How to Choose the Best Cat Water Fountain or Bubbler
Why I Decided to Buy a Drinking Fountain for My Cats
A cat water fountain offers multiple benefits to both you and your cat. Read on as I review what to look for as you search for the perfect bubbler.
I live with three cats: two tortoiseshell beauties and a stunning orange tabby. Before we got the tabby, I had a cat in kidney failure and a cat with diabetes. Between the two of them, they sucked down water like racehorses. I got tired of continually refilling and cleaning out water bowls, and I wanted my pets to have a constant supply of fresh water for health reasons. So, I decided to purchase a cat water fountain.
The first couple I purchased fell short of my expectations. After some experimentation (and after spending a lot of money on multiple devices), I've finally discovered what to look for when purchasing any pet drinking fountain. I've also had the fortune of being a professional pet sitter, which means that I got to experience a wide variety of pet fountains in other homes, as well.
My Top Picks for the Best Cat Water Fountains
- Best Gravity Run: PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station
Best Bubbler Style: Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System, Medium, Peacock
- Best Bargain Pump Style, Charcoal Filter: Petmate Deluxe Fresh Flow Pet Fountain
Overall Best Pump Style, Charcoal Filter: Pioneer Pet 6022
Cat Water Fountain Types
Believe it or not, many cats are picky about the kind of water bowl they drink from. Some prefer plastic, others prefer stainless steel, still others prefer ceramic. Cat water fountains have bowls made out of all three of these materials, so take this into consideration when you're shopping. There's no sense in buying one if your cat won't drink out of it, after all. Cats like wide bowls, they don't like having their sensitive whiskers touching the sides.
Consider the water capacity of the fountain which will depend upon the number of cats you have.
There are three different types: gravity, charcoal filter systems, multistage filtration systems (usually with carbon filters), “bubblers,” and fountain types. The “bubblers” have an air pump that continually oxygenates the water. The gravity water dispensers operate by the same concept as the office watercooler. A water tank is turned upside down and continually refills the bowl as water is consumed.
What You Should Know
The gravity type tends to be noisy, makes a “blurb blub” sound like the office water cooler. Some people choose these because they believe they'll be much quieter since they don't have a motor. These tend to be very messy, there is almost no way to avoid spilling it when you refill it. There's no valve to close off the water storage unit, so you have to have some serious talent and fine motor skills to quickly get it back into position before you have a pond of water on the floor.
Some of the pet waterers with charcoal filters are very hard to clean. It takes a lot of rinsing to get out the black charcoal bits from the reservoir. Just when you think you've got it clean, some more charcoal floats into the system. Of course, you will also need to frequently replace the filters which adds to the cost of the unit over time. And, you need to keep a keen eye on the water level or this cat water fountain will start to make all kinds of whirring and moaning noises.
The bubblers can actually scare some pets... If you have a particularly timid animal, this type of cat drinking fountain may not be the right choice for you. Additionally, they don't actually filter the water. They are, however, much easier to clean than the filtering systems.
I'm considering buying a cat water fountain because...
I had nothing but trouble with my Drinkwell pet fountain. It was so hard to clean, no matter what I did I couldn't get into all the nooks and crannies in this unit. Plus, there was constantly charcoal fragments circulating around the reservoir. I do not recommend this unit one bit.
Best Gravity Run Cat Water Fountain: PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station
This is gravity run, so it has very few bells and whistles. But, compared to many of the other gravity-type waterers, this one is superior. It has a removable stainless steel bowl, doesn't leek all over my floor when I refill it, and it has an easy carry handle at the top. The water reservoir also locks into the unit, decreasing the odds of accidental tips and spills. PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station Dog and Cat Water
The removable stainless steel bowl is dishwasher safe. It doesn't have a lot of small nooks and crannies that make cleaning impossible, it has wide openings and easy brush access.
It comes in three sizes: small, medium and large, so if you have multiple cats you can purchase the size that best suits your needs. Personally, I would opt for at least the medium size for cats. The small size just doesn't give the cat quite enough drinking space and whisker clearance. The medium size holds one gallon of water.
Best Bubbler-Style: Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System, Medium, Peacock
The doesn't actually filter the water, but it continually oxygenates it through the bubbling action. It automatically refills the water as it's consumed from its 1.5 gallon water capacity reservoir. It has an AC power cord. Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System
This is a fantastic choice for any cat owner who wants to encourage drinking. I'm telling you, cats love this thing. The only problem is their propensity to play with the bubbling water! Compared to the Drinkwell water fountain, this one is considerable more quiet and much easier to clean. It only has two pieces, the bowl and the tank which you can just pop into the dishwasher.
