EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW
Many veterinarians now recommend cat water fountains to help maintain our cats’ health. This article addresses every issue concerning cat water fountains and cats’ water needs, the illnesses to which cats are prone and the role water fountains play in this, what to look for in a cat water fountain – and we give reviews of the top brands with videos of what’s involved in cleaning them.
We also address where are the best and worst locations to place your cat water fountains – a surprisingly important consideration, and we provide tips to be sure your cats take to the fountains.
There is a lot to read here but if you read this through you will learn everything you need to know about cats’ water requirements and about cat water fountains.
But why are cat water fountains so important? Very simply because drinking a sufficient amount of water is vital to a cat’s health and cat fountains are almost guaranteed to get cats to drink more water. Most people don’t think of water as a nutrient but none of the nutrients a cat ingests will get to where they need to go without water, so in a very real sense, cats water intake is at the foundation of all their nutrition.
Water also transports oxygen through the blood stream and into the cells, it moisturizes the lungs, regulates body temperature and helps eliminate waste products of metabolism through the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Cats’ water intake, when sufficient, contributes to elastic skin and a shiny coat. Signs of good health.
A diminished thirst drive that some cats seem to show may be due to having come, evolutionarily, from a desert environment but more often than not it derives from unattractive water sources, (ie., standing water in a bowl). If fed wet food, cats’ water needs will be much diminished but not entirely and an attractive water source is still advised for cats water intake to be sufficient. If dry food is a cat’s primary diet, a cat water fountain is even more vitally necessary.
What are the actual physical ailments that insufficient water intake can cause and a cat water fountain can prevent?
There are several kidney and urinary tract diseases to which cats are prone, associated with insufficient water intake. One of the more serious diseases to which cats and other pets are subject is called Urethral Obstruction. Many cats are prone to a blockage in their urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder, which can lead to a very serious condition and can, and often does result in death.
The obstruction is a thick, pasty substance called Urethral Plug, or Matrix, but how and why some cats produce it is not known. It is thought that diet is a factor, as can be stress but what is known to prevent the disease is increased water intake. That is also part of the cure.
If there isn’t enough water available, or no attractive sources of water a cat may not drink enough. This leads to a very concentrated urine and it is in this that the matrix tends to develop. Sufficient water intake – ie., a water source to which cats are attracted and from which they’ll drink can prevent this. This is the primary role a cat water fountain plays.
Veterinarian Dr. Lynn Bahr of the Cat Clinic in Roswell, GA has this to say: “Cats lack depth perception when looking at a bowl of water and it may be difficult for them to detect how much water is in the bowl at any time. They keenly hear the sound of running water which attracts them to it and allows them to gauge exactly where to drink from and the moving water is much easier to see. Instinctually, cats sense that standing water could be contaminated making running water a safer alternative. Finally, moving water is oxygenated and may even taste better. Cats are complicated creatures and not always easy to understand but we do know many don’t drink enough water, especially if fed a dry only diet. Anything that encourages them to drink more and stay properly hydrated will improve their health and water fountains are a great way to entice them to do so.”
Symptoms to be aware of with urinary blockage are:
Straining repeatedly in the litter box (often mistaken for constipation)
Crying or howling for no apparent reason or other expressions of distress
Licking in the vicinity of the genitals or below the base of the tail
Unusual anti-social behavior
In advanced cases when the cat has not been able to urinate for twenty four hours or more, he will be in extreme pain, clearly ill and close to death. Get him to a vet immediately.
Before reviewing the brands of cat water fountains there are two considerations useful to address: 1) Where the fountain is to be placed in your home, and 2) What attributes every cat fountain should have.
Before you decide which cat water fountain to purchase, determine where in your house it will go, both from an aesthetic perspective as well as for practical considerations.
The fountain should not be near the food bowl. A dog will wolf down about anything anywhere but not cats. They’re sensitive about this. In nature cats don’t find their food where they find their water. Bacteria from decaying food could easily contaminate the water source, which could prove fatal and cats are instinctively aware of this. It is also thought the aromas coming from their food can put them off drinking. Ideally the fountain should be in another room, or on a tiled or stone counter and definitely not near the litter box. Never put your cat’s food or water anywhere near the litter box. It is also best to place the fountain away from high traffic areas and areas where there are sound and vibration disturbances, such as near active appliances, particularly if your cat is the timid type.
From an aesthetic perspective, there are certain designs that do not lend themselves to prominent placement within living areas so if you plan to purchase one of these, some out of the way place that is comfortable to the cats but not constantly in your view might be best. Some cat fountains are designed as much for their physical beauty as their functionality so are well suited to various living areas of the home. In this case, size, shape and color become important considerations from a home décor perspective.
FILTRATION – There are two kinds of filtration cat fountains can have – mechanical filtration which usually consists of a foam or sponge filter which either surrounds the pump or through which the water flows before getting back to the pump. This prevents cat hair and other debris from entering the pump. These come in varying sizes and last different lengths of time depending on the brand of fountain. More detail is available on this in the specific reviews, below.
The other kind of fountain filtration is chemical filtration and consists of carbon, also called activated charcoal. This material is found in most emergency rooms, animal and human, because it absorbs toxins and impurities and can be ingested with no ill effects. It is used in cat fountains to remove unpleasant odors and tastes which can be a result of the materials the fountain is made of, they can be introduced into the fountain by use, for example, if a cat drinks directly after eating, or can come directly from the water, for example, chlorine. Because the water in a cat fountain is constantly circulating, simply being in the water is all that is required as all the water will pass through the carbon filter. Carbon filters also vary from brand to brand in both the quality of the carbon used and how long they last. Ideally the carbon should last months, not weeks.
FOOD SAFENESS – This is an important attribute, however, not easily assessed. There are many accounts of plastic fountains causing chin acne in cats and at the same time there are very many people who have used plastic cat water fountains for years, apparently without issue. Possibly some cats are prone to the ailment and others not. In any case, all plastic fountains will develop scratches in which bacteria can grow so should be thoroughly cleaned with bleach occasionally. Ceramic cat fountains and metal fountains do not have these issues. A possible consideration for ceramic is whether or not lead or any toxic colorants are used.
EASE OF CLEANING – This too is an important consideration as most of us seem not to have enough time. This attribute is dealt with in each of the reviews with videos demonstrating what is involved for each and should be seriously considered. If a pet fountain is not easy to clean it may not get cleaned often enough, which is not good for the pet.
LONGEVITY – Most brands of cat fountains will last a reasonable length of time and some should last a lifetime, however various components, such as the pumps, will need replacing from time to time. Pumps should last several years and should be warranted for at least a year, meaning if the pump in your fountain goes before a year is up it should be replaced at no charge, including shipping. See the manufacturers’ warranty. If there are other components in the fountain it may be wise to try to determine their durability and replaceability.
PRICE – Each review below gives the price for the particular fountain, which varies from around $35 to $150 or more. This is an important consideration but it is not necessarily true that the least expensive will not last nor that the more expensive will. It is wise to assess each brand according to its own merits. It may be best to think of a cat fountain as an investment in your cats’ health, not simply a purchase.
APPEARANCE – This might or might not matter to you. If you plan to put your cat fountain in the broom closet, for example, it will matter considerably less than if you plan to put it in your living room. Do keep in mind that cats’ fountains should not be near the food bowl, as is explained in PLACEMENT, above.
A final consideration concerns long hair cats. These breeds will want either a smaller, raised area above the bowl and/or a stream from which to drink to avoid getting their fur wet.
NOTE THAT THE FOUNTAINS SHOWN BELOW ARE NOT LISTED IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER.
TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING YOUR CAT TO USE HER
CAT WATER FOUNTAIN
If your cat is nervous, distrustful or suspicious by nature, fill the fountain but don’t plug it in. Put it where she will easily encounter it. Leave it that way for a day or so, refreshing as necessary. Likely she will investigate and even begin drinking from her cat water fountain. When you do plug it in, have the pump on the lowest setting and take up all other water sources. Leave it that way for most of a day or so but if she is clearly not drinking, provide another water source. Then try it again. The idea here is to allow the cat to become comfortable with the presence of the fountain, then curious and interested. Most will. Once she is drinking from the fountain you can experiment with higher pump settings.