—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
When it comes to cats and drinking water, it’s actually a bit more complicated than it seems.
In this cat water fountain guide, we’ll outline everything, including: their odd relationship with drinking water, how water impacts their health, details on hard water and biofilm, right into what to look for when you’re shopping for a fountain.
Why Don’t Cats Drink a Lot of Water?
The reason cats aren’t the best water drinkers ties back to their early days. They originated in a dry, desert area where water was always scarce. Since they were obligate carnivores eating mostly meat, their bodies adapted to get much of their moisture from the prey they were eating.
Fast forward to the present day, and they haven’t adapted to an indoor lifestyle just yet (their domestication is relatively new compared to canines).
Their thirst drive still remains very low. If you feed your cat canned wet food, they’ll likely get most of their moisture from that. If you feed them dry kibble, they’ll need to physically drink more water to stay hydrated.
How Much Water Do Cats Need?
Although it’s different from cat to cat, a general rule of thumb is 3.5-4.5 ounces per 5 pounds of weight per day.
What Causes Dehydration in Cats?
A lot of different things can lead to dehydration in cats. Here are a few common symptoms that can lead to dehydration in cats:
- Excessive sweating in the heat.
- Injury or trauma.
- Nasal congestion: If a cat can’t smell, they often won’t eat or drink.
- Nausea: An upset tummy will cause a cat not to drink.
Here are some illnesses that cause dehydration:
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD).
- Panleukopenia (feline parvovirus, feline distemper).
- Upper respiratory infections (URIs), including feline herpes virus and calicivirus.
- Certain types of cancer.
How to Find Out If Your Cat is Dehydrated
Symptoms include sunken eyes, lethargy, poor skin elasticity, dry mouth, and a very distinct triangle face, most noticeable on kittens. There are two main ways to test if your cat is dehydrated:
1. Skin Tenting: Pinch the skin of the back of your cat’s neck. When a cat is hydrated, it typically snaps back into place. If the skin slowly returns to normal or stays up, your cat might be dehydrated.
Sometimes older cats have skin that is slow to return to normal, which is why you’ll want to then move to the second way to tell if a cat is dehydrated.
2. Gum Tackiness: Touch your cat’s gums. They should be moist, but if they are tacky, your cat is likely dehydrated.
Treatments for Dehydration
Option 1: Subcutaneous Fluids
The easiest and most immediate way to treat a dehydrated cat is with fluids injected under the skin. Any vet’s office or veterinary ER should be able to administer fluids for you.
For cats that have chronic issues that cause dehydration, like chronic kidney disease (CKD), you’ll want your vet to teach you how to administer the fluids yourself so you can keep them easily hydrated at home.
Option 2: Wet Food, Stew, Gravy, or Broth
Wet food contains a lot of moisture for your kitty. According to the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), canned wet food can contain moisture up to 78%. Stew, gravy, or broth designed for cats can have a higher moisture content.
These food types tend to have a strong smell too, which will encourage your kitty to eat. While their ability to taste is pretty poor, their sense of smell is incredible.
Option 3: Medicine Dropper
You’ll need to be very careful with this method, but it can work for animals with upper respiratory infections (URIs) who typically can’t smell, and therefore don’t want to eat or drink.
Get a small medicine dropper or medication syringe (given with liquid meds) and put water in it. Stick it inside the cat’s cheek and slowly, very slowly, inject the water into the cat’s mouth.
You can also administer it in drops if that’s easier. For kittens, giving it in drops is safest. You need to be careful because if your cat aspirates (breathes in the water), they may get pneumonia.
This method is time consuming because you want to use a small syringe and go slowly, but it can be helpful, especially for cats who are sick but not quite sick enough for an ER visit.
When water contains dissolved magnesium, calcium, or other minerals, like iron or zinc, it’s termed hard water. This happens in areas where there are ancient seabeds, and as the water flows through soil and rock, the minerals dissolve into the water.
Pros of Hard Water
The minerals in hard water aren’t necessarily harmful to our bodies, and they can in fact contribute to daily dietary requirements, especially in areas with extremely hard water. Here are a few of the way they help the body:
Magnesium: Important for muscles, nerves, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA.
Calcium: Maintain the structure and hardness of bones and teeth, help muscles move, nerves carry messages, blood vessels move blood, and release hormones and enzymes.
Iron: Used in growth and development. Iron is used to make a protein in red blood cells called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is also used to make the protein myoglobin which provides oxygen to muscles.
