How to Get a Cat to Drink From a Fountain | 8 Top Tips
Many owners eagerly buy their cats a new water fountain to help increase the amount they drink, only to discover they won't go near it. Some cats drink from a fountain immediately, while others need encouragement and patience. Cats often don't like change, so you need to give them a couple of weeks, sometimes even a couple of months, to adjust before giving up.
If your cat is hesitant about their new water source, follow our tips in this article on how to get a cat to drink from a water fountain, where we will discuss the following:
1. Choose a Quiet Drinking Fountain for Cats
If the motor and pump make too much noise, your cat may be too frightened to drink from the fountain. We suggest purchasing a fountain with a silent motor, however, if you already own a fountain and it is too noisy, try the following:
- Make sure the fountain has been filled with water to the correct level. If the motor runs dry, it will make unpleasant sounds and cause damage. You may need to add a little extra water each day as your cat drinks from it and some evaporates.
- Some drinking fountains allow you to reduce the water flow, which can reduce the amount of noise.
- Clean the pump because cat hair and other debris caught in there can cause it to become noisy.
- Make sure the surface where you place the fountain is sturdy and level.
- If the fountain is on a hard floor, placing a silicone mat underneath, such as the PetSafe Silicone Fountain Mat, may help dampen the sounds and will also catch any spilled water.
2. Choosing the Best Material for Drinking Fountains
We prefer cat water fountains made from food-safe ceramic as it is scratch-resistant and doesn't flavor the water. Some types of plastic may contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the water over time. Plastic can also scratch easily, creating grooves that can harbor bacteria, and can absorb the smell and taste of the soap used for cleaning. Some cats do not like stainless-steel water fountains as they don't like the reflections caused by the shiny surface.
3. Cleaning the Cat Water Fountain
So as not to affect the taste of the water, clean the cat water fountain before assembling it to remove any smells from the manufacturing process and dust that may have accumulated during storage and transportation. Skipping this step may cause the fountain to be off-putting to your cat.
To maintain a clean, healthy, and great-tasting water source for your cat that they want to drink from, thoroughly clean your cat's drinking fountain once a week to remove accumulated dirt, hair, slime, and debris. The fountain should be dissembled so each part can be properly cleaned. Some parts may be dishwasher-safe, while others need to be hand washed. The Fountain Cleaning Kit, which includes a large brush with a sponge tip for cleaning the bowl, and a tiny brush for cleaning the pump, is an easy way to ensure every part is clean.
Most water fountains also come with carbon and foam filters that should be replaced as recommended by the manufacturer to ensure optimal filtration of impurities from the water.
4. Provide Filtered Water to Drink
To entice your cat into using their fountain, make sure the water is always clean and fresh. We suggest using a filter pitcher to remove chlorine from tap water and improve the taste and smell. Additionally, using filtered water may help reduce the buildup of scale or mineral deposits, which can prolong the life of the fountain.
5. The Perfect Location for Water Fountains
To encourage your cat to use their drinking fountain, it's essential to consider where to put it. Our suggestions for the most appealing location include the following:
- Place it next to your cat's current water bowl (or move the water bowl next to the fountain) so it's more likely to be perceived as another water source. If your cat drinks from the faucet, place the fountain next to it.
- In the wild, cats eat, drink, and toilet in separate locations to avoid contaminating their water with urine, feces, blood, or intestinal contents, or their food with urine and feces. Therefore, place the water fountain away from their food bowl and litter boxes.
- Ensure the cat water fountain is in a quiet, safe, and easily accessible location where they feel comfortable sitting and having a drink. There should be low foot-traffic and minimal noise and disturbances. For example, avoid placing the fountain in a busy hallway, or near doors and loud appliances, such as laundry machines. It is also best not to situate the fountain in a corner or tight space, as cats feel safer when they can easily view what's around them while drinking. If stranger cats come into your garden, your cat may also feel uncomfortable drinking by the window.
- Keep the fountain out of direct sunlight, which may warm the water, causing it to be unappealing to your cat, and can also encourage algae growth.
- Experiment with different locations to see what your cat prefers.
6. A Positive Introduction to the Cat Fountain
Introduce the fountain to your cat slowly and positively by following our suggestions:
- When you first purchase the fountain, after washing it, assemble the fountain together with your cat, allowing them to sniff and explore it, helping them to realize they don't need to be scared.
- Keep the fountain turned off until your cat is comfortable drinking water from it.
- Splash the water a little to pique their curiosity.
- Place treats around the fountain to create a positive association. You can also dunk certain treats, such as Life Essentials Freeze-Dried Chicken Treats, in the water and then give them to your cat.
- Use verbal praise and encouragement, or reward them with treats, if they interact with the cat fountain or drink water.
- Play games around the fountain with wands and fishing rod-type toys, such as Da Bird or Purrsuit (UK), to build their confidence. The exercise may cause them to become thirsty.
- Some cats respond better to being left alone and exploring the fountain in their own time without any pressure.
- When you are ready to turn the fountain on, avoid doing so while your cat is standing near it, as the sudden flow of water may startle them.
- When initially turning the fountain on, use the lowest setting.
7. Don't Remove Your Cat's Regular Water Bowls
Keep providing your cat with their regular water bowls until you know they reliably drink from the fountain. Never remove their regular water bowls, leave them to dry up, or stop changing the water in an attempt to force them to drink from the fountain. Doing so could cause your cat to become dehydrated.
8. Be Patient With Your Cat
Cats can be cautious and suspicious of anything new, so be patient and give them time to get used to their water fountain. It could take two weeks or even two months before they start using it. Never force your kitty to use the fountain, which will not work and only create anxiety that they associate with both you and the fountain.
If you are unsure if your cat is using the fountain, set up a pet camera (such as the Blink Mini) in the water fountain's location so you can record and watch their behavior while you're out. It's also worth considering that cats on a 100% wet food diet will be getting most of their daily water intake from their food and may rarely be seen drinking.
For more ideas about how to get your cat to drink more water, read 20 Tips to Get a Cat to Drink More Water. One of the best ways to keep your cat hydrated is to feed them wet food, but if they refuse it and are addicted to dry kibble, read How Do I Get My Cat to Eat Wet Food?
- Grant, D.C. (2010) “Effect of water source on intake and urine concentration in Healthy Cats,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 12(6), pp. 431–434.
- Pachel, C. and Neilson, J. (2010) “Comparison of feline water consumption between still and flowing water sources: A pilot study,” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 5(3), pp. 130–133.