Many people ask about running their cat fountains without filters. Before addressing the use of cat fountains without filters, an explanation of the filters cat water fountains use is in order. Virtually every brand of cat water fountain comes with filtration devices. There is both mechanical filtration and chemical filtration. Don’t let that last term scare you. Chemical filtration is simply activated charcoal, or carbon, which absorbs impurities, helping to eliminate unpleasant odors and tastes. Because activated carbon is so good at absorbing toxins and impurities of all sorts, and ingesting it is free of risk, it is found in the emergency rooms of both veterinarian medical clinics as well as human hospitals. It’s a good purifier.
Mechanical filtration is simply a way of preventing pet hair and other debris from entering the pump. It is put in the flow of water between the main reservoir and the pump. In most brands of cat fountains, including ThirstyCat fountains, (the author of this post), the filtration device is a sponge filter which sits around the pump, virtually eliminating the possibility of any material from entering the pump, thus contributing both to the pump’s longevity and decreasing the need of internal pump cleaning. In most brands this must be replaced fairly often – every couple of months or sooner. (A ThirstyCat fountain foam filter lasts about two years.) Some brands don’t use a sponge filter but instead have a plastic screen between the reservoir and the pump which is supposed to catch the debris, and does, until it becomes clogged and then must simply be cleaned.
Most brands of cat water fountains include the carbon filters and the manufacturer recommends replacing them about every two to four weeks. ThirstyCats does not include a carbon filter because many people use spring or purified water and don’t need the carbon, which adds to the cost of the fountain. The carbon filters ThirstyCats offers for those who wish, cost about three times more than most brands and last eight to ten times longer. They also contain a higher grade of carbon – pelleted, high density, phosphorus-free.
But the question that sparked this post is about filter-less cat water fountains. All cat fountains will run without the filters. They do not assist in the mechanics of running the fountains. However, if the fountain has a lot of nooks and crevices in which debris can collect it will definitely want some sort of filtration else the fountains will become filled with slime and other undesirable materials difficult to clean from the fountain.
A Thirstycat fountain is simply designed, has no nooks and crevices and is easy to clean and runs perfectly without either the sponge (foam) filter or the carbon filter. Not using the foam simply means you need to clean inside the pump every couple of weeks instead of every couple of months, and in any case, it is included with every fountain. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t need to. And as said, you may or not need the carbon filter. If you have a lot of chlorine or other taste-affecting minerals in your water or if your cat is frequently bringing food or other organic matter into the fountain you will probably want it.