- Zinc: Aids the immune system in fighting bacteria and viruses, and helps wounds heal. Zinc is also used to make proteins and DNA, and promote growth and development for infants, children and during pregnancy. It plays an important role in helping people taste and smell.
Cons of Hard Water
Pipes are typically made of copper or PVC. This allows water to flow easily and freely, resisting corrosion, which in turn prevents bacterial growth. The limescale that builds up in pipes from hard water does the opposite, impacting the water pressure, because the water has a harder time flowing through the pipes.
Plus, the build up provides a surface where bacteria hang out and multiply. One bacteria that might be found is Legionella, responsible for Legionnaires’ Disease.
Hard water also makes it difficult to clean dishes, clothes, and our skin and hair because when water is warmed, the minerals react with the soap, preventing it from lathering and working properly.
One of the most obvious signs that you have hard water is when you see deposited minerals, which can appear as yellow on clothes (this is from iron), white spots on clean dishes, or soap scum on bathroom tiles. This comes from the calcium that is left behind after hard water evaporates.
Soap scum can additionally become a surface for biofilm to have a giant, bacteria-diverse party. You’ll most often notice biofilm as a pinkish film in areas that are often in contact with water. While biofilm isn’t always a bad thing, in the home, biofilm may harbor bacteria that cause illness.
Water Hardness by State 🇺🇸
Surprisingly common in the U.S., 85% of people have some level of hard water. Hard water is measured by grains per gallon, and although each state falls into a category, it really depends on the region.
A state with mostly soft water can still have areas of hard water. Your municipality should have information regarding your specific region’s water.
Hardness is divided into these categories, where mg/L stands for milligrams per liter, and it’s measuring calcium carbonate in the water.
- Soft water: 0-60 mg/L
- Moderately hard water: 61-120 mg/L
- Hard water: 121-180 mg/L
- Very hard water: >180 mg/L
Now, let’s take a look at each state alphabetically, including averages, the lowest and highest parts of the state, along with measurements for the more populated areas. Stats are from HydroFlow USA as of late 2021.
Arizona - Very Hard Water
Average: 210-350 mg/L
Lowest: Sierra Vista, 140 mg/L
Highest: Bullhead City, 619 mg/L
Phoenix - 230 mg/L
Scottsdale - 432 mg/L
Tucson - 211 mg/L
Alabama - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 61 mg/L
Lowest: Auburn, 38.7 mg/L
Highest: Alabaster, 204.5 mg/L
Birmingham - 87 mg/L
Mobile - 43 mg/L
Montgomery - 63 mg/L
Alaska - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 108 mg/L
Lowest: Anchorage, 63 mg/L
Highest: Fairbanks, 142 mg/L
Arkansas - Soft Water
Average: 38 mg/L
Lowest: Fort Smith, 21 mg/L
Highest: Pine Bluff, 86 mg/L
Little Rock - 26 mg/L
California - Moderately to Very Hard Water
Average: 100-300 mg/L
Lowest: Redding & Victorville, 31 mg/L
Highest: Ventura, 472 mg/L
Los Angeles - 127 mg/L
San Diego - 152 mg/L
San Francisco - 47 mg/L
Sacramento - 150 mg/L
San Jose - 320 mg/L
Colorado - Soft to Moderately Hard Water
Average: Northern, 40-50 mg/L. Southern, 121-180 mg/L
Lowest: Colorado Springs, 34 mg/L
Highest: Pueblo, 181 mg/L
Denver - 72 mg/L
Aurora - 180 mg/L
Boulder - 49, mg/L
Connecticut - Hard Water
