a calico cat taking a drink from a garden pond

Do Cats Really Need A Water Fountain?

Do cats really need a water fountain? Lots of responsible cat owners want to do their best for their little furry pals. New cat owners inevitably have a big list of useful accessories that they feel they should invest in and experienced cat owners often identify potentially useful kit and wonder whether they should invest for the benefit of their cat. 

Cat water fountains tend to be one of those items of kit that both new and experienced cat owners consider buying. The claims that these fountains bring benefits are enticing. But is a fountain really necessary? Let’s check it out. 

Are Cat Fountains Worth It?

We can think of three decent reasons why you should get your cat a water fountain. However, none of them amount to “essential for life” reasons – they are just decent reasons why you might splurge on a fountain.

Cats with sensitive whiskers may find using a water fountain easier

Some cats are really sensitive in the whisker area. This can affect them to such a degree that food or water placed in bowls that don’t allow unfettered access for their whiskers may as well be unreachable. It must be like eating with a toothache!

close up profile of a calico cat investigating a cat water fountain
Calico Cat Looking At Water In Cat Fountain

A cat with sensitive whiskers might end up drinking from puddles, drinking in the shower pan, or sitting under a running faucet to cadge a drink.

Some cat water fountains offer a stream, some offer a waterfall and some produce a small fountain. Many of these offer a cat unhindered access, they don’t have to squeeze their whiskers into a gap. For cats with sensitive whiskers a water fountain that allows good access is great.

Cats that prefer aerated water may enjoy water from a fountain more

My cat will NEVER miss an opportunity to drink from a puddle after a rain shower or from water that has collected in the bottom of the shower! 

Such is her devotion to these water sources I often wonder whether I am missing out on something. Is this water the equivalent of some fine vintage champagne? Just how different can this water be? How do I get some without getting down on all fours and trying a nearby puddle or shower pan, eughh!

Initially, I thought that maybe rainwater did not contain the same limescale or chlorine that tap water might contain hence the attraction. But, the shower water makes me think it could be down to air content in the water droplets or at least exposure to the air for individual droplets.

A water fountain that actually forms drips that drop or that somehow aerates the water droplets may create the same type of vintage champagne that attracts her to puddles? If your cat is like mine, you might find they will really enjoy a fountain!

Cats that don’t like chemicals may prefer a fountain as they often have charcoal filters

If your cat simply has no interest in any type of tap water but is happy to drink rainwater outside then it might well be that they simply don’t like the flavor of the tap water. Could be that the tap water has trace minerals, pollutants like chemicals, or physical dirt in the water that has tainted the flavor. 

close up of a tabby cat drinking from a cat water fountain

In these situations, a water fountain could be the answer. It is not so much the fountain that provides the relief, rather the filter systems a lot of these fountains have built into them. These filters are often charcoal-based and are great at removing the taste of chemicals like chlorine and reducing the water hardness. 

The filter will also remove or collect small items of physical dirt, so if your water is peaty and tainted red the filter will probably be able to remove the small elements of vegetable fiber that create that flavor and color. Of course, the filter should also remove household dust and cat hair from the water.

The Sales Patter 

Water fountains for cats have been around for at least 15 years now. They have gained in popularity because they tap into this fear that owners have that their cat does not drink enough water. 

The fear comes from the fact that most owners know cats get a lot of their water from their food yet many owners feed cats dry cat food diets because it is more convenient for the owner. They also appreciate that cats don’t have much of a thirst reflex because you rarely see cats drinking long and hard. You will often see a cat looking at water but not drinking.  Put the two elements together and you get owners thinking they should do more to encourage their cat to drink! (How about just feeding your cat properly as nature intended?!?)

The sales patter generally goes along the lines that fountains are good because cats find them instinctively attractive. They are attracted to moving water, which they know instinctively is less likely to be dangerous and unhealthy – moving water is not stagnant. Because you are tapping into these instincts your cat is more likely to get a thirst on and choose to drink from the fountain!

That is the common sales spiel…

a ginger and white tabby kitten checking out a bowl of water outdoors

Do Cats Really Drink More From A Fountain?

It would be nice if this simple solution alleviated our guilt about potentially damaging our cat’s health because wet food was just too inconvenient!

Unfortunately, this completely plausible sale patter might not actually make much of a difference in real life!

According to this very small study, cats do not seem to drink more running water from a fountain compared to drinking from a normal bowl.

Basically, they took a dozen or so cats and assigned half to water fountains and half to bowls over a 24 hr period and then measured their intake and output.

What they found was that there was basically no notable difference between the water intake in both groups. Some cats seem to prefer the fountain over the bowl and others vice versa.

It may be that cats are like humans, they have preferences, for instance, some humans like their coffee out of “their mug” others just don’t care about their coffee receptacle. Some cats may have a preference and others don’t…The type of coffee mug you prefer does not necessarily make you drink more coffee!

Are Cat Fountains Good For Cats?

Given all the above, what do we think? Well clearly there are some potential benefits, however realistically these are not life-changing or crucial benefits – you could achieve the same results by giving your cat filtered water in a saucer remembering to pour the water in from a height that created the “vintage” water effects!

So by all means go for it, it is harmless and your cat might actually be one of the cats that prefers a fountain (or not) – but don’t beat yourself up or even think you are harming your cats well being if you don’t! A water fountain isn’t altogether necessary but may be nice to have! Check out some of the best water fountains for cats here.