Which Fountain Does My Cat Want?

We receive a lot of calls and emails from people wanting help selecting a fountain for their particular cat or multiple cat household. It’s a good question and an important one because it makes a difference to a lot of cats. And to you.

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Some cats won’t drink from a stream, they want a pool, and some will drink only from a stream. (They jump into the shower when you’re in there, or they sit by the sink waiting for the faucet to be turned on.) Some cats have long fur and/or short faces and need a fountain that will keep their fur dry. Some cats like to tip their bowl or knock the center piece about so an especially stable configuration of the fountain is important. Some cats are timid and don’t want much action or sound and some just love all the action of freely flowing streams and big bubble-ups. Some cats are old; their senses are diminished and they need to be able to easily locate the water and access it. Multiple-cat housholds have their own requirements and we address those as well.

Do your cats even seem to want water? Many cats eschew water and there are reasons for this. So they suffer from insufficient hydration that their people are never aware of, yet with the right encouragment, and the right fountain, all cats will come to love drinking water and so maintain their health.

Over the years, customers’ questions, as well as their requests for us to create a fountain that suits their cats’ particularities has given us a fairly thorough understanding of what sorts of fountain work best for which cats. There aren’t many hard and fast rules – not given the variability of cats – but for the most part it’s pretty straightforward, having largely to do with fur length and face structure, but there are some temperment caveats and a few other issues mixed in. For the remainder of this post when we refer to longhair cats we are also talking about short faced cats such as Persians.

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First though we would like to address the surprisingly regular, if not common, question; “will my cat have trouble reaching the water?” Here is the categoral answer to that:  All cats can reach the water in all fountains without effort. The fountains are designed for cats and cats don’t vary in size enough to make this an issue, as do dogs, for example. A Chihuahua and a Great Dane can differ in size by a factor of seven or more.  A Singapura kitten (smallest of the smallest of all felines) and an adult Maine Coon differ by a factor of about three. So, the tiniest kitten on the planet might have some trouble reaching a stream but not the bowl and not for long.

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Common Scenarios

Say you have an ordinary, relatively active, relatively mild mannered cat with no particular phobias or obvious neuroses. The first question to ask is; what is his relationship to whatever he’s drinking out of now? Do you have a bowl of water down which you never see him use but assume he is because the level lowers?

If this is the case you might be surprised to find what happens when you provide a fountain with a simple display of moving water, such as a Bubble-up. His water intake will probably increase dramatically and you will see it happening.

If you have a longhair cat already using a stream from say (we shudder and gasp in horror at this) a plastic commercial fountain, and seems to like it because the chin acne hasn’t shown up yet or he doesn’t make the connection between his pain and his water source, (and he doesn’t know how much time you put into trying to get the slime out), then get him a stream fountain. (Our fountains don’t create slime and don’t cause chin acne.)

We make many stream models so if it is the falling water he craves, all other considerations are for you. What do you want? Color, size, specific design – There are a lot of choices.

So now let’s look at different kinds of cat households to lay some basic concepts about choosing a fountain, with some anomolies addressed as well.

Aggressive Cats

Like to push, pull, tip the bowl and/or knock the center piece about

Shy/Timid Cats

Suspicious or fearful of unfamiliar sights, sounds, motion and noise

Senior Cats

This can vary a lot but generally we are referring to cats with diminished senses and restricted motion.

Shorthair, Normal:
Shorthair cats can use any of our fountains; Stream, Raised Bubble-up and Bubble-up fountains and either of the Cat Taps.

If your shorthair is one of the many who insist on a stream then either a Bubble-up with a Cat Tap or any of the many stream fountains are in order.

Shorthair, Shy:

If your shorthair is a bit shy a Bubble-up is the best bet. It is not demonstrative but does offer a visible upward spout of water that can be completely silent or make slight burbling sounds, so is not at all intimidating. This style seems to be pretty irrestible to most cats. 

If your shy shorthair wants a stream fountain you might choose a simple stream with an understated display such as one small stream falling a fairly short distance, say about one inch, and makes not much water sounds. Many of our Leaf and flower designs provide this. You’ll want to avoid elaborate displays with a lot of flowing water.

Another option for the stream-loving, shy shorthair, is the Serenity Flow (image far right). It fits any Bubble-up fountain and gives a gentle stream which can be silent or can have slight water sounds, depending on the pump setting.

