Staff, Courtesy of Pioneer Pet
Have you ever come home to your pet’s bone-dry water bowl, or even worse, a bowl contaminated with hair, dirt, and icky slime at the bottom? A water fountain ensures your dog or cat has access to fresh, clean water all day—it can even prompt them to drink more often. Plus, as a pet parent, it gives you peace of mind that your pet has access to clean fresh water any time of day or night whether you are at home or away.
Our pets’ wild ancestors relied on a moisture-rich diet to stay hydrated. But pets that eat dry kibble don’t get enough moisture from their food and they’re not equipped with the necessary thirst drive to make up for it by drinking water. What’s more, animals are naturally inclined to avoid drinking standing water, which is more likely to be full of harmful microorganisms.
Cats and dogs rely on their powerful senses of smell to decide if a water source is safe for drinking. Their biological adaptations—from the slits on the side of their nose that allow them to exhale while retaining a scent to their 80 to 300 million olfactory receptors (compared to our unimpressive 6 million)—mean that they can detect impurities in their water even when their bowl still looks clean.
An ordinary water bowl must be cleaned daily, or it will quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which is why a pet water fountain is a great alternative. It keeps the water moving through a filter so it won’t develop stale tastes or odors, nor will pathogens have a chance to settle in and take over. Best of all, pet water fountains are surprisingly easy to maintain.
The majority of my recommendations are suitable for cats or dogs. You can find a fountain here that matches your schedule, the size and number of pets you have, and even your home decor aesthetic, all at a reasonable price.
Best Pet Water Fountains
The Expert: I’m a pet product tester for over 10 years and a proud pet parent to two dogs, Matilda and Cow, plus my first-ever cat, Sabrina. Each of my four-legged family members has unique needs, and finding high-quality gear that they can share—without blowing my budget—is always a challenge.
What to Consider With Pet Water Fountains
Cats and dogs need to drink about an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Keep in mind that fountains lose water to splashes and evaporation, so you’ll need to refill your fountain before it empties. If it runs dry, it can burn out the pump. Seek out a higher-capacity fountain than you think you’ll need to get your pet through a few days at a time without refilling.
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In general, fountains made of plastic are the least expensive (starting at around $25), but they can develop tiny scratches over time that harbor bacteria. With regular washing in hot, soapy water by hand or in the top rack of your dishwasher (if dishwasher-safe), plastic fountains should last at least a few years before needing to be replaced.
Ceramic does not scratch as easily as plastic, and it’s usually dishwasher safe. However, it is still prone to developing biofilm, a clear, slimy residue that contains a colony of bacteria. Just make sure to sanitize each part every time you change the filter. Replace your ceramic fountain if it develops cracks, which can trap bacteria.
Stainless steel is the most resistant to bacterial buildup. However, it can still develop biofilms. As with any material, stainless steel should be run through the dishwasher often or sanitized regularly with hot, soapy water.
Type of Filter
The majority of cat and dog water fountains use an activated carbon filter. Carbon filters help keep your pet’s water smelling and tasting fresh but won’t eliminate harmful bacteria, viruses, or heavy metals. However, the constant moving helps keep biofilm from building up in your pet’s water bowl, so using a fountain will still allow you to clean it less often.
A few fountains use a multilayered filter that includes an ion-exchange resin layer. This layer can actually remove minerals from hard water. Hard water has been linked to an increase in kidney stones in cats and may also make small dogs and cats more prone to rust-colored tear stains. If you live in an area with hard water on tap, or your pet has a history of urinary issues, you’ll want to look for a fountain that uses filters with an ion-exchange resin layer.
Motivate Your Pets to Drink More H20!
How We Evaluated These Pet Water Fountains
Having a pet water fountain should make your life easier. But if it’s difficult to disassemble, clean, and refill, it might not save as much time as you’d like. I looked for fountains that had an element of convenience to them, whether they can be used without electricity, can be topped off without disassembling, or have a large enough capacity to keep your pets hydrated for multiple days without a refill.
