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How to Choose the Best Cat Water Fountain or Bubbler

Elsie lives with four cats, a dog, and has run her own pet sitting business for over 20 years.

Are you looking for a drinking fountain for your cat?

Are you looking for a drinking fountain for your cat?

Why I Decided to Buy a Drinking Fountain for My Cats

A cat water fountain offers multiple benefits for 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 with 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 water cooler. 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, and 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 them when you refill. 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 add 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.

Top Picks

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 were constantly charcoal fragments circulating around the reservoir. I do not recommend this unit one bit.

Cat Water Fountain: PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station Dog and Cat Water System with Stainless Steel Bowl

Cat Water Fountain: PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station Dog and Cat Water System with Stainless Steel Bowl

Best Gravity Run Cat Water Fountain: PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station

This PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station Dog and Cat Water 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 leak 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.

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The removable stainless steel bowl is dishwasher safe. It doesn't have a lot of small nooks and crannies that make cleaning impossible, and 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.

Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System, Medium, Peacock

Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System, Medium, Peacock

Best Bubbler-Style: Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System, Medium, Peacock

The Petmate Ultra Bubbler Watering System 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.

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 considerably 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.

Petmate Deluxe Fresh Flow Pet Fountain

Petmate Deluxe Fresh Flow Pet Fountain

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, as 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.

 Pioneer Pet 6022 Ceramic or Stainless Steel Drinking Fountain, Raindrop Design

Pioneer Pet 6022 Ceramic or Stainless Steel Drinking Fountain, Raindrop Design

Overall Best Pump-Style, Charcoal Filter Cat Water Fountain: Pioneer Pet 6022

In my opinion, the Pioneer Pet 6022 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.

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 on 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.

Care Tips

  • 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 your 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 fewer 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 recommend changing the filter every two to four weeks. Generally speaking, monthly is enough . . . unless 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 that 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.


Silvertabbies on November 29, 2016:

We have used two different fountain type Drinkwell waterers. We clean it every week and found that we were still having scum or debris in the pool area. Upon taking it apart again we found that in the motor compartment there was such a buildup of bacteria it almost made us gag. If you get one of these, make sure you take apart the motor housing completely, as the bacteria seems to love this area. If this continues with this unit and bacteria is there every week we clean it, this will be the last one of this style that we will use. The cleaning of this unit is very time intensive!!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 29, 2015:

This is a great hub. One of my adult senior cats tend to go to the toilet bowl to drink, when I stop him or catch him in the act. I keep the lid down at all times. I'll invest in a water fountain when I can afford it.

Boo McCourt from Washington MI on December 01, 2014:

This is great. I have been looking around for something like this. My 20 year old drinks out of the water dish, but my 1 year old sniffs her nose at a dish at all. She jumps in the bathroom sink and drinks from the stream of water. So this hub gives plenty of reviews to choose a fountain that might work for the little one. Thank you.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on November 30, 2014:

I've been thinking of getting my cats a water fountain, and your article is so helpful in describing different options. Who knew there were so many!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 24, 2014:

i never thought of buying a water fountain for my cat. ANyway, i never gave her any drinks. She gets them from the rainwater most of the time. The only time I gave her milk or water was when she lost her voice.

idigwebsites from United States on December 17, 2013:

Oh no... why didn't I stumble on this before? I'd love to get the best drinking fountain for my cat, no less! Thanks for your reviews. :)

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on December 21, 2011:

JCBrooks, it is dishwasher safe. You can take it apart and run it through the dishwasher. Or, if you don't have one, just take it apart, use hot water, Dove soap and a washcloth. If that doesn't work, use a baby bottle brush and/or a small toothbrush to get in all the crevices. You CAN buy one of the special brush kits, but I've never found it necessary. I hope that helps.

JCBrooks on December 21, 2011:

I happen to own the Pioneer Pet 6022 Ceramic Drinking Fountain, Raindrop Design. Any advice about cleaning? Cat loves it but we have Fred Flintstone water so it does leave junk on the black bowl. I am not sure what to use and not damage the ceramic but get the crud off. Thanks anyone

A.CreativeThinker on December 15, 2011:

This is a great idea and an interesting hub. Thanks for sharing. Take care :)

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on December 08, 2011:

Thanks, Stephanie... but more importantly Gemini! And yes, he would love this, most cats do. Thanks for the link, by the way.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on December 08, 2011:

Oh, my, I think my cat, Gemini, would just love one of the bubbler fountains! He often will climb up on my husband's bait tank and drink out of the aerating fountain - quite tricky, since he has to be careful not to fall into the tank! I'm going to link this hub to my hub, 10 Ways to Pamper Your Cat-by the Cat!

P.S. Gemini votes it UP!

David Alderson on May 04, 2011:

From one cat lover to another....Great Hub!! A lot of good ideas that can be put to practical use just like my Litter Clump Art.

RTalloni on January 28, 2011:

Moving water is my cat's preference. These are great!

Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on November 24, 2010:

Thanks, SGFR! I know, the bubbling brook has that cool kinda zen thing going, huh? My cats love these! Thanks for visiting.

schoolgirlforreal on November 24, 2010:


What an awesome invention! I've heard of cat water filling bowls but a bubbling brook is so cool! My cat loves cold water too, what cat doesn't so this is one thing I would love to get!!! Such a cool cool thing to have for one's beloved pet.

Great hub!

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