Average: 175 mg/L
Lowest: Hartford, 153 mg/L
Highest: New Haven, 194 mg/L
Bridgeport - 168 mg/L
Delaware - Moderately Hard to Very Hard Water
Average: 100-300 mg/L
Lowest: Dover, 64 mg/L
Highest: Wilmington, 127 mg/L
Newark - 122 mg/L
Middletown - 119 mg/L
Florida - Moderately Hard to Very Hard Water
Average: 100-300 mg/L
Lowest: Cape Coral, 85 mg/L
Highest: West Palm Beach, 317 mg/L
Greater Miami - 219 mg/L
Jacksonville - 154, mg/L
Orlando - 129 mg/L
Tampa - 220 mg/L
Georgia - Soft Water
Average: 60 mg/L
Lowest: Atlanta, 21 mg/L
Highest: Athens, 120 mg/L
Savannah - 57 mg/L
Macon & Augusta - 58 mg/L
Hawaii - Soft Water
Average: 34 mg/L
Lowest: Waikola, 10 mg/L
Highest: Maui, 110 mg/L
Honolulu - 34 mg/L
Idaho - Slightly Hard Water
Average: 128 mg/L
Lowest: Lewiston, 17 mg/L
Highest: Pocatello, 350 mg/L
Boise - 108 mg/L
Idaho Falls - 239 mg/L
Illinois - Very Hard Water
Average: 220 mg/L
Lowest: Springfield, 88 mg/L
Highest: Carol Stream, 418 mg/L
Chicago - 148 mg/L
Rockford - 308 mg/L
Peoria - 250 mg/L
Indiana - Very Hard Water
Average: 262 mg/L
Lowest: Fort Wayne, 113 mg/L
Highest: Somerset, 400 mg/L
Indianapolis - 274, mg/L
South Bend - 370 mg/L
Evansville - 124 mg/L
Iowa - Moderately Hard to Very Hard Water
Average: 100-300 mg/L
Lowest: Des Moines, 157 mg/L
Highest: Sioux City, 378 mg/L
Cedar Rapids - 250 mg/L
Davenport - 266 mg/L
Kansas - Very Hard Water
Average: 299 mg/L
Lowest: Manhattan, 83 mg/L
Highest: Overland Park, 200 mg/L
Topeka - 182 mg/L
Kansas City - 330 mg/L
Kentucky - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 112 mg/L
Lowest: Louisville, 102 mg/L
Highest: Lexington, 215 mg/L
Louisiana - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 86 mg/L
Lowest: Baton Rouge, 44 mg/L
Highest: New Orleans, 138 mg/L
Shreveport - 50 mg/L
Lafayette - 90 mg/L
Lake Charles - 110 mg/L
Maine - Soft Water
Average: 12 mg/L
Lowest: Bangor, 6 mg/L
Highest: Lewiston & Auburn, 17 mg/L
Portland - 10 mg/L
Lewiston - 17 mg/L
Saco - 9 mg/L
Augusta - 11 mg/L
Maryland - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 118 mg/L
Lowest: Annapolis, 70 mg/L
Highest: Baltimore, 185 mg/L
Frederick - 99 mg/L
Gaithersburg - 71 mg/L
Massachusetts - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 62 mg/L
Lowest: Vineyard Haven, 32 mg/L
Highest: Worcester, 78 mg/L
Boston - 68 mg/L
Springfield - 57 mg/L
Cambridge - 70 mg/L
Michigan - Hard Water
Average: 156 mg/L
Lowest: Lansing, 99 mg/L
Highest: Grand Rapids, 380 mg/L
Flint - 242 mg/L
Kalamazoo - 115 mg/L
Minnesota - Very Hard Water
Average: 192 mg/L
Lowest: Duluth, 45 mg/L
Highest: Maple Grove, 453 mg/L
Minneapolis - 65 mg/L
Saint Paul - 175 mg/L
Mississippi - Hard Water
Average: 174 mg/L
Lowest: West Point, 154 mg/L
Highest: Pascagoula, 210 mg/L
Jackson - 164 mg/L
Missouri - Hard Water
Average: 137 mg/L
Lowest: Lee’s Summit, 109 mg/L
Highest: Cape Girardeau, 257 mg/L
Kansas City - 114 mg/L
Saint Louis - 152 mg/L
Montana - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 91 mg/L
Lowest: Helena, 25 mg/L
Highest: Kalispell, 205 mg/L
Missoula - 175 mg/L
Nebraska - Very Hard Water
Average: 204 mg/L
Lowest: Bellevue, 30 mg/L
Highest: Grand Island, 255 mg/L
Omaha - 188 mg/L
Lincoln - 223 mg/L
Nevada - Very Hard Water
Average: 232 mg/L
Lowest: Reno, 38 mg/L
Highest: Elko, 410 mg/L
Las Vegas - 278 mg/L
New Hampshire - Soft Water
Average: 39 mg/L
Lowest: Somersworth, 14 mg/L
Highest: Portsmouth, 101 mg/L
Rochester - 25 mg/L
Manchester - 19 mg/L
Nashua - 29 mg/L
New Jersey - Hard Water