PetKit Eversweet 3 Smart Pet Fountain
- Triple-layer filter softens hard water
- Can use batteries as backup
- Dimensions: (L x W x H): 7.68 x 7.68 x 6.1 in.
- Capacity: 46 oz.
- Materials: Plastic and stainless steel
- Type of Filter: Triple filtration system consists of mesh screen, activated carbon filter, and ion exchange resin layer
The Eversweet 3 Smart Pet Fountain from PetKit has features you won’t find in any other fountain currently on the market. The pump shuts off automatically when the water level gets too low to prevent burn-out. It can work on backup battery power for up to seven days in the event of an outage. The LED indicator lets you know when to refill, change the filter, or change the battery.
Best for Faucet-Loving Felines
PetSafe Pagoda Ceramic Water Fountain
- Dishwasher-safe ceramic
- Holds nearly a half-gallon of water
- Comes in several stylish colors
- Too noisy for some reviewers (but adding objects to the basin can muffle the trickling sounds)
- Charcoal filter leaves a ring of (harmless) gray dust, even when properly rinsed
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 10.6 x 12.3 x 8.4 in.
- Capacity 70 oz.
- Materials Ceramic
- Type of Filter: Dual-filter system with foam filter and activated charcoal filter
The Pagoda fountain from PetSafe could easily pass as ambient decor in the waiting room of an upscale spa. It dispenses water as two free-falling streams, making it irresistible to cats that love to drink from faucets. Its 70-ounce capacity is suitable for multi-cat homes as well as small- for medium-breed dogs. With the soft trickle of a babbling brook, it could be a relaxing addition to your home environment, though noise-sensitive pets may not find it approachable.
PetSafe Creekside Ceramic Water Fountain
- Refill from bottom without disassembling
- Holds water even if power gets disconnected
- All parts except pump are dishwasher-safe
- Charcoal filter leaves a ring of (harmless) gray dust, even when properly rinsed
- Dimensions: (L x W x H): 12 x 11.8 x 7.4 in.
- Capacity 60 oz.
- Materials Ceramic
- Type of Filter: Double filtration system with foam filter to trap hair and dirt and activated carbon filter to improve taste and odor of water
Like PetSafe’s Pagoda fountain, the company’s Creekside ceramic fountain looks like high-end decor. Suitable for cats and small dogs, its biggest difference from the Pagoda fountain is that water dispenses with a near-silent bubbling action. It’s also a little cheaper, but this design comes only in white. The foam filter traps hair and dirt while the carbon filter improves the water’s odor and taste, so it can go a little longer between cleanings and filter changes. The 360-degree basin allows multiple pets to sip simultaneously.
Best Non-Electric for Dogs
PetSafe Healthy Pet Water Station
- Easy-clean removable stainless-steel bowl
- No filter means no recurring costs
- Gravity-powered; no need to place near outlet
- Water in basin is stagnant and can collect dirt and hair, even when used with filter
- Dimensions: (L x W x H): 10.3 x 15.8 x 19 in.
- Capacity 320 oz.
- Materials: Plastic reservoir with stainless steel basin
- Type of Filter: Can be used without, carbon filter sold separately
If you’re looking for a simple solution to constant refills, the Healthy Pet Water Station from PetSafe might be the best option for you. The large size holds up to two gallons of water, plenty to last even giant breeds at least a few days. Another plus is that it’s gravity-powered, so you don’t need to place it near an outlet. It does not come with a filter, but you can purchase one separately.
Best Gravity Fountain for Cats
Cheerble KittySpring Waterer 2
- Reusable filter means no recurring costs
- Compact size
- Wide dish won’t irritate whiskers
- Reservoir holds less than 2 cups; needs a refill every 1-2 days
- Water in dish does not get re-circulated and filtered
- Dimensions: (L x W x H): 7.3 x 7.1 x 3.3 in.
- Capacity: 14.2 oz.