The water pump is stored separately from the water reservoir, so unlike other fountains, you don't have to worry about it burning out if the water is too low.
Best Bargain Pump-Style, Charcoal Filter Water Fountain: Petmate Deluxe Fresh Flow Pet Fountain
This is one of the better charcoal filter type pet fountains. I have a lot of experience with this model from all the petsitting I've done. The design is nice, the water runs down a sloping ramp, so it's quieter and less likely to splash water when it hits the bowl. It has a translucent, 50 ounce water reservoir, so it's easy to see when the water is getting low. There is also a jumbo capacity that holds a whopping 108 oz of water, this would be great if you have dogs.
This design is easier to clean than the Drinkwell pet fountain, but it does have some tight spaces you'll need to access. You will find you need to do quite a bit of rinsing to get the unit clean.
It does have a flow control valve, which is highly desirable. Compared to some of the other pump-style fountains, this one is pretty quiet.
The bad news for some is it's made of plastic. Plastic can get grimy and grow bacteria more readily than ceramic or stainless steel. Plus, some animals have plastic allergies. Some cats have a propensity for developing feline acne from plastic bowls.
If the plastic is fine for your pet and you're okay with the cleaning commitment, this is a solid choice. It's relatively inexpensive as well.
Overall Best Pump-Style, Charcoal Filter Cat Water Fountain: Pioneer Pet 6022
In my opinion, the is the best charcoal filter, pump-type choice. As I mentioned I also own the Drinkwell pet fountain and was sorely disappointed. So much so, I put it into retirement. Pioneer Pet 6022
This holds 60 oz of water, which is enough that you're not constantly refilling it. It is super easy to clean, which really is important. There are three components to the fountain: the main bowl, the piece on top from where the water flows and the filter housing which just snaps apart for a simple and thorough rinsing. It's also dishwasher-safe, which is a big bonus.
This cat water fountain has two different areas from which your cat can choose to drink: the side where the water flows, or the calm pool of water. It's a nice feature if you have a cat with a strong preference, or multiple cats with different preferences. One of my cats will only drink from the standing pool, while the other two only want the running stream.
You can adjust the stream depending upon how much you want it to flow. On the low setting you will barely hear a thing, set on a higher flow, you will hear a pleasant trickle. Like most of these fountains, if the water gets too low, you will hear a humming sound.
Finally, these are actually attractive! They aren't an eyesore like many of the others, you may even find they add to your kitchen décor. But, most importantly, this one is well made and just keeps on doing its simple job.
- Add a tablespoon of bleach to the soapy water to get rid of the anaerobic bacteria. This is the pink film you find adhering to the water bowl and parts of the unit where water is stagnant.
- Keep it away from pet's food to keep it cleaner.
- If you have dogs, or other “chewers”, beware of the possibility they will chew the cords if you opt for an electric pet waterer.
- Remember to change the filter once per month.
- Cleaning kits are generally a waste of money. Consider purchasing a baby bottle brush for the hard to reach areas. Old toothbrushes also work wonders for small crevices. Your kitchen sink sprayer is a great tool for getting into hard to reach areas. Use hot water for spraying.
- Look for ones with removable bowls, preferably ones that are dishwasher-safe. Stainless steel bowls tend to grow less bacteria, so if possible, that is a preferable choice.
A Word About Your Cat Water Fountain Filter
Don't skimp on changing it monthly. Some state to change the filter every 2-4 weeks. Generally speaking, monthly is enough... except if you have lots of cats. I definitely recommend rinsing out the filter each time you clean your cat's fountain. Just run it under some cold water for a minute or so to get rid of extra gunk. This will help extend the life of the filter.
Bear in mind, when you're choosing your cat water fountain, you are simultaneously choosing what kind of filter you will be using. They are not interchangeable, so take this into consideration. Make sure they're easy to take out and put back in.
If you choose a fountain that uses filters, you will be investing in an ongoing expense (replacing the filters!). That said, some filters don't do their job and/or actually leave debris IN the water. It's worth it to buy a fountain that uses superior filters, cheap filters may have you either ditching the entire drinking fountain or buying another one.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.