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Sometimes cats don't drink enough water and aren't sufficiently hydrated by either wet food (which can be up to 80 percent water) or their water bowl, resulting in lethargy, a loss of appetite, and other negative effects. A cat water fountain is one possible solution to your cat's reluctance to drink from a water bowl, as it's often thought that cats prefer drinking running water.
Scientists have found limited evidence that cats drink more from a flowing water source but have found that cats express strong individual preferences. So while a water fountain may not guarantee perfect hydration, some cats prefer it to a bowl, and there's a chance your cat will love it. Meanwhile, you'll be providing them with cleaner, filtered water.
We tested 19 of the top cat water fountains in our New York Lab and at home with enthusiastic feline volunteers. Each was scored in multiple categories, including ease of cleaning and design attributes, with testers also noting when a fountain was difficult to set up or noisy.
Our favorite overall cat water fountain is the Cepheus 360 Ceramic Pet Fountain, which uses dishwasher-safe ceramic parts for an attractive water bowl with a lot of different ways for your cat to drink from it. But we found several other cat water fountains that may work better for your specific needs.
Here are the very best cat water fountains, with data gleaned from hundreds of hours of combined testing.
Best Overall: Cepheus 360 Ceramic Pet Fountain
Multiple water streams
Fun color options
Assembly instructions are vague
No AC power cord adapter
With accessible streams of water, easy-to-clean ceramic construction, and fun color options, the Cepheus 360 Ceramic Pet Fountain was a clear favorite of our testers.
"Aesthetically, this is the best fountain," one tester said. "It's heavy ceramic, and it feels great."
True to its name, the Cepheus 360 has a round reservoir with a 71-ounce capacity—more than half a gallon—which is fed by three different fountain spouts arranged around a circular top reservoir. The design not only allows for multiple cats to drink the Cepheus at once, from any angle they can get at it, but also creates a few different ways for your cat to hydrate. Cats can drink from the main bowl, lap water from the spout streams, lean in to drink from the bubbling top reservoir, or lick up the thin layer of water that splashes over a flat second tier.
Setting up the Cepheus was straightforward, though the included instructions were very basic. The fountain is primarily made of two different pieces, with the ceramic fountain unit inset in the center of the bowl. The fountain's pump is affixed to the bottom with suction cups, then the power cable snakes up and through a passage leading out the bottom of the fountain (an included waterproof cap is used to seal off this exit).
The Cepheus came with three filters, which are rectangular cartridges stuffed with activated carbon and cotton. On visual inspection, the cartridges are less full of absorbent material than some other cat water fountains we tested, though we were unable to find any detrimental effect on its cleaning capacity or longevity. Cepheus recommends changing the filter once a month, which is comparable to other fountains we tested. We especially appreciated that the filter fits into a bracket that places it directly in front of the water intake on the side of the fountain's pump, which means water is forced through it. In several other filters tested, water merely burbles over a filter layer, creating a less thorough water cycle.
Since the Cepheus seals its pump mechanism under the ceramic fountain piece, it operates remarkably quietly. You mostly only hear the waterfall sound. That ceramic construction has several other advantages too. For one, it makes the Cepheus 360 incredibly stable. It doesn't matter how excited a cat or even a small dog might drink from it, they won't be scooting it around the floor and splashing everywhere. But our favorite ceramic advantage is that it's dishwasher safe.
Our testers did note a few small downsides to the Cepheus 360 Ceramic Pet Fountain. The most obvious is the lack of an AC power cord. Instead, the pump cable ends with a USB plug, so you'll need your own adapter. One tester also noted that internal elements are likely to be trickier to clean than the two main ceramic parts.
"The excess foam around the pump may get a little dirty," the tester noted. "I could see this being a little finicky to clean the insides long-term."
But reservations aside, the tester was eager to recommend the Cepheus 360. We especially liked that it was available in a bunch of fun colors and patterns. In addition to gray and white models that could fit in with any kitchen decor, there are also two cheerful pattern designs and a gradient "Gradual Purple" version.
Best Splurge: PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda Ceramic Fountain for Pets
Made of high-density porcelain
Available in multiple colors
Cats love the tiny top reservoir
Noisier than other ceramic fountains tested
The PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda Ceramic Fountain is remarkably similar in many facets to our overall favorite, the Cepheus 360. It includes a similar ceramic design, using two separate pieces to house its internal fountain pump. It also has a similar 70-ounce capacity and comes in four fun colors. What mainly separates the Drinkwell Pagoda from our favorite cat water fountain is a higher price and a rectangular—rather than round—design.