Average: 106 mg/L
Lowest: Newark, 51 mg/L
Highest: Trenton, 222 mg/L
Paterson - 68 mg/L
Jersey City - 79 mg/L
Atlantic City - 104 mg/L
New Mexico - Hard to Very Hard Water
Lowest: Albuquerque, 120 mg/L
Highest: Roswell, 410 mg/L
Las Cruces - 140 mg/L
New York - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 62 mg/L
Lowest: Massapequa, 13 mg/L
Highest: Ramapo, 149 mg/L
New York City - 65 mg/L
Buffalo - 135 mg/L
Rochester - 130 mg/L
Albany - 54 mg/L
Syracuse - 120 mg/L
North Carolina - Soft Water
Average: 46 mg/L
Lowest: Charlotte, 28 mg/L
Highest: Jacksonville, 111 mg/L
Raleigh - 40 mg/L
Greensboro - 44 mg/L
Winston - 42 mg/L
Durham - 47 mg/L
North Dakota - Very Hard Water
Average: 214 mg/L
Lowest: Bismarck, 123 mg/L
Highest: Minot, 300 mg/L
Fargo - 289 mg/L
Ohio - Hard Water
Average: 155 mg/L
Lowest: Toledo, 74 mg/L
Highest: Dayton, 362 mg/L
Cincinnati - 130 mg/L
Columbus - 128 mg/L
Cleveland - 125 mg/L
Akron - 112 mg/L
Oklahoma - Hard Water
Average: 146 mg/L
Lowest: Stillwater, 123 mg/L
Highest: Lawton, 161 mg/L
Oklahoma City - 154 mg/L
Tulsa - 140 mg/L
Norman - 152 mg/L
Oregon - Soft Water
Average: 29 mg/L
Lowest: Portland, 12 mg/L
Highest: Corvallis, 51 mg/L
Eugene - 22 mg/L
Pennsylvania - Hard Water
Average: 151 mg/L
Lowest: Chambersburg, 10 mg/L
Highest: Punxsutawney, 310 mg/L
Philadelphia - 149 mg/L
Harrisburg - 160 mg/L
Pittsburg - 136 mg/L
Rhode Island - Soft Water
Average: 46 mg/L
Lowest: Warwick, 32 mg/L
Highest: Providence, 70 mg/L
Cranston - 38 mg/L
South Carolina - Soft Water
Average: 25 mg/L
Lowest: Columbia, 11 mg/L
Highest: Myrtle Beach, 38 mg/L
Charleston - 29 mg/L
Greenville - 21 mg/L
South Dakota - Very Hard Water
Average: 285 mg/L
Lowest: Rapid City, 207 mg/L
Highest: Aberdeen, 380 mg/L
Pierre - 345 mg/L
Sioux Falls - 257 mg/L
Vermillion - 239 mg/L
Tennessee - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 99 mg/L
Lowest: Jackson, 48 mg/L
Highest: Clarksville, 97 mg/L
Memphis - 55 mg/L
Nashville - 79 mg/L
Knoxville - 84 mg/L
Chattanooga - 71, mg/L
Texas - Very Hard Water
Average: 200 mg/L
Lowest: Bryan & College Station, 8 mg/L
Highest: Odessa, 360 mg/L
Austin - 184 mg/L
Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex - 140 mg/L
Greater Houston - 135 mg/L
San Antonio - 357 mg/L
Utah - Very Hard Water
Average: 298 mg/L
Lowest: South Jordan, 145 mg/L
Highest: Draper, 657 mg/L
Salt Lake City - 158 mg/L
Vermont - Soft to Moderately Hard Water
Average: 60 mg/L
Lowest: Rutland, 55 mg/L
Highest: Burlington, 69 mg/L
Virginia - Moderately Hard
Average: 72 mg/L
Lowest: Chesapeake, 41 mg/L
Highest: Roanoke, 143 mg/L
Richmond - 64 mg/L
Norfolk - 47 mg/L
Virginia Beach - 58 mg/L
Washington - Soft to Very Hard Water
Average: 74 mg/L
Lowest: Everett, 12 mg/L
Highest: Spokane, 218 mg/L
Seattle - 22 mg/L
Tacoma - 15 mg/L
Vancouver - 96 mg/L
West Virginia - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 101 mg/L
Lowest: Charleston, 62 mg/L
Highest: Wheeling, 129 mg/L
Huntington - 121 mg/L
Parkersburg - 95 mg/L
Weirton - 88 mg/L
Wisconsin - Hard Water
Average: 158 mg/L
Lowest: Wausau, 90 mg/L
Highest: Madison, 350 mg/L
Milwaukee - 136 mg/L
Green Bay - 130 mg/L
Wyoming - Moderately Hard Water
Average: 120 mg/L
Lowest: Gillette, 10 mg/L
Highest: Casper, 208 mg/L
Cheyenne - 110 mg/L
Laramie - 184 mg/L
Softener vs. Filter
Only about 30% of people use a softener to alleviate hard water. A water softener system works by replacing magnesium, calcium, and other minerals with salt (sodium).
