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Have you ever noticed your cat sneaking onto the counter to get a drink from the faucet? Or chased them away from YOUR water glass? Have you stopped to wonder why? After all, they have a perfectly good water bowl set out for them. These unwanted habits could be a signal from your furry friend that they aren’t getting enough water each day. Instead of struggling to correct unwanted behaviors, consider investing in an automatic water bowl for cats first. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Cats and Drinking
The average cat doesn’t drink enough each day to meet their nutritional needs. Why? Well, unhappily, cats are notoriously poor drinkers. They each have a personal reason to disdain the water bowl you worked so hard to pick out:
- Temperature: If water gets too warm sitting in the sun or near a vent, cats lose interest
- Cleanliness: Cats are fastidious creatures. The last thing they want to see is hair, dirt, or other debris floating in their water.
- Freshness: You may have refilled the bowl this morning, but to your cat’s senses, the water’s “stale.” They crave something that hasn’t sat out for hours.
The less your cat drinks each day, the greater their risk for dangerous health complications. Male cats, in particular, increase the risk for a urethral obstruction. Commonly referred to as being “blocked,” this results in an inability to urinate. A blocked cat is an EMERGENCY. Without intervention, they’ll pass away. A constant fluid intake flushes out the bladder, preventing the build-up of crystals and other debris that lead to that nasty obstruction.
So while you probably hate sharing your glass with your cat, they’re trying to help themselves.
Automatic water bowls for cats allow you to head that risk off before it turns into a problem. Many feature fountains or bubbling water, both of which mimic the sound of running water. That soothing, natural rhythm is the key to getting your cat to not only drink but drink the proper amount they need every day.
Cats trace their ancestry back to desert species. As they roamed around, they learned to keep an ear out for the sound of water. Bubbling water sources promised safe, clean places to find water and fuel their bodies. They learned to drink where they could, keeping their bodies healthy.
Automatic water bowls for cats do the same thing in your cat now. The old desert instincts are still there, driving your cat to seek out the source of the sound and take a drink. They can’t help it! It’s a simple, elegant solution.
Choosing an Automatic Water Bowl for Cats
Automatic water bowls for cats come in many styles, feature several materials, and operate in different ways. You need to find one that suits your home situation, your cat’s preferred drinking method, and your lifestyle. Just keep the following in mind:
- Capacity: Do you have one cat or multiple cats? How often do you feel like topping off the reservoir? Each automatic water bowl for cats holds a different amount, and you need to consider your needs. On average, a cat should drink 1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight every day, but it never hurts to over-estimate.
- Materials: Automatic water bowls for cats come in BPA-free plastic, ceramic, and stainless-steel. The difference in the material tends to be the ease of cleanability. Look over how your fountain works (with or without a dishwasher) and make your choice from there.
- Filters: All automatic water bowls for cats utilize filters. The filters keep the water clear of the hair, dirt, food, and other particles that tend to fall into the water bowl. They tend to require monthly changes.
- Noise: Automatic water bowls for cats run on pumps to circulate the water. This keeps the water cool and aerated (another big attraction for cats). However, they vary in their noise level. If your cat gets frightened by loud noises, try to find the quietest one you can.
- Design: Automatic water bowls for cats come in gravity-styles, fountains, or bubblers. Consider what works best for you and your cat – especially as some cats get particular over their water delivery systems.
Best Automatic Water Bowls for Cats
You CAN choose to leave a faucet running all the time. Your cat will have a supply of constant running water. However, you’ll also have to decide which faucet to keep on and whether you want your cat to have access to that sink all the time. Opting for an automatic water bowl for cats makes for an easier solution. And you’ll be surprised at how often you see your cat drinking – especially if you’ve never noticed before. The first time I made the switch to a fountain, I thought my cats were PARCHED! They spent HOURS sitting at the fountain, drinking. Years later, I still catch them drinking more than I would without the fountain bubbling away in the kitchen. (And with one kiddo having a history of a urethral obstruction, we’re never going back!)