Shorthair, Aggressive:

Any style of fountain because of the short fur but the bowl and the center piece need to have a wide base with a relatively low profile. This is easier to achieve with a Bubble-up design rather than a Raised Bubble-up or a Stream but we do make low, wide bottom versions of those as well.

If your cat is quite determined to disrupt the whole scene, you’re better off with a Bubble-up having a wide base and low profile in a wide bottomed bowl. We try to include a profile picture in every listing to show this but it isn’t always easy to see, in which case please call or email us. We also will make a fountain with these attributes on request, which allows you to choose the glaze, size and other features.

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Longhair, Normal:

The best fountains for Longhair cats are either Stream Fountains or Raised Bubble-ups as these will keep their fur dry. We do not recommend Bubble-up fountains for longhair cats unless it has a Cat Tap which makes a stream because their neck fur will get wet.

For a normal, not shy, not aggressive longhair cat any of the stream fountains are good. The streams can be accessed without having to bend lower and dip fur into the bowl. 

Most Stream fountains also provide a raised area (for example, the cup of a leaf or flower), as well as stream from which your cats can drink. Some Stream Fountains have more than one stream (we address this in the Multiple Cat Household section below), however most have one stream but those streams can differ considerably. For a better understanding of water flow and water sounds see this link.

Raised Bubble-up fountains are equally as good for longhair cats if they don’t crave a stream. In some designs the water rises up quite visibly, as with the Geyser styles. In others there is a smaller upper basin. All Raised Bubble-ups allow your cats to drink without dipping their neck fur into the water.

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Longhair, Shy:

 Rather than a Stream fountain one of the more tranquil Raised Bubble-up fountains is a better choice for a shy longhair. We make a variety of these. The Geyser style fountains, top right above, may be too active for a shy cat, for example, while the no-spout Piazza designs are ideal. They offer a small, raised area of water that can be quite tranquil and still while still providing clean, fresh, running water. The movement is just much less visible in this design. The first two of the first row, the first of the second row and the last of the third row in the image above, right are of this type. Another option for the shy longhair is a Bubble-up with a Serenity (top right).

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Longhair, Aggressive

These cats like to move and or tip their water bowl, move the center piece and treat the fountain as if it were something to play with. Such cats need a wide base for the center piece as well as a wide base for the fountain bowl. A low, Raised Bubble-up can work well if the bowl and the center piece have a wide base and a low profile and have considerable weight, as with the fountain to the left. A low, very wide base stream center piece can also work. Please check with us for recommendations or to arrange a custom fountain. They are pretty much the same price as those listed in the shop.

Multiple Cat Houshold

The primary factor in choosing a fountain for two or more cats is the cup capacity. For two cats we normally recommend a minimum of a ten cup capacity which should not need toping off for at least two days. For more cats, go larger. We make fountains that hold all the way up to fourteen cups. If you’re there to top it off, size is much less important.

Other aspects besides cup capacity also matter, such as whether you have a mix of longhair and shorthair, shyness and aggressiveness and if there is a dominant cat who will take possession of the fountain.

With a mix of fur length it is best to choose for the longhair as the shorthair can drink out of all our fountains, so a Raised Bubble-up or a Stream fountain are good choices. If at least one wants a stream and none are particularly shy, a Stream fountain is the way to go. A fountain with more than one access point is great for cats who enjoy drinking together. 

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If you have a dominant cat who likes to command the others you have several options.  Depending on the nature of your dominant cat’s dominance a fountain that offers multiple drinking options may be all you need to satisfy his/her assertivness. In the image to the far right the orange cat is the dominant cat but with all the options available she is allowing the others to drink.

Some customers have purchased one fountain for the boss and another, simpler fountain for the others and placed them in different locations. Life’s like that sometimes.

Senior Cats

The fountain for seniors needs to provide adequate water sounds for locating it (if there are hearing or sight issues) and the bowl should be fairly wide, low and easy to use. For shorthair cats a simple Bubble-up may be best. For longhair senior cats aggressiveness is not usually an issue so a simple stream fountain or a Bubble-up with a Cat Tap should work well. Be sure to have the cord from the pump at the back of the fountain so as to not create any confusion.

Placement of the fountain is always important but especially so for the senior cat. It should be placed where she frequents and is comfortable in and that requires no extra effort to get to. Normally we recommend placing your ceramic cat fountain on a raised surface where it can be better appreciated but not for a senior cat. Here is a link for more on cat fountain placement generally.

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