How To Choose A Cat Fountain In 2024

There are so many brands and styles of cat fountains available, even knowing how to evaluate them can be daunting. An exhaustive treatment of this subject would comprise a book but here we cut through to the most salient points to help anyone considering a cat fountain make an informed decision before buying. The most important aspects to consider are:

  • What is the fountain made of
  • Where was it made
  • What is it’s filtration
  • How easy is it to clean and keep clean
  • How durable is it
  • What is the cost
  • Will my cat like it 
  • How does it fit in with my home

What Is The Cat Fountain Made Of

This is of primary importance. Most manufacturers are abandoning plastic as a material for cat fountains because plastic fountains have been proven to be actually harmful to cats, frequently causing Chin Acne – a painful, unsightly rash on your cat’s chin that can easily become infected, and because they are impossible to clean away the incessant slime buildup. Many plastic cat fountains are still being offered, however, and should not even be considered. Here are two links on this:

We address stainless steel and ceramic cat fountains below under Cleaning.

Where was the fountain made

The reason this is important is because some countries have no regulations governing what goes into the making of cat fountains, so manufacturors use the least expensive materials available, thus permitting all manner of harmful elements such as lead (which can be in both ceramic and stainless steel), and various chemicals associated with plastic. Any fountain made in the US will not have that issue. Numerous Chinese made, stainless steel products have been found to have excessive lead. The great majority of cat fountains are made in China, regardless of the material they are made of, so beware and if possible (probably isn’t) check with the manufacturor or seller.

What Is The Fountain's Filtration

The great variety of cat fountain filtration systems is another bewildering topic in itself and is important for three reasons – cost of replacement, difficulty of cleaning, and potential harmfulness. There are more than forty different filtration systems out there, each claiming to be the most effective. It is important to realize that cat fountain filtration need not and should not be complex. Many brands now offer very complicated systems that seem to be nothing more than gimmicks to wow you with their technology and entice you to buy. Cat fountain filtration should be simple.

Mechanical filtration, such as sponge filters, prevent hair and other debris from entering the pump. In many cases this is all the filtration that is needed. If water quality is an issue then a carbon filter is also very helpful. Carbon removes toxins and unwanted odors and tastes. Here is a post on that subject.

Some manufacturers of cat fountains offer a filter that has additional minerals, and this is not a good thing.

Cornell College Of Veterinary Medicine has this to say: “Although your cat needs certain amounts of each specific nutrient to be healthy, more is not always better. This is particularly true of vitamins and minerals, so the use of supplements is usually not necessary if you are feeding a balanced and complete diet. Supplements can be harmful to your cat, and they should never be given without a veterinarian’s approval. Cats should have access to clean, fresh water at all times.”

cat fountain filters

Cleaning The Cleaner

Another concern of filtration is the difficulty of cleaning them and the housing they are contained in. In some cat fountains this can be fairly complicated, adding to the time and trouble of cleaning. Look at the diagrams in the advertisements for them.

Cat Fountain Filter Replacement

Finally there is the replacement cost. Most makers of cat fountains require frequent filter replacement, greatly adding to the cost of the fountain over time. Check the info provided in the ads for the particular fountain you are considering, to learn what it is going to cost you. Somewhere in the description most will say to replace the fountain filter(s) every two or three weeks. An honest cat fountain filtration system will last months, if not years.

How Easy Is It To Clean The Cat Fountain and Keep It Clean

This is a big issue for almost all cat owners. Generally, the more parts the harder the fountain is to clean and the more complicated the design (nooks and crevices and corners) the harder it is to clean. Look at the diagrams most cat fountains show in their ads to determine this.

As for how often it needs cleaning, this depends largely on of what the fountain is made. Plastic develops slime (biofilm) very easily and quickly and which is nearly impossible to eliminate. As mentioned above – plastic should not even be in the consideration.

Stainless steel should be easy to clean, so long as the design isn’t complicated and there are not too many parts or significant plastic parts and that the steel is smooth and well polished.

However, there is one major concern here. Many so called ‘stainless steel’ products are not steel at all but have a PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating sprayed over some other material such as plastic. The material may have metal in it but it is not thick enough to be called a coating but is rather a ‘treatment’.

Ceramic is normally easy to clean and stays clean longer, provided it is high quality. Low fire ceramics are those many mold made models which are made of low density clay and low-fire glazes. High fired ceramic cat fountains are the best and there are several American makers of these, including the host of this post. Here is a thorough post on that.

How Durable Is The Fountain

Plastic is the least durable and considered by veteriarians and others not to be considered anyway.

Most stainless steel cat fountains are made from very light gauge steel (or may be of PVD – Physical vapor Deposition, see above), but with reasonable care they should last. Check the warranty for the fountain you are considering.

High Quality ceramic cat fountains with reasonable care will last a lifetime. There are several makers of these in the United States, the host of this post being one of them.

So long as they are high-fired, the glaze will not alter or wear and the colors will not fade. Again, check the warranty. A quality ceramic cat fountain is warranted for materials and workmanship for life.

What Is The Cost

You can buy very cheap cat fountains under $30 and you can buy cat fountains for over $400. But before you decide on this it is useful to consider the price over time. You do get what you pay for and cheap cat fountains almost always prove to be much more expensive than the sticker price in the long term. Here is a post on this.

Will My Cat Like & Use The Fountain

Raised Drinking Area
Spout With Pool

There are three styles of cat fountains generally available. Fountains that have:

  • An elevated drinking area with or without a spout, and a pool of water
  • A spout of water and a pool
  • A stream and pool

The three above are examples from ThirstyCats extensive repetoire of designs. (Click the images for more examples of that style.) Other brands have different ways of presenting the same basic options.

Pretty much all cat fountains belong to one of these categories. Which style you choose will be determined in part by your cat. Some cats want little activity and have short hair so the small spout with a pool is best for them. A raised drinking area with a pool is good for longhair cats who don’t insist on a faucet or stream and a stream is best for cats who forever ask to have the faucet turned on. (There are a surprising lot of them.)

If you decide to go with ThirstyCats, below are several links to help you choose the particular fountain best for you.

General information concerning fountain size, weight, cup capacity and water sounds.

Choosing the best style for your cats and you

Detailed information on water sounds

How Does It Fit In With Your Home

The primary reason this is an important issue is because cat fountains should not be near the food bowl. Often that means the fountains will not be on the kitchen floor or even in the kitchen so it becomes fairly important that the fountain fits in or enhances your home décor. A fountain which is aesthetically pleasing serves the dual purpose of hydrating your cat and adding to the beauty of your home, thus doubling in value so having choices in this deparment becomes very useful.
Here is a FAQ page on this.

We hope this information has been useful to you. If you have questions you are welcome to call (518-677-3225) during business hours Eastern time, or email us (info@thirstycatfountains) anytime. We are Jackie, Keith and the crew at ThirstyCat Fountains.

how to choose a cat fountain

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