The Drinkwell Pagoda combines dishwasher-safe ceramic components, a smaller top reservoir (which tester cats loved), and a dual-fountain design that enables multiple cats to drink from either end of the fountain. We also liked that it came with a proper power adapter rather than just a USB cord.
There were some minor downsides to the Pagoda Ceramic Fountain, including a complicated internal water pump set-up that is a pain to disassemble and clean. And while the pump motor was a barely discernible hum, the spouts dropped water directly into the bowl from a significant height, making it a little noisier than similar water fountains. Finally, while we loved the look of the Drinkwell Pagoda, our testers did note that the flared-out rim made it easier to spill water when moving the fountain.
But none of these were dealbreakers, and our testers mostly found the Pagoda fountain to be as high quality and well-designed as our top pick. If the price difference doesn't deter you, then ultimately the decision between the Cepheus 360 and the Drinkwell Pagoda should come down to your aesthetic preference.
We also tested—and loved!—the PetSafe Drinkwell Avalon, which is the same as the Pagoda but with a round instead of rectangular design. It's well worth your consideration as well.
The PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda Ceramic Fountain is available in four colors: white, red, taupe, and Himalayan blue.
Best Large: PetSafe Drinkwell 360 Stainless Steel Pet Fountain
Adjustable water flow
Multiple water streams
Made of durable stainless steel
Most parts are dishwasher safe
Fill lines are hard to read
The PetSafe Drinkwell 360 Stainless Steel Pet Fountain was our previous Best Overall pick, and it's still one of our favorite pet water fountains. Its main downside will also be an advantage for many pet owners: This fountain is gigantic! If you have cats and dogs willing to share a bowl, then this is likely to be your best option.
"This thing is huge," one tester said. "Pictures make it seem smaller than it is."
Similar to our Best Overall pick, the PetSafe Drinkwell 360 is designed to fill a round reservoir that can be approached from any direction. Unlike the Cepheus, however, the Drinkwell is strictly utilitarian in its design, with plastic clips that distract somewhat from its clean, stainless steel lines.
While it has fewer surface areas for cats to lap water from, the Drinkwell offers extra customizability, with a plastic cap that can be used to adjust the size of the fountain streams. Several swappable caps are included for different configurations, allowing you to customize the number of individual water streams—up to five. One tester called the flow adjuster cap "a nice touch" that's "easy to use."
We also liked the long power cord.
Our testers were less enamored with setting up the PetSafe Drinkwell, which included small parts that connected together in initially unintuitive ways. Still, the instructions were decent, and after 15 minutes, we had the fountain up and running without issue.
While the dishwasher-safe stainless steel design makes it easy to clean the Drinkwell's primary components, the internal mechanisms are a little more finicky, and may require a little scrubbing. In addition to replacement filters, PetSafe also sells a fountain cleaning kit with pipe cleaner-style scrubbing brushes.
Best Stainless Steel: Pioneer Pet Stainless Steel Raindrop Fountain
Stainless steel design
6-foot power cord
Setup is a little tricky
If you prefer stainless steel (and don't need the massive capacity provided by the PetSafe Drinkwell), we recommend the Pioneer Pet Raindrop Fountain.
The Raindrop Fountain resembles a standard (albeit a little oblong) stainless steel pet bowl, except for the curved water slide design, which creates a sluice of water to attract your cat. It has a 60-ounce capacity, or just under two quarts, and operates very quietly.
Our testers found it to be a "simple, no-frills fountain" and were particularly impressed with its reasonable price, especially compared to cheaper-feeling plastic models.
Best Plastic: PETLIBRO Capsule Water Fountain
Made of BPA-free plastic
High capacity in a compact design
Ergonomic and easy to take apart
Translucent reservoir makes it easy to see whether the fountain is full
Not dishwasher safe
Only two fountain options
Most of the water is inaccessible if the unit loses power
The PETLIBRO Capsule Water Fountain has a 71-ounce (2.1-liter) capacity but retains it in a surprisingly compact design.
"It looks small but actually carries a decent amount of water," our tester noted, describing the Capsule as a "very simple fountain that works well."
The filter is especially beefy and did a great job catching the crumbled kibble we sprinkled in the fountain. It was also one of the quieter fountains we tested, behind only the ceramic models that smother the pump noise under heavy housing.