Water softening may help you with cleaning tasks, but it doesn’t really help improve the taste or smell. For this reason, people install water filters which remove things like fluoride, chlorine, and bacteria.
- Fluoride: Is added to water to help prevent tooth decay. Although it’s okay in small amounts for toothpaste or topical use, high amounts of fluoride are toxic to cats.
- Chlorine: Kills parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Although toxic to aquatic animals, reptiles, and fish, small amounts of chlorine do not harm mammals.
Bacteria in Water
Let’s take a closer look at the bacteria that may be found in water. Please note, not all filters remove the types of bacteria we are about to discuss (coliform bacteria and E. coli). You will need to do specific research to find out if your water filter removes bacteria this small.
Since it’s impossible to test water for every type of pathogen, public water systems will test water for total coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria are usually found in the environment, like in soil or vegetation, and they don’t typically cause issues.
However, if coliform bacteria find their way into the water, their presence could indicate another pathogen from the environment might be present.
The next step is to determine if other bacteria exist in the water sample. A subgroup of coliform bacteria is fecal coliform bacteria, which exist in large amounts in human and animal intestines and feces.
If fecal coliform bacteria are present, it increases the likelihood of fecal contamination, which brings an added risk. Again, it’s not necessarily the fecal coliform bacteria that are the issue, but how they got there, and what other bacteria could then be present.
A subgroup of fecal coliform bacteria is E. coli. There are many different strains of E. coli, which are found in the intestines of people and warm-blooded animals, and most are harmless. In fact, when E. coli is present in water, it’s most often not a dangerous strain.
But again, its presence could indicate fecal contamination, meaning other more harmful pathogens have an increased chance of being present. Most E. coli outbreaks are from a specific strain of E. coli, O157:H7. Boiling or treating the water will destroy all forms of E. coli.
If total coliform bacteria is detected, repairs, flushing, or adding additional chlorine usually fix the issue. For fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli, a health advisory gets issued, and your water company will recommend you boil water for cooking and drinking for a specific period of time.
Systems are usually flushed and chlorine added. Once samples come back negative, your water company will advise you that you can stop taking precautionary measures.
Water Bowls vs. Water Fountains: What’s Better?
Although water bowls are an easy and cost effective option, water fountains are the preferred vessel for a number of reasons:
- Since fountains often have a filter and flowing water, it’s fresher, and since cats can smell even small amounts of bacteria, they’re more likely to drink fresh, clean water over stagnant water.
- The sight and sound of moving water will attract cats to it, resulting in them drinking more water than they normally would (which is better for their health).
- Most fountains have an open design, which allows for cats’ whiskers to be comfortable and free from rubbing against the sides of a bowl.
- Some filters put important minerals back into the water, promoting better health.
Water Fountain Traits: What to Shop for
#1 Water Sound & Flow
Cats are more inclined to hear running water and be drawn to it over the silence of a stationary bowl. In the wild, running water likely means it’s fresh, increasing their chance of survival.
Things that contribute to how loud the water is in a fountain include how much water is flowing at any time, the distance the water is “falling,” what the water is falling into, how many streams there are, and how thick the streams are.
Thin streams have a trickling sound, whereas thick streams sound more like water pouring. Agitated water makes a louder sound, and smooth streams are more gentle. Gentle water sounds will be more appealing to cats and their humans.
Cats have an easier time seeing moving objects than stationary ones, making flowing water from a fountain easier to see and more enticing. They’ll often tap their paw in a water bowl to move the water and determine the depth.
Different fountains have different attachments and designs for the water to flow out of. Most cats tend to like a waterfall type effect (like a running faucet). Some cats will prefer to drink water that’s simply flowing up from a hole into a shallow bowl. These types of fountains are called bubble fountains.
Many fountains come with optional attachments, so you can try both and see what your cat prefers. Some fountains do not have any attachments, and will only give you one option for water flow. If you choose to allow the water to fall, the water will create some sound; if you opt for it to just bubble out of an opening, the water will be nearly silent.