Best Fountain-Style Automatic Water Bowls for Cats
The sound of running water makes the most difference in getting your pets to drink. It piques their interest and draws them to the automatic water bowl. Whether you choose a fountain or a bubbler, the soothing rush of water entices your dog or cat to pause in their activity. With one cat that’s experienced a urethral obstruction, we made the switch to a fountain and never looked back.
PetSafe is one of the most recognized names in automatic water bowls for cats. The Drinkwell Fountain tops the list with a sleek, basic design and a single fountain cats love. The BPA-free plastic loads in the top shelf of the dishwasher when you want to clean-up, and the filter promises your cat has clean water each time they drop by. You get an adjustable know to allow full control over the flow of the water. (I recommend keeping it low – the highest level WILL splash out of the basin) And the reservoir holds a reasonable 50 ounces.
Downsides? There’s no anti-microbial coating to the plastic. You have to stay on top of your cleaning to prevent a nasty biofilm from building up. Also, hair clogs the filter fairly easily, so clean it out at least once a month. And if you let that water level drop, you’ll produce a horrible grinding sound from the motor. (It’s really awful)
If you have multiple cats, the Multi-Tier Fountain provides one of the largest reservoir capacities at 100 ounces. Two waterfall heights let several cats drink at once. You can still put it onto the top row of the dishwasher for cleaning, and you still get to adjust the water flow.
The downsides? The BPA-free plastic still doesn’t have an anti-microbial coating. The motor’s quieter than the Drinkwell, but as the water level drops, it gets louder. Stay on top of those refills.
For cat owners (like myself) that dislike plastic, the Pagoda Drinking Fountain offers an alternative. The ceramic bowl and fountain have no problem fitting onto the top row of your dishwasher. Even better, this automatic water bowl for cats works as a fountain, bowl, or bubbler, depending on your cat’s preferences (or your tolerance for the sound of the water). The reservoir holds 70 ounces of water, allowing multiple cats to share the fountain at the same time. Personally, I love the bubbler setting. The cats still hear falling water, but I don’t.
So what are the downsides? The motor and pump still come in plastic, so you need to follow the cleaning protocols you would with other automatic water bowls for cats. The filters for this particular fountain run thicker, so some people found them difficult to get wedged in place properly.
The Stainless-Steel Fountain provides a coating of stainless-steel around the rim of the basin. The reservoir holds a whopping 128 ounces, and you get different settings for the top of the fountain that allow you to choose five different spill patterns for the waterfall. That top shelf of the dishwasher still works just fine when it’s time for cleaning. And if you happen to have fluffy cats, the pump comes apart so you can pry the hair out.
Downsides? While the rim has a case of stainless steel, it’s held in place with plastic clips around the side, and biofilm loves to collect around those clips. If you want to avoid grossness, you need to clean this automatic water bowl for cats WEEKLY. Also, no matter which option you set for the fountain, water splashes out when it’s full. However, if you keep the reservoir too low, the pump gets loud. It’s a delicate balance, and the constant battle is why I finally threw in the towel on this particular model.
If your cat loves drinking from the faucet, Pioneer offers the perfect compromise. Their automatic water bowl for cats mimics that faucet design. The reservoir holds 80 ounces of water, and it’s constructed from BPA-free plastic. The pump has a USB connector that keeps it whisper-quiet, and you can easily change out the filter cartridges. When it’s time to clean up, pop the fountain in the dishwasher.
The downsides? Unfortunately, there’s no anti-microbial protection. Also, the faucet design makes it easy for your cat to splash water OUT of the fountain. Consider placing this bowl on a towel and away from electrical outlets.
IPETITE offers a fancy ceramic automatic water bowl for cats. Your feline will think they’re royalty with this elegant option. Two drinking levels hold 70 ounces of water, and you can adjust the water flow between them. You get two pumps with your order, and the filters change out with ease. The rounded corners make the fountain simple to clean.