- Materials: Glass
- Type of Filter: Built-in stainless steel filter
The compact, gravity-powered KittySpring Waterer 2 is low-maintenance, cost-efficient, and easy on the eyes. As your cat sips from the wide, whisker-friendly glass dish, it is constantly refilled from the glass reservoir. It’s not a traditional cat water fountain in the sense that it does not flow, but it keeps extra water clear of dust and dirt, and the gentle bubbling action can still pique your cat’s interest.
Catit Mini Flower Fountain
- Flower-shaped spout can be adjusted or removed to change flow setting
- Uses triple-action filters that soften hard water
- Reservoir has water-level window so you know when to refill
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 7.3 x 7.1 x 3.3 in.
- Capacity: 50 oz.
- Materials: Plastic
- Type of Filter: Triple action filter with ion-exchange resin layer
If you’re in search of a decent starter cat water fountain at a low price, the Catit Mini Flower Fountain can’t be beat. It’s shorter than the regular-size Catit Flower Fountain, suitable for kittens, but large enough for an adult cat to use. For its compact size, it holds a decent amount of water, enough to keep a single adult cat hydrated for at least three days before it needs to be refilled.
Best for Cat-Only Homes
Catit Fresh & Clear Stainless Steel Water Fountain
- Perfect height and size for cats
- Stainless steel basin is easy to clean
- Opaque reservoir, hard to tell when to refill
- Dimensions: (L x W x H): 8.5 x 8.5 x 6.4 in.
- Capacity: 64 oz.
- Materials: Stainless Steel
- Type of Filter: Triple-action filter with cotton mesh later for debris, activated carbon for odors, and ion-exchange resin layer to soften tap water
Designed with cats in mind, the Fresh & Clear Stainless Steel Water Fountain from Catit has a stainless steel drinking basin to prevent “chin acne” often seen with plastic bowls, plus a triple-layered filter that removes impurities in tap water that have been linked to kidney stones in senior cats.
Best for Multi-Pet Households
Pioneer Pet Big Max
- Adjustable flow switch
- Filters and replacement parts are easy to find
- Pump may be too small for the size of the fountain
- Some reviewers had to replace the pump after just a few months
- Dimensions: (L x W x H): 13.5 x 12 x 4.5 in.
- Capacity 128 oz.
- Materials: Stainless Steel
- Type of Filter: Activated Carbon
The Big Max fountain from Pioneer Pet is made of stainless steel, so it’s easy to keep clean even in a multi-pet household. My dogs took to it quickly, probably because it reminds them of our regular stainless steel water bowl. It holds a full gallon of water, and when it starts to run low, you can just top off the basin—no need to disassemble.
Ready to buy a bubbler? Here Are Tips From Our Pet Expert, Lindsay Pevny
PM: Where should I put my pet’s fountain?
LP: You’ll need to place an electric fountain near an outlet, but you can always use an extension cord if that’s practical. Cats are wary of water sources close to their food bowl. Place the fountain in a quiet area where it won’t get in the way of foot traffic and keep it close to a sink so it’s less of a trip to clean and refill it.
PM: Do I still need regular water bowls?
LP: An electric water fountain with a separate drinking basin and reservoir may not provide water if your power goes out. Also your pet may still need an “acoustic” water bowl if they do not take to their fountain right away. I like to have at least one fountain or water bowl in each room that my pets frequent, plus one extra for my cat in a high-up place where the dogs can’t reach.
PM: What if my pet won’t use it?
LP: Many cats take to a new fountain right away, as they’re attracted to running water. Dogs may not instantly take an interest. To encourage your pet to try out a new fountain, turn it off, remove the pump and filter, and add a few tablespoons of something yummy, like broth, to the bowl. Be sure to clean it out before restarting the fountain. I only had to do this once, then it “clicked” with my dogs. Conversely, my cat, who’s known for lapping up the water at the bottom of the tub, needed no introduction to fountains.
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