The way pumps work in water fountains is fairly simple. The submersible pumps in cat water fountains are the same as aquarium pumps. These pumps use very little power in the U.S., and most are 110 volts, 4 watts or less.
Let’s talk about how plastic water submersible pumps work. Basically, the water is sucked in through a screen, then pushed out through a small tube with a hole. Here are more detailed steps:
- There is an intake area with a screen, which keeps large particles out of the pump, and a flow control dial or lever, which controls how much water enters and leaves the pump.
- Right behind the screen is an impeller cover, covering up the impeller that rests on an impeller shaft and well.
- As the impeller spins inside it pulls water in, and then the pump pushes that same water out through the out flow (the small tube on top of the pump).
With any fountain, you want the pump to be extremely quiet so the main sound is the flowing water and not the actual pump, which can be an unpleasant sound for a cat and for you. Look for a water fountain with a pump sound of less than 40 decibels.
If any formerly quiet pump sounds really loud, it could be for a few reasons:
- Fountain needs more water.
- Filter needs changing (it’s impacting the water flowing into or out of the pump).
- The impeller shaft needs cleaning. Mineral deposits on the shaft will prevent the impeller from spinning correctly.
It’s extremely important to give cats filtered water, especially because pets that are given tap water are at a higher risk for urinary tract disease.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is also common in older cats, making it more important that cats stay hydrated and the kidneys get flushed.
For cats who suffer from CKD, hydration is even more important, because many believe it helps slow the progression of the disease.
Although it seems like getting a cat to drink water should be easy, they can be very selective about what they eat and drink, and if they smell any bacteria in the water, they won’t drink.
This is why they’re often drawn to toilets and faucets—the water is fresh and in the case of a faucet, moving.
Therefore, flowing water is typically more fresh, and the freshness entices them to drink. Additionally, it’s important to keep bowls and fountains clean, regardless of how much the water flows.
Any surface will grow bacteria, and you’ll want to keep that in check. Bowls require daily cleaning while most fountains are okay with a weekly cleaning.
Some fountains do not have pumps or filters. They are like water coolers—water flows down from a reservoir as the cat drinks.
A benefit of most other cat fountains is that they filter the water, and they do this by two possible ways:
- Mechanical filtration: Involves a food-safe foam that keeps cat fur and other debris out of the pump and water.
Chemical filtration: This type of filtration removes impurities and bacteria, while making the water taste and smell better.
The most popular and common styles include a cotton or plastic exterior; activated carbon, which removes chlorine and minerals and improves odor; and an ion exchange resin to help soften the water.
The EPA has cited studies that activated carbon removes 80 chemicals and reduces another 52 found in tap water.
The amount of water a fountain holds is important, especially if you have a lot of cats (and dogs) and don’t have the space for a lot of fountains. If you choose a smaller fountain, you’ll need to fill it more frequently.
Also, many fountains suggest a filter change once a month regardless of capacity, which means your upkeep costs could be the same as a larger fountain.
Keep in mind that different fountains have a different minimum functioning capacity (the minimum amount of water needed to work correctly).
The ounces needed to still operate isn’t necessarily tied to the maximum capacity, so some fountains with a large maximum capacity will still function with little water, and others may struggle even with a lot of water in the reservoir.
When selecting a fountain, take into account the number of pets you have and their size, because larger cats and dogs will drink more water.
Their diet matters greatly as well: Cats that eat more wet food don’t need to drink as much water. Although you may think bigger is always better, keep in mind that the bigger the surface area is, the more places there are for bacteria to grow.
#5 Height, Material + Overall Design
The ideal height for a cat water fountain should be so the cat barely needs to bend their neck to drink. This is especially important for older cats, who commonly suffer from arthritis. Typically, a height of at least 7 inches is appropriate for most cats.
Fountains can come in a variety of materials. Here is a breakdown of each material.
Plastic: One of the biggest perks to plastic is that it’s inexpensive, making it cost effective for the manufacturer and the pet parent. Although it’s durable and not “breakable,” it does commonly get scratched over time, and any sort of indentation in the surface can harbor bacteria.
Cats that suffer from chin acne often have it from eating or drinking out of plastic bowls. Their chin rubs on the surface where bacteria live and can cause skin issues.
It’s important to note that if a water fountain is plastic and is designed so the cat’s chin doesn’t come in contact with the surface, it will not impact acne.