Downsides? Unhappily, this automatic water bowl for cats ISN’T dishwasher safe. You’ll have to scrub it by hand. And you get two pumps because they aren’t the best quality. You may want to consider upgrading to a better one to save on aggravation.
Hate the sound of falling water? (I don’t blame you) And neither does Pioneer. Their Raindrop Fountain does away with falling water entirely. The stainless-steel automatic water bowl for cats allows water to bubble up and cascade down the side, minimizing any potential splash zone. The reservoir holds 96 ounces, providing plenty of water for a multiple cat household. Once again, that top dishwasher shelf comes to the rescue at clean-up time.
The downsides? Stainless-steel or not, Pioneer recommends cleaning the fountain weekly, which irritates people looking for less labor-intensive options. Monitor that power cord, as well. The design of this fountain causes the cord to bend at a 90-degree angle, which puts strain on the wire.
As cats start to age, they can develop problems with memory and navigation, even at night. Lotus thought of their needs. Their automatic water bowl for cats provides the option of a nightlight, offering a soft glow through the evening. The BPA-free plastic reservoir holds 75 ounces of water, which is plenty for the average cat. You have the option of switching between a faucet, bubbler, or waterfall depending on the topper you add. This particular automatic water bowl for cats comes with two filtration systems, promising fresh, clean water every time.
Downsides? Some cats find the nightlight off-putting. (Of course, it’s an optional setting, and you don’t have to switch it on) As the plastic lacks an anti-microbial coating, you have to clean this cute fountain weekly.
Best Gravity-Style Automatic Water Bowls for Cats
Cats HATE the sound of an automatic water bowl motor protesting low water levels. It’s one more excuse for them to avoid drinking. You don’t want to forget to refill the reservoir, but your schedule may prevent a top-off now and then. Or perhaps you aren’t fond of fountain-style water bowls in the first place. Good thing gravity-style automatic water bowls for cats exist. You get a clear reservoir, so you know when a refill’s needed, but gravity does all the work of topping off the bowl for you. Just keep in mind, gravity-waterers may not produce enough consistent bubbling noise to encourage your cat to drink. Experiment with them and see how your cat does.
AmazonBasics provides two different sizes for their gravity automatic water bowl for cats: 1 gallon and 2.5 gallons. Sturdy non-skid rubber feet prevent your cat from knocking the reservoir over and making a mess of the kitchen. You also get handles on either side to help you carry the reservoir (always lift with your legs). The mouth on this BPA-free plastic bottle is wider than most, making it much easier to get your arm down there and clean.
The downsides? The valve between the bowl and the reservoir on this automatic water bowl for cats tends to stay open. It allows water to flow freely, resulting in a bowl filled to the brim with water. You might want to place everything somewhere absorbent. Some people also noticed the connection between the two leaked, so consider keeping towels handy.
Okay, you don’t want leaks, right? Aspen’s four-gallon bottle twists and locks in place, ensuring no leaking water. The valve between the bottle and bowl is smart enough to prevent overflows, too. You also get a raised lip around the bowl, just in case your cat feels like splashing a bit. The BPA-free plastic is a cinch to clean between refills.
So what are the downsides? There’s no anti-microbial coating, so plan to wash this automatic water bowl for cats a couple times a week. And plan to spend some time doing so. The underside of that lip likes to collect biofilm, and it isn’t the easiest to get clean. Also, while the locking mechanism is handy, it isn’t the easiest to get straight when the bottle’s full and heavy.
Lead a Cat to Water
Before automatic water bowls for cats came around, veterinarians saw more and more kidney, bladder, skin, and hair problems in cats. Providing all the water bowls in the world only works if your cat drinks from them. Luckily, playing off that desert instinct is simple, and fountains or bubblers “trick” your cat into getting all of their ounces in each day.
So figure out which automatic water bowl for cats suits your situation best. Then sit back and marvel at how much your cat drinks every day. Especially compared to before!