A Guide to Water Bowls for Cats

White and orange cat drinking from a cat water fountain

Providing fresh, clean water and nutritious food is one of the most important parts of keeping your cat healthy and happy. To do that, you need the right tools. The amount of different cat water and food dishes that are available can be overwhelming, but with some research and information you can make a choice that's right for your cat.

Keep reading to learn about the best water bowls for cats, which ones can help keep allergies and sensitivities at bay, and where to place your cat's water and food bowl for best results.

Best Bowls for Cats

When you're trying to choose the best water bowl for your cat, it's important to remember that there isn't just one right choice. A variety of sizes and materials can be suitable for your cat, and a lot of the actual decision making will likely come down to personal preference — both yours and your feline's. 

You may need to try a few different varieties before settling on the one that works best for your cat. In general, there are three major things to keep in mind as you select your cat's food and water dishes:

  • Depth. Cats have very sensitive whiskers, and how much the bowl touches your cat's whiskers can impact how much they like to eat and drink from them. Cats tend to prefer wider, shallower bowls that provide less whisker stimulation while they're eating and drinking.
  • Material. Cat dishes usually come in either plastic, metal or ceramic varieties. Plastic bowls are inexpensive and easy to find, but they can harbour bacteria, be harder to clean and can contribute to conditions such as feline acne. Metal bowls are good choices, but they may be easy for your cat to knock around, and some cats are afraid of the shiny surface. Ceramic bowls are a good all-around option.
  • Running or standing. While most cats will drink out of a regular bowl of standing water, pickier felines may only be willing to drink from cat water fountains, which keeps the water circulating in the bowl. 

Types of Cat Water and Food Dishes

When you're looking at cat water and food dishes, you'll likely see four main varieties: regular bowls, flat dishes, bowls with built-in water dispensers and cat water fountains. 

Basic Bowls

When you think of a cat water or food bowl, a regular bowl design is probably what comes to mind. They're sold in most pet stores and are just plain bowls that you put water and food in. When they're empty, you refill them. Depending on the type of material, you may need to periodically wash them with hot, soapy water or put them in the dishwasher to be sanitized. These bowls come in a variety of sizes, shapes and depths and often feature fun patterns or humorous text.

Flat Dishes

Flat dishes are food and water bowls that are wider and flatter than traditional bowls. These are especially suited to cats who have sensitive whiskers and don't like things touching the sides of their faces. Flat dishes can also be good options for nervous cats who don't like feeling hemmed in.

Bowls With Water Dispensers

Cats can drink a lot of water throughout the day, so if you have a multi-cat household, you may find yourself making frequent trips to the sink to top off their bowls. A cat water bowl with a water dispenser has one big reservoir that you fill, which in turn automatically refills the bowl for a time. This can dramatically cut down on how often you have to fill your cat's water bowl, and it's also a good option if you work out of the house all day or plan to spend a weekend away from home. There are similar automatic and timed feeder bowls for cats as well.

Cat Water Fountains

Cat water fountains are exactly what they sound like: water bowls that have a built-in fountain to keep the water running and fresher. These are plug-in models that have a small motor that keeps the water circulating. These types of water fountains can be helpful in getting a reluctant or picky cat to drink. 

Where to Put Cat Food and Water Bowls

Once you have decided on the type of food and water bowls you want to use for your cat, the next step is figuring out where to place them. In general, you want to place food and water bowls in a quiet room where your cat is comfortable. This is especially true in homes with multiple cats or a dog. It can help to put the bowls where the sight lines are open, and you should always keep bowls away from the litter box, as most cats don't like to eat or drink right next to where they also go to the bathroom. Older cats may also benefit from a raised bowl.

You'll also want to ensure that the bowls are placed out of the way, where they won't be a hazard to humans either. You don't want to worry about slipping on spilled water or tripping over dishes.

If you have more than one cat, it's a good idea to have a food and water bowl for each even if they're willing to share. That way, all your kitties have equal access to food and water at all times.

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