You can lead a cat to her water fountain, but you can’t make her drink.
Cat water fountains are becoming popular with pet owners. I decided to join the fountain brigade and purchase one for my cat, Angel, hoping it might increase her water consumption, which is important for cats. A 10-pound adult cat should drink approximately one cup of water per day. If she eats canned food, which contains a high percentage of water, she doesn’t need as much.
Types of Fountains
A quick search on Amazon or Google turns up a plethora of pet fountains, typically made of ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic. Ceramic is attractive but can break if your cat somehow knocks it over. Many people prefer stainless steel because it’s easy to clean and durable. Plastic fountains are durable but it’s a good idea to look for one free of BPA, which has been linked to various health risks. Most need to be plugged in, so that’s a consideration regarding placement. Keep the cord tucked away so it doesn’t become a trip hazard.
Maintenance is a factor, too. I wasn’t prepared for that. Jim Cangany, an Indianapolis, Indiana, resident, has the same fountain I purchased for Angel and says his cat Maria uses it frequently.
“Maintenance is the key,” Cangany says. “I hand wash it every week, when I’m doing other hand washing. It requires a small bottle brush to get into the small spaces. And there is a filter that needs to be changed monthly.”
Will My Cat Drink From a Fountain?
I wasn’t sure Angel would drink from a water fountain but hoped the sound of running water would intrigue her. I knew, though, that she might take a few days or longer to decide yea or nay on a new item in her domain. Give your cat plenty of time to inspect a fountain and get used to it.
After buying a fountain from Catit and assembling it, I realized that days had gone by and Angel was not using it, at least not when I was around. I put a few cat treats by it and she gobbled them up, so she wasn’t afraid of its sound or appearance.
Cats can be fussy about how their water is delivered so it may take some trial and error before finding one your cat likes. It can be helpful to ask other cat lovers what their cats prefer.
I asked Sandy Robins, pet lifestyle expert and author, for advice.
“Does she like water that trickles down or bubbles up?” Sandy asked. “If down, the Swan from Pioneer Pet, and if up, the Sedona from Petsafe. Cats are drawn to running water as it replicates what they’d find in the wild.”
Many other similar types of fountains in all sizes, materials and styles are available from pet supply stores and online outlets such as Chewy or Amazon.
Health Benefits of Drinking More Water
“Cats have a low thirst drive, so their water source has to be attractive, “says Jean Hofve, DVM. “Running water is especially enticing, and pet fountains are a great solution.
“Cats dislike change, so when you first set up a fountain, it’s important to continue to provide the cat’s usual water source. However, fountains require a lot of maintenance in terms of refreshing, cleaning, and changing filters,” Dr. Hofve says.
“Fountain water can develop an off taste that your cat will avoid. That’s why it’s important to always provide a bowl of clean, fresh water as a backup. Dehydration is extremely dangerous for cats and can develop quickly. So be sure to give your cat a choice of water sources every day.”
Secret Video Surveillance
Had it finally come to this? I was setting up my nature-viewing trail camera in the house. My plan was to secretly videotape the fountain 24/7 to see if Angel was drinking from it when I wasn’t around. You can also use an old smart phone as a camera/video recorder.
For several weeks, I checked the videos. At first, she would approach it and watch the water, but eventually walk away. Finally, the videos showed she didn’t even acknowledge it anymore. She preferred her water bowl.
When asked why a cat might not use a water fountain, Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB, owner of Veterinary Behavior Consultations in St. Louis, Missouri, says, “The short answer is individual preferences vary in cats just like they do in people.”
It’s true. You can lead a cat to the water fountain, but you can’t make her drink.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Sandra Toney has been writing about cats for over 25 years and is an award-winning member of Cat Writers Association and Dog Writers Association of America. She has written for many print and online magazines about cat health and behavior as well as authoring eight books. She lives in northern Indiana with her cat, Angel.
Published February 15, 2021