stagnant water in a bowl. The motion and sound of flowing water encourages cats to drink more. According to one source, “The gently flowing water attracts their attention and entices them to drink” (The Mummy Toolbox). Increased water consumption can help with urinary tract health.

Fountains incorporate filters to help remove particles and keep the water clean. The filters need to be replaced periodically, but this helps prevent the buildup of slime, dirt, and hair that can occur in standing water. Clean water will smell and taste better to cats, making them more likely to drink (PetAssure).

Compared to bowls, fountains do carry some downsides. The motorized pumps make fountains more expensive to purchase initially. Fountains also require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep the water fresh. The filters, pumps, and bowls all need washing on a weekly basis. For some owners, this can be a hassle compared to just refilling a bowl (Litter-Robot).

Drinking Preferences

Research on whether cats prefer bowls or fountains is mixed. One small study found cats will drink the same amount from bowls as from fountains (https://www.rover.com/blog/are-cat-water-fountains-good/). However, many cat owners report their cats drinking more from fountains, likely because running water is perceived as fresher (https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/how-to-choose-a-cat-fountain).

Individual preferences play a big role based on each cat’s personality. Some cats are more attracted to moving water and fascinated by fountains. Shy or skittish cats may prefer the familiarity of a bowl. Kittens and older cats with dental issues often prefer fountains. Monitoring your cat’s water intake can help determine if a fountain increases consumption.

In general, fountains provide benefits like encouraging hydration and dental health. But ultimately, choosing between bowls or fountains depends on your cat’s interests. Try introducing a fountain and see if your cat is enticed by the running water. That will give you the best sense of their preference.

Owner Convenience

When it comes to ease of use, both bowls and fountains have their pros and cons. Bowls are very simple – just rinse and refill as needed. However, they may need frequent refilling and can collect dirt at the bottom. Fountains generally hold more water so require less frequent refilling, but the pump and filter will need regular cleaning according to manufacturer instructions. For example, the Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain needs weekly filter changes and monthly thorough cleanings (Source).

In terms of costs, basic bowls are very affordable, often under $10. More elaborate fountains with filters and circulating water can cost $40 or more. Replacement filters will be an ongoing expense with fountains. However, as some cat owners note, the upfront investment may save money in the long run by preventing health issues caused by chronic dehydration.

Ultimately there are reasonable arguments on both sides regarding convenience. Bowls are simpler day-to-day, but fountains may require less frequent refilling and cleaning. Fountains have higher upfront and ongoing costs, but may provide health benefits that save expenses down the road. Cat owners should weigh their own preferences, budget, and ability to keep up with fountain maintenance.

Health Benefits of Water Fountains for Cats

Using a water fountain can provide several health benefits for cats compared to a standard water bowl:

Improved kidney function – Drinking more water helps flush toxins through the kidneys and prevent issues like kidney disease. Cats with kidney problems are often advised to use a fountain to increase hydration.1

Reduced UTIs – Increased water consumption helps dilute the concentration of bacteria and flush the urinary tract. This can lower the risk of recurring UTIs in susceptible cats.2

Prevention of bladder stones – Staying hydrated allows crystals to pass easier through the urinary tract instead of accumulating to form stones. Veterinarians may recommend a fountain to minimize stone risk.

Reduced dental disease – The flowing water helps prevent buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth compared to stagnant bowl water.

Overall wellbeing – Proper hydration supports all body systems and can prevent issues associated with chronic mild dehydration.

Veterinarians often recommend cat fountains as a way to increase water intake for cats who don’t drink enough or are prone to urinary tract disorders. The constant availability of fresh, oxygenated water encourages cats to drink more frequently throughout the day.

Choosing the Right Option

When deciding between a water bowl or fountain for your cat, consider factors like their age, medical needs, and preferences. Kittens and senior cats may have an easier time with a fountain since the water flows more gently. Cats with medical conditions like kidney disease can benefit from a fountain’s increased hydration. Observe if your cat seems to prefer still or moving water. Some cats are set in their ways and like routine.

If transitioning from a bowl, introduce the fountain gradually next to their bowl. Try feeding wet food on the edge of the fountain to encourage drinking from it. Place the fountain in an easily accessible spot. Clean and refill it frequently at first so the change is less drastic. Over a week or two, remove the bowl so they adjust. Every cat has unique tastes, so remain flexible to find what works best.

According to research from Zooplus, kittens and elderly cats often prefer fountains since the water flows gently without requiring as much effort to drink. Consult your veterinarian if your cat has medical issues like kidney disease, as the increased hydration from a fountain can be beneficial.

Best Products for Cats

There are some excellent cat bowls and fountains on the market to choose from. According to reviews from The New York Times, the Catit Flower Fountain is the top pick for cats. This fountain features a triple-action free-falling stream that oxygenates the water and encourages drinking. It has a large 70 fl. oz capacity, carbon filter, and flower-shaped design cats enjoy. The fountain is easy to clean and BPA-free.

For bowls, pet owners recommend the Catit Double Diner. This bowl has 2 separate sections so cats can have fresh food and water in easy reach without contamination. It’s made of crystal clear molded plastic with an anti-skid rubber base. Reviewers praise the bowl’s durability and say it’s easy to clean.

The PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda fountain is a splurge top pick according to The Spruce Pets. This ceramic fountain has dual free-falling streams, a large 70 oz capacity, and carbon filter. It operates quietly and looks stylish in the home. Other high-end options are the PETKIT Eversweet 3 in 1 fountain which features app connectivity for monitoring, and the premium Pioneer Pet Raindrop fountain made of stainless steel.

For kittens and smaller cats, the PetSafe Drinkwell Mini is a good compact and affordable option. It features a gentle waterfall stream, small 50 oz capacity, and carbon filter. The fountain is made of BPA-free plastic. Easy to clean bowl fountains like the Veken Pet Fountain and Petsafe Drinkwell Platinum fountain are also good for small cats.


In summary, both water bowls and fountains have their advantages and disadvantages for cats. Bowls are more affordable and convenient for owners, while fountains provide continuously flowing water that encourages hydration. Fountains may be preferable for cats prone to urinary or kidney issues, as the flowing water mimics natural drinking sources. However, any cat can benefit from a fountain if they don’t seem to drink enough from a regular bowl.

For kittens, pregnant or nursing cats, those with medical conditions, and cats that consume dry food, a fountain is recommended to promote adequate hydration. Bowls are fine for healthy adult cats without known issues, as long as the water is changed frequently. Try testing your cat with both options to see which one they prefer. Place multiple bowls or fountains around your home to make water easily accessible.

While more expensive upfront, fountains have health advantages that make them a wise investment for cats. But even a quality ceramic bowl kept clean and full is better than nothing. The most important thing is providing fresh, appealing water sources that encourage your cat to drink.

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