Choosing cat water bowls

If your cat is fussy about water, it might be time to find a new water bowl. There are lots of different options out there, so with a little research, you’ll be able to find the ideal bowl for your pet.
cat drinking water from red bowl
cat drinking water from red bowl
cat drinking water from red bowl

Cats are by nature quite tolerant to thirst. If their water isn’t quite right – for example, it’s too warm or they don’t like their bowl – they might well choose to go without drinking. Equally, many cats will ignore their water bowl and drink from puddles instead, often for reasons you can’t work out. That’s why choosing the right bowl for you cat is so important.

You can read more about how much water your cat needs to drink here. If you are concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough, contact your vet for advice.

Choosing the right cat water bowl

Before you choose the perfect bowl for your cat’s water, think about what they might like. Your cat’s personality, as well their eating and drinking preferences, will all be considerations. If they have a tendency to knock things over, for example, a heavier drinking bowl is probably more sensible. On the other hand, if they dislike their whiskers touching things – as many cats do – a wider bowl will be more comfortable for them. Sometimes, you may have to try a couple of different cat water bowl before you find one that they love, but luckily, most are inexpensive. Considerations include:

Depth – Shallow dishes will need topping up more often than deeper bowls, but your cat may have a preference themselves.

Material – Cat bowls can be made of many different materials. They all have their pros and cons, which you can read about in more detail below.

Standing or running? – Most owners leave a normal bowl of water for their cat, but reluctant drinkers may be tempted by a specially-designed cat water fountain. You can read more about fountains below.

Cat drinking from water fountain

Types of cat bowl

Traditional cat water bowl – Quite simply, this is a plain bowl designed for cats to drink from. It’s probably the type of water bowl you’re most used to seeing. They are very affordable, easy to get hold of, and don’t require any fuss. Many cats will happily drink from a bowl of standing water. However, as cats can also be fussy about their water source, there are many felines who may turn their nose up at the bowl of standing water altogether, especially if there’s a dripping tap nearby that they can drink from instead. To make their water appealing, you need to make sure you change it regularly – all cats prefer fresh, cool water – and make sure it doesn’t run dry.

Bowl with water dispenser – An alternative to the standard water bowl is one with a water dispenser that keeps the water topped up. These bowls are usually made of plastic, and some with an upright water bottle attached. As your cat drinks, the water bottle will slowly drain, keeping the water at the same level. This isn’t the same as providing running water, but it means you won’t have to top the water up so often. This is a good option if you are out of the house all day.

Cat water fountain – This type of water fountain is great for cats who are reluctant to drinking standing water. If your cat tends to drink from the tap or other places they shouldn’t, it might be because they prefer fresh, running water. A cat water fountain may be the solution. These are usually driven very small electric motors. Fill the bowl with water, and a small fountain in the middle will keep the water circulating. Your cat can then either drink from the bowl, or from the water as it falls. Many cat water fountains also include filters, which can help remove dust and hair, keeping it as fresh as possible. At the top end of the market, a cat water fountain may also cool the water – perfect for summer months.

Materials

Plastic cat bowl - Plastic bowls are usually the cheapest option, but they can absorb odour over time, which your cat won’t appreciate. They can also crack, providing places for bacteria to grow, and unless they have a wide base they are easy to knock over.

Metal bowls - Metal bowls, which are usually made from stainless steel, are easy to clean and tend not to absorb odour. Better yet, they can help keep water cool in warm weather. However, they’re quite light, so they may be knocked over (noisily!) easily by a clumsy cat.

Ceramic cat bowl (or glass) - A ceramic bowl is one of the most popular choices of standing water bowl – they’re difficult to knock over, easy to clean, and can cost very little.

Where should I put my cat’s water bowl?

Just like their food, your cat’s water bowl should be somewhere relatively quiet. A hallway, for example, may be too busy for them, even if they are very sociable.

Put your cat’s water bowl somewhere clean and odour-free – and far away from their litter tray! Cats are very clean animals, and just like us, they prefer to keep things separate. For your own peace of mind, it’s also a good idea to put your cat’s water bowl on an easy-to-clean surface, such as tiles or laminate flooring. On that note, always leave your cat’s water bowl on the floor, where they can easily reach in. Avoid table tops and work surfaces, even if you cat loves to jump and climb.

If you have more than one cat, make sure you have a water bowl for each of them, even if they tend to share. Better yet, leave water bowls and several points throughout your house, so your cat always has somewhere quiet to drink wherever they are.