You’ll want to look for a BPA-free plastic, since BPA (bisphenol A) studies have shown a possible link to health issues in fetuses, infants, children, and even adults.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel’s nonporous surface makes it sanitary and germ resistant. It’s also unbreakable, and won’t easily scratch. It’s lightweight and is often dishwasher safe.
For cats that suffer from chin acne, stainless steel is the preferred material for food and water bowls. For fountains, it depends on the design. If the cat’s chin doesn’t come in contact with the surface of the fountain, the material will not have an impact on chin acne.
There are, however, different grades of stainless steel. Most stainless steel humans use in the kitchen is in the 300 or 400 series. Here’s a quick overview of the 300 series, which would be the best for pet food and water bowls or fountains.
The most common is grade 304, which is also referred to as 18/8, because of its composition of 18-20% chromium and 8-10.5% nickel, which both help with corrosion resistance, and the chromium helps prevent rust.
One downside to grade 304 is it can still show corrosion when exposed to salt.
Grade 316 stainless steel is used for surgical and marine parts. It’s called 18/10 because it’s made of 16-18% chromium, 10-14% nickel, and 2-3% molybdenum. The addition of molybdenum helps improve corrosion resistance against acids, alkalis, and chlorides like salt.
A few things to keep an eye out for:
- Avoid any stainless steel that is painted or advertised with an internal coating unless it’s from a reputable company. Painting can contain lead and you don’t want to risk it.
- Many companies will use lower grades of stainless steel to save on cost, and then won’t reveal what grade they’re using. Avoid these bowls and fountains, or, if it’s a company you trust, reach out to them and ask what grade they use.
- Never use anything that’s in the 200 series.
Ceramic: Ceramic is more expensive, and while it’s not prone to scratches, it’s heavy weight makes it easier to drop, and it’s also more likely to get chipped or cracked.
This causes a major problem because cracks in its surface prevents it from being cleaned, meaning you’ll need to toss a ceramic fountain that shows any damage.
All of that aside, when the ceramic is made from a high fire clay, it’s strong and waterproof, and can easily be placed in the dishwasher.
Keep in mind that in order for a ceramic to be used for eating or drinking, it must be coated with a glaze. Some glazes contain lead, making it important to know what type of glaze is on your cat’s ceramic water fountain.
When selecting a material, it isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. Although certain surfaces harbor bacteria, the actual design of the fountain matters more. Bacteria will always grow, but it’s important to select a fountain design that minimizes it.
For instance, the more crevices in the design, the more places bacteria can (and will grow). If the water reservoir is left mostly exposed, bacteria will grow faster. And if there isn’t a filter directly over the pump, the pump will also be more prone to bacteria.
This means more smooth surfaces that cover most of the water and have a filter directly over the pump will grow the least amount of bacteria.
Another thing to consider with the external design is will it prevent whisker fatigue. Since whiskers are like tiny sensory organs, when they rub against anything, signals are sent to the brain.
Drinking or eating out of a bowl where their whiskers touch the sides causes a sensory overload and is irritating and uncomfortable for the cat. Fountains that keep the whiskers free or extremely large bowls of water are the best ways to prevent whisker fatigue.
To maintain a water fountain, you’ll need to wash the inside and outside, clean the pump, sometimes rinse or replace the mechanical filter, and replace the chemical filters. Most fountains need to be cleaned at least once a week. The cleaning of the pump depends on the design of the fountain.
For lower quality fountains, the pump will need to be cleaned twice a week, and it will likely get to a point where it gets constantly covered in scum and will need to be replaced.
High-quality fountains have a design where the mechanical filter (the sponge) will grab the fur and dirt. If the chemical filter is positioned over the pump, you will have to clean the pump less frequently, and it can last for years without being taken over by scum.
As far as replacing the filters themselves, it differs fountain to fountain. Some are weekly, others are monthly, some at six weeks, and others are every two months. You’ll want to research, find out the frequency, and build it into your overall cost.
For example, a lower cost fountain might need a filter replaced every few weeks, and the design may lead to the pump having a short life. On the other hand, higher end fountains may cost more upfront, but they’ll often need their filters changed less frequently, and overall stay cleaner. This extends the lifetime of the fountain and makes it a better long-term investment.
Let’s face it, you don’t want a fountain that’s a giant eye sore. Things to consider include color and shape, which includes square, rectangle, apple, oval, or something less standard.
Look for a modern and stylish fountain that fits with most decor. Fountains with clean lines and less corners tend to be more attractive to the eye.