The Capsule is made from BPA-free plastic. It's easy to take apart and reassemble, which makes it easy to clean. Sadly, the fountain is not dishwasher safe, but it does come with its own scrub brush.
It's an attractive design, though our tester did wish for a longer power cord (the cord is USB, but a power adapter is included). Another compromise the compact fountain makes is a lack of water flow choices. While other models offer customized streams and the ability to adjust water flow, the Capsule can only be used with the spout or without. The choice is between a stream of water like a water fountain or a low burbling.
The Capsule Water Fountain also shares limitations common to the "flower" style of the cat water fountain (more on those later). Most notable is a top tray that separates the fountain from the water reservoir, which means if the pump stops working or the power goes out, your cat won't have access to most of the water. But unlike flower-style fountains, the Capsule has a broad drinking area that retains about 2.7 ounces of water on top of the dish in a shallow pool.
The PETLIBRO Capsule Water Fountain comes in blue, purple, orange, or green. There's also a stainless steel version.
Best Budget: Cat Mate Pet Fountain
Multiple levels with different ways to drink water
Enough surface area for multiple cats
Easy to disassemble and reassemble for cleaning
Long power cord
Not great at filtering out pet food crumbs
The Cat Mate Pet Fountain is the cheapest fountain we recommend, but it has more going for it than just a low price. Its design offers a lot of drinking options, with water spread across three different levels, so your cat (or cats!) can pick whichever pool or stream they prefer. And while far from our quietest model, we didn't find the low hum from its pump very noticeable at all.
While the Cat Mate is an excellent fountain that is likely to engage your cats, it's less effective as a filter. In theory, water is supposed to pass through a screen-like filter on its way to the pump intake, which then shoots the water back up to the top pool. But in practice, bits of kibble and other impurities (like fur, slobber, etc.) slipped around the edges of the filter, which is held in a plastic bracket. Or, if a piece of food or other contaminant is heavy enough, it's likely to stay in the main bowl area and not circulate back through the plastic grille.
If you're primarily considering a cat water fountain as a way to entice your cat into drinking more water, the Cat Mate is a great way to try one out. However, if you're more interested in a water fountain that you can fill up and forget for days at a time, you might want to consider our other recommendations because the Cat Mate requires a little attention to keep clean. In our tests, it also demonstrated a smaller practical water capacity than advertised: It's closer to 50 ounces than 70. Luckily, the Cat Mate is easy to disassemble and reassemble, plus its BPA-free plastic is dishwasher safe, so cleaning is easy.
Best Flower: Wonder Creature Cat Water Fountain with Stainless Steel Lid
Stainless steel parts are dishwasher safe
Multiple fountain options
Good accessories, including extra filters and a scrub brush
Cat loses access to water when power is out or pump isn't running
Hard to tell when water is low
If you've done any research into cat water fountains, you've almost certainly run into the flower design. They all share in common a plastic flower resembling a daisy, which divides the water pumped up from the reservoir beneath, forming multiple streams that tumble into a shallow drinking tray. Beneath the drinking tray is a filter, which the water passes through as it falls back down into the reservoir.
We tested six of the most popular flower designs, including the ubiquitous plastic Catit Flower Cat Fountain, and mostly found them to be of similar quality. Many even shared identical components. Overall, we weren't too impressed by any of the flower fountains, which were mostly flimsy and have a divider between you and most of the water bowl, making it difficult to tell when they were running low. Plus, if the bowl loses power, your cat won't have access to the water.
It's a design with some compromises, but if you're still interested in a flower fountain, we recommend the Wonder Creature Cat Water Fountain with Stainless Steel Lid.
True to its name, the main difference between the Wonder Creature and other flower fountains is the stainless steel lid, which can be run through the dishwasher and provides the flimsy plastic frame with a more durable feel than similar plastic models. It also had a backlit fill line, which made it easier to tell when the water level was getting low. The Wonder Creature came with a floor mat, three filters, and a scrub brush.
Oddly enough, the Wonder Creature was virtually identical to another model we tested, the Comsmart Cat Water Fountain, right down to an identical instruction manual. But the Wonder Creature version had a maximum/minimum fill line printed on the front and came with a better scrub brush.
Our favorite cat water fountain is the Cepheus 360 Ceramic Pet Fountain, which has enough spouts for a multi-cat household and comes in several attractive designs. It also operates quietly, with an effective filtering system. If you're looking for something a little more compact (and friendlier on the wallet), check out the PETLIBRO Capsule Water Fountain, which has a clean, contemporary design and is made from BPA-free plastic.
