CATS’ WATER NEEDS – WHAT TO KNOW

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.

It is now widely accepted that cats crave moving water and this is why veterinarians recommend cat water fountains  – to ensure they drink enough. In the wild, and cats are still very much ‘in the wild’, moving water is safest. Standing water harbors countless bacteria that can be lethal. This is why cats are naturally attracted to moving water and will, in almost all cases, drink more when flowing water is provided.

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.

Learn more about cats’ water needs.

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.

PLACEMENT

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.

DESIRED ATTRIBUTES

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.

The Petsafe Drinkwell cat fountain – Price about $35. 100% plastic. Many people have had this cat fountain at one time or another. On Amazon it has a 4 star rating. The pump is quiet but the thruming of the water on the wedge-shaped landing pad gives a cheap plastic sound. Cleaning is difficult, as many of the reviews state, and because it is plastic, it can and will scratch so can harbor bacteria that can cause chin acne. Thorough scrubing with bleach can resolve this. Not known for its long life though plenty of people say they’ve had one for years. Available from many sources. Made in China. See the cleaning video.And Here is Another.
The Pioneer Raindrop is one of the more attractive commercial cat fountains, in stainless steel. At $78 this is a reasonable choice, particularly for a contemporary decor. Both this and the Pioneer 6022 are relatively easy to clean and neither can be scratched and harbor bacteria, except perhaps for the plastic pump container in which the pump sits. The only possible caveat about this fountain apart from the fact that there is no stream so not good for long hair cats, is whether the metal gives the water an undesirable metallic taste. Average reviews 4 stars. Apart from pump replacement should last years. Available from many sources. Made in China. Pump Cleaning Video.
The AVP Spa Fountain – The positives of this intriquing cat fountain are that it comes with a charcoal filter, it has a UV light which is supposed to kill bacteria, it has an automatic shutoff when the water gets low and a led light that illuminates the water. The negatives are that, like many commercial cat fountains, it is difficult to assemble and very hard to clean, having many removable parts. It may heat the water and is made entirely of plastic so will scratch and harbor bacteria. Cleaning video.
The Drinkwell 360 at $65 is a mostly stainless steel cat water fountain with an  adjustable plastic top from which water flows from four spouts. It comes with an assortment of top rings permitting different water flows. If your cats don’t want the streams they can drink from the basin, though there is not a lot of room there for larger heads. This is also available in an all plastic model for about $20 less. Out of 1341 reviews at the time of this writing it has a 60% 5 star, 16% 4 star with 24% at 3, 2 and 1.  Average rating is 4 stars. Longevity not known. Available from many sources. Made in China. Cleaning Video.
The Pioneer 6022 at about $50 is one of the few commercial, mostly ceramic cat water fountains. There is a plastic container inside which houses the pump. It produces a slide of water that fills the bowl. It is among the more attractive of commercial cat water fountains. The only possible negative is that being made in China there is no way to know if lead was used in the glaze. Lead is a flux, meaning it greatly reduces the necessary firing temperature, thus saving considerably on firing costs, and it gives bright, clear colors. The chances of this being a problem are probably small but should be noted. Average review 4 stars.  Should last years. Available from many sources. Made in China. Cleaning Video.
The cat water fountain shown is one of many thirstycatfountains designs. (Thirstycats is the host of this post). These fountains are 100% handmade ceramic and Thirstycatfountains make their own glazes following strict guidelines for which colorants and minerals and how much of them to use to maintain an absolute food safeness. Each comes with a prefilter that lasts at least 2 years. Carbon filters are available which last about six months. Prices range from under $100 to around $200. Thirstycatfountains has a 5 star rating from over 2000 reviews at the time of this writing, many of which speak of the ease of cleaning. (Takes about 4 minutes once a week.) Should last a lifetime. Available at thirstycatfountains.com Made in the USA. See how these Thirstycat fountains operate. Learn how easy it is to clean a Thirstycat fountain.
The Drinkwell Avalon is mostly ceramic though the inner workings are of plastic. It produces a nice flow and has a 4 star rating with the main complaints being the cleaning involved, the short filter life and the quality of the pump. Out of 455 reviews at the time of this writing it has a 63% 5 star rating with 37% rating it 4, 3, 2 or 1 stars. Price is about $80. Available from many sources. With replacement of inner parts this cat water fountain should last years. Made in China. This video is actually an assembly video. Just realize that each of the fountain parts and pump parts simply need to be cleaned with warm soapy water except the sponge filter which needs a thorough rinsing. Cleaning Video

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.

Here you can view a variety of styles of Thirstycat Fountains with explanations of their differences, which nature of cats they are best suited to and why.