Typically, cooler colors have psychologically calming effects, which makes grays and lighter blues, greens and purples ideal.
#8 Warranty & Customer Service
Look for water fountains that come with a warranty to ensure they’re a high-quality product. If a company truly believes in their fountain and knows it’s made well, they will add a warranty as a promise that the fountain will not only work and last, but the customer will also be happy with it.
Companies with exceptional customer service want happy customers, and if a customer isn’t happy, the company should be okay providing a replacement or refunding the customer. You want to buy a fountain from a company who cares about you and your cat above all else.
The Magic Feline Fountain from My Lovely Feline
Now that you know what to shop for, let’s talk about the best fountain with the most sophisticated filtration system in the world: The Magic Feline Fountain from My Lovely Feline.
#1 Water Sound & Flow
The Magic Feline Fountain comes with two options for the water to flow. The fountain comes with a waterfall-type attachment, or you can choose not to use it, and just let the water bubble up through the opening.
Some cats will prefer to see and hear the water falling, while others will be fully content just leaning over and drinking. If you choose the bubble-up option, the fountain is nearly silent.
The pump in The Magic Feline Fountain is extremely quiet, and the only time you may hear it running is when you first start the fountain or when the filter needs to be replaced.
Although The Magic Feline Fountain has many exceptional features, the filtration system is what really sets it apart. For chemical filtration, it has a 5-layer filter:
- Fine nylon filter mesh: Removes debris and fine particles.
- Coconut shell activated carbon: Removes heavy metals, chlorine, and odor and is sustainable.
- Mineral stones: Puts essential minerals back into the water.
- Ion exchange resin: Softens water.
- Silver ion formula: Kills 99.9% of germs.
Mechanical filtration is handled by a sponge in the fountain, which captures dirt, fur, and other debris, keeping it out of the water and pump.
The result is fresh, clean, odor-free, and better-tasting water for your cat.
The Magic Feline Fountain holds 50 ounces of water, making it a great fit for households regardless of how many cats live there.
#5 Height, Material & Overall Design
The top lid of The Magic Feline Fountain is around 5-5 ½ inches, and the waterfall attachment takes it up to 7 inches, allowing most cats to slightly lean in and drink.
Made of a premium non-toxic, BPA-free plastic, The Magic Feline Fountain is extremely durable. It’s also designed not to grow mold easily, so as long as you clean it weekly, you shouldn’t have any issues.
The Magic Feline Fountain has a completely open design, keeping whiskers free and preventing whisker fatigue.
The water stays mostly in a covered reservoir, keeping it free of bacteria, and to refill the fountain, you just pour water in the top while it’s plugged in. The surface area on the lid that’s in contact with water is also on the smaller side, minimizing germ growth.
Because of the design, the sponge grabs fur and dirt on the way to the pump. The pump then pushes water upward, and the five-layer filter sits directly on top of the pump. This keeps the water extremely clean and prevents the fountain and pump from gathering biofilm.
The Magic Feline Fountain is very easy to clean. It’s recommended to clean it once a week, which you can clean even with more easy if you purchase the Cleaning Kit for The Magic Feline Fountain.
The kit includes:
- 1 thin bristle brush for the water outlet tube.
- 1 medium-sized brush for the bigger parts.
- 1 soft sponge.
Never use detergents to clean the fountain; just use abundant water. And it's recommended to get a new cleaning kit every six months.
It’s suggested the filters (mechanical and chemical) are replaced every two months, and the Filter Replacement for The Magic Feline Fountain includes both filters.
The Magic Feline Fountain has a light blue color and is an apple shape with no corners or hard edges. The lid is solid and the reservoir is clear. The modern design makes it easily fit into any home’s decor, and the color is calm and soothing to look at.
The fountain also has a beautiful and sleek floor mat that prevents the floor from getting wet after the cat interacts with the fountain.
The Premium Fountain Mat is made of non-toxic silicone. It matches perfectly with the fountain’s design and it's grippy enough to prevent the fountain from slipping.
#8 Warranty & Customer Service
The Magic Feline Fountain comes with a two-year warranty and money-back guarantee. If at any time over two years you don’t like the fountain, you can return it for free and get a refund. No fine print. No questions asked. Here at My Lovely Feline we stand behind the quality of our fountain and we know your cat will love it too.
Drinking water and staying hydrated is extremely important to your cat’s health. Since your cat deserves the best, buy The Magic Feline Fountain from My Lovely Feline today.
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Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist