Cat Water Fountain Selection Guide

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It can be hard to get cats to drink enough water, though hydration can also come from their food. One way to get some cats to drink more, especially cats that like playing with water like Bengals or Maine Coons, is to get the water moving with a cat water fountain. There are a lot of options out there, so how does one decide which is best? I’ve tried a few in addition having the perspective of my clients as to which cat water fountains their cats love. Lucky for you I’m ready to share my secrets.

What Makes A Good Cat Water Fountain?

When evaluating a cat water fountain, you’ll want to consider a few things. In particular, make sure you look into:

  • Materials: Some materials may be associated with health concerns and some materials are easier to clean than others. Stainless steel and ceramic are usually easier to clean compared to plastic.
  • Size: If you have multiple cats, a larger fountain with a bigger reservoir is a better choice.
  • Spout: Some cats are very particular about how they prefer to drink their water. Some prefer drinking from a stream while others prefer the water being still. If your cat has shown any preferences (such as enjoying drinking out of your sink), try to find a cat water fountain that is similar.
  • Power Source: Depending on where you plan to keep your cat water fountain, you may have an outlet nearby. If you don’t, consider getting a battery operated fountain rather than one that requires a power source. For cats that chew on cords, a battery operated fountain is also a safer choice. Make sure to include your fountain cord in any cat proofing you do.
  • Filter: If not properly maintained, the water can develop some funky build up. You want to find a fountain that filters out bacteria or other gunk that may get into the water between cleanings.
  • Noise: Cats have more sensitive hearing than we do so if you find the noise of the fountain’s pump loud, chances are your cat won’t enjoy it. Look for a pump that is quiet for anxious cats.

Optional Features

Of course, there are a lot of cat water fountains out there. Some of them include some fancy features that are nice to have but are not completely necessary. For example, some fountains will have a peep hole that allows you to see how full the reservoir is. While this is a great feature, it’s not totally necessary as you’ll usually figure out when the fountain is running low based on diminished performance. Plus, you should be cleaning the fountain regularly and replacing the water anyway.

Getting even fancier, some fountains include app based monitoring. This may be useful if you have a cat with a medical condition that requires them to have extra hydration. These cat water fountains often allow you to monitor the water level in the reservoir remotely and even control the flow of water.

Spout Styles

A quick search for cat water fountains will come up with a lot of options of different types of spouts. Ultimately, any of them can function so it’s a matter of ease of cleaning, aesthetics, and your cat’s preferences.

Kitchen Sink Style

These spouts look like a kitchen sink and have a single, narrow stream of water. They are appealing to cats that like drinking out of, well, sinks.

A medium haired gray tabby cat licks their thigh. They are sitting in a tan brick sink with a golden spout above them. The water is not on.
Best. Fountain. Ever. Photo by Rhamely.

Unlike most indoor plumbing, this style of spout tends to produce a gentle stream that isn’t too loud. One challenge you may encounter with these spouts is cleaning them as, in order to get rid of bacteria build up, you’ll need to get something inside the fountain to clean it. Thankfully, there are cleaning kits available that include thin brushes that can make this task much easier.

Waterfall Style

Waterfall style spouts have water pouring over or out of something. Sometimes they’ll run along a surface and other times the water will free fall. The streams tend to be wider than a sink style spout. Some cats like having the wider stream or having something to lick water off of. Depending on the material of the spout itself, these may or may not be easier to clean than the sink style.

Fountain Style

Fountain style spouts involve a stream of water that goes upward from a central point and either creates a cascading effect or multiple streams of water. Think something that looks like a fancy fountain you’d see in a park.

A stone water fountain with two basins and a small geyser in the middle is seen in the middle of a stone pool. There are green hedges and partially cloudy skies behind it. It appears to be in a park.
A fountain fit for one big kitty. Photo by Peter Herrmann.

These ones can be more decorative and may have elements of the other spouts. They are a mix bag as far as if cats like them or not, but they do come in some fun varieties including the very popular flower fountain by Catit.

Downsides To Cat Water Fountains

If you’re thinking of getting your kitty a fountain, you should be aware of the potential downsides to them. They can be a great addition to your home (I have one that both my dudes love) but they require maintenance.


The most obvious cost is the up front price of the fountain itself. Prices can vary drastically depending on how fancy you want to go, but you can easily spend over $100 on a water fountain if you go for a bougie style. Besides the up front cost, you’ll need to replace the filter regularly. While they aren’t usually unreasonably prices, the cost does add up.

Even well designed fountains won’t last forever. The most common part to require replacement is the pump itself so look into the cost of replacement pumps before you purchase any fountain. Other parts may become damaged due to normal wear and tear, but you may not be able to purchase a replacement for all of them. The entire fountain would need to be replaced, though most qualities fountains won’t require frequent replacement.

Regular Cleaning

While you should be refreshing and cleaning your cat’s water dish daily, cat water fountains usually require more involved cleaning (though, mercifully, this is a much more pleasant task than cleaning a litter box). If you have an (almost) fully stainless steel fountain, running it through the dishwasher will take care of cleaning. Others require hand washing with hot water and soap. Most manufacturers suggest once a week cleaning at a minimum, but you won’t be wrong to clean it more frequently so bacteria and other gunk doesn’t build up.

Benefits Of Cat Water Fountains

Cat water fountains are an excellent option for some cats despite the downsides. In particular, the moving water can appeal to some cats and may help them drink more water. If properly maintained, the filer can help keep the water clean and ensure your cat always has access to fresh water.

While not a cure all for a cat not using the litter box, cats don’t like peeing or pooping somewhere that could contaminate their food or water source. Placing food or water near where a cat has been house soiling can help make them less likely to go there. Anecdotally, clients of mine who have tried this with a cat water fountain instead of just a dish of water seem to see it work more likely. My theory is that the moving water makes the cats think that more water will be contaminated, but I haven’t seen any research to support this so take it with a grain of salt.

While not the main point of a cat water fountain, a benefit for some cats is that they may enjoy playing in the water. The fountain becomes an cat enrichment activity! Just make sure you protect your flooring so water doesn’t get all over.

Is A Fountain A Good Idea?

Ultimately, there are a lot of great fountains out there and for some cats, they’re an excellent fit. For others, the cat may not like the fountain or the maintenance may not be something you can keep up with. That’s totally okay as there are plenty of fun regular, low tech water dishes out there for your cat. I find a stainless steel fountain to be a great fit for my cats because it can be easily cleaned, but it does require me keeping track of when I cleaned it last.

As long as your cat always has access to a source of fresh, clean water, a cat water fountain is only one of many ways you can make your cat’s life happier.

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Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi CCBC is an IAABC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and professional cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation and cat training service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. Joey is available for in home sessions locally or virtual sessions wherever you are located!