How We Tested Cat Water Fountains
We purchased and tested 19 cat water fountains in our New York Lab, setting up each and then running them through several tests. Our methodology guided testers through multiple scores while also gathering their subjective impressions along the way.
Beginning with setup, our testers timed how long it took to assemble and start a cat water fountain. If the directions were confusing or the pieces were hard to fit together, our testers let us know. Testers also evaluated the design of each fountain, letting us know which ones they'd want in their own homes or noting when a fountain felt shoddily constructed.
We then evaluated a fountain's effectiveness, using several tests, such as sprinkling cat food crumbs into a fountain and evaluating how well it did at filtering them out. We also looked for a fountain's stability, so we could determine whether or not they'd be likely to splash all over your floor or get jostled around in a multi-cat household.
Finally, our testers looked up the price of the fountain they were testing and gave us their impressions of the product's overall value.
After testing in a lab environment, water fountains were mailed out to at-home testers for further evaluation, which joined a library of insights provided by past tests and reviews. The scores and impressions provided throughout this roundup are a synthesis of our lab-tested ratings and at-home experience with the fountains.
What to Look for in a Cat Fountain
Research indicates that cats have different preferences when it comes to their water sources. Our favorite cat water fountains offer multiple ways to drink water so that your cat will find something to entice them. For example, many cats don't like their whiskers touching the edge of a bowl while drinking and so prefer access to a wide surface area of water. Others might prefer drinking right from a spout or licking up shallow, flowing water from a smooth surface.
A water fountain with many different options will help you pinpoint your cat's favorite ways to drink, so you can learn how to provide for their hydration.
While many cat water fountains use very similar electric pumps, different design choices can result in a louder or quieter experience. We found ceramic models did the best at insulating the pump, so the fountain's operation can barely be heard. "Flower" style fountain designs operate relatively quietly but get progressively noisier as the water level lowers.
In addition to the pump motor, noise also comes from the trickling of water. While some people find burbling water pleasant, if you suspect to be annoyed by the constant sound, look instead for a model where the water lands on a smooth surface instead of splashing against more water.
Size and Capacity
Cat water fountains can be surprisingly large and often take up much more space than a standard water bowl. It's a good idea to measure the space where you might place the water fountain in advance, so you're not caught by surprise when your new fountain arrives.
Size also matters to a fountain's capacity, which we've noted for all of our recommendations. Many of our favorite fountains hold around 70 ounces of water, which should enable you to leave the fountain for several days without a refill.
But one feature to consider in advance of purchasing a water fountain is what happens to the water when the power is disconnected. For some fountains, the water reservoir is always accessible as a standard water bowl. But some models give your cat access to a "dish" surface, with water constantly flowing over it and back into a lower reservoir. These models may satisfy your cat's hydration but could be less appropriate picks if you're looking for a water fountain for use while away on vacation since your cat will lose access to the water if the power goes out.
Do cats like water fountains?
The scientific research on whether or not cats will drink more from a water fountain is equivocal, with studies finding that cats drink slightly more from flowing water sources, but not to a statistically significant degree. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that cats had a strong individual preference for either a fountain or a bowl.
In other words, there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer to whether or not cats prefer drinking from fountains and running water. Instead, your cat has an individual preference. If your cat is reluctant to drink from a bowl, then a fountain might intrigue them.
How do you clean a cat water fountain?
While cat water fountains have filters that keep the water free of cat saliva, food crumbs, hair, and other contaminants, your fountain will still need regular maintenance. Most manufacturers recommend changing the filter and thoroughly cleaning a fountain once a month.
Cleaning typically involves disassembling the fountain, wiping down all surfaces with soapy water, then rinsing thoroughly. Many models we recommend have dishwasher-safe components as well.
With many models, you will also have to clean the pump periodically since internal propellers and other areas can get clogged with your cat's hair, reducing the flow of water. Pipe cleaners and narrow, stiff scrub brushes are often best for cleaning smaller components.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Andrew Whalen, an editor for The Spruce Pets with hours of experience testing pet products in our labs. Andrew lives with two rescue cats, Church and Wally, who have wildly different water drinking habits. Their input and emotional support were crucial to the testing process.
A previous version of this article was written by Theresa Holland, a freelance writer who has been contributing to The Spruce Pets since 2020. Her work has also appeared on MyDomaine and Byrdie. For this list, Theresa considered each fountain's price, design, and material, in addition to incorporating feedback from cat owners who tested the fountains at home.