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How to Choose a Cat Fountain

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 09, 2021

Cats are naturally drawn to running water since they see it as fresher than water in a bowl. Cat fountains are a fun way to entertain your cat, but make sure you choose the right one. Decorative fountains are not meant for pets. They can be unsafe and lead to your cat getting hurt. 

Cats and Water Bowls

Natural instincts. Domesticated cats will drink from a water bowl, but they often don't like standing water. Cats think standing water isn’t safe. Running water looks fresher to a cat.

Suspicious nature. If you keep your cat’s water bowl in a corner, they may feel uneasy with their back towards a large space. Cats are very observant and like to know what's going on around them. Even if you don’t have other pets, your cat’s nature is to be aware in case of attacks. 

Seeing both sides. Even though your cat is drawn to running water, some studies suggest that domesticated cats don’t show a preference for fountain water over bowl water. Before purchasing a water fountain for your cat, remember that when the “new” wears off, it may just be a fancy water bowl for your cat.

How Cat Fountains Work

Cat fountains can be simple or elaborate, but they all work in essentially the same way. You place water in the fountain and it is filtered through a series of tubes to give your cat the feeling they are drinking fresh running water. 

Benefits of a fountain. You may notice your cat is drawn to the sink when you wash your hands. They may drink the water or paw at the stream. Either way, running water is interesting to cats. A fountain may cut down on mess around your sink since the running water is confined to one area for your cat. 

If you’re concerned that your cat isn’t drinking enough, a fountain may be the answer. The sound of running water may entice your cat to drink more often, improving their overall health.

How to Choose the Right Cat Fountain

Make sure that your fountain is approved for use around pets. Fountains with more fancy decorations may not have the same safety features, leaving your cat at risk for harm.  

Know what you’re looking for. Do you want something small, simple, and easy to operate? Do you prefer a more elaborate fountain that has settings and controls? Fountains vary greatly by feature, design, and price range. 

If you’re already cramped for space, a smaller fountain may be better. If you have lots of cats, a larger fountain may be needed.

Test the fountain first. All fountains will have a certain noise level while water is running, but some have loud noises because of the pumping needed to move water. Here are some important things to check when testing a water fountain:

  • Does the quality change when the fountain is low on water? 
  • Does it shut off occasionally or continue running? 
  • Does it make loud sounds when water levels are low?
  • Is there a timer setting?
  • Do you think the design could harm your cat?
  • Can your cat reach the water easily?
  • Is the fountain easy to clean? 

Cost of cat fountains. Fountains range in price from $20 to over $100. Some fountains have filters that need to be cleaned or changed regularly. Although some fountains plug into the wall, others require batteries. Consider this added cost when deciding on a fountain. 

Remember that purchasing a larger fountain doesn’t mean you can leave the water without changing it. Water in large fountains needs to be changed just as often as the water in a standing bowl.

Train Your Cat to Use a Fountain

Take it slow. Your cat may be confused by this new device in their home at first. Don’t take their old water bowl right away. Instead, leave the fountain out for your cat to sniff when you bring it home. Then add water, but don’t turn the fountain on yet. This gives your cat a chance to get used to their new fountain.

When you feel like your cat is ready, turn on the fountain. They may be skittish but give them a little time. Allow your cat to approach the fountain on their own instead of being forced to use it. 

Provide supervision. Never leave your cat unattended while the fountain is on. Watch for signs that your cat is overwhelmed by their new fountain. If your cat is overstimulated by the noise, they may exhibit signs of being scared:

  • Cowering
  • Laying their ears back
  • Hunching their back
  • Meowing loudly
  • Acting defensively

If your cat is nervous around their fountain, turn it off and put it away. Try again at a different time.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Animal Medical Center: “Holiday Gifts for Your Pets.”

HUMANE SOCIETY: “Fettered felines: Take your cat for a walk outside.”

Journal of Veterinary Behavior: "Comparison of feline water consumption between still and flowing water sources: A pilot study."

New York Times: “The Best Water Fountain for Cats and Dogs.”

Vetstreet: “Why Does My Cat... Drink From Weird Places Like the Faucet or the Bathtub?”

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