Water Bowls For Cats

There are as many different types of water bowls available for cats as there are, well, cats.  Plastic, metal and china.  Round, square, oval.  Deep or shallow?  Automatic refill or water fountain?  So many choices for what is a cat essential.

Plastic bowls

Plastic is cheap and cheerful, they come in many colours, shapes, and sizes but have a couple of problems.  Some cats may be allergic to the plastic and develop blackheads on the chins.  Cats with big ruffs like Persians and Maine Coons can rub their coat against the plastic and become matted or break off the coat at that point.  Plastic bowls can also develop hairline cracks that allow germs to breed if not cleaned properly.

Ceramic, china, glass bowls

Ceramic, china and glass bowls are always a popular choice.  They can range from a dollar at the local reject shop up to hundreds of dollars for a large, personalised bowl for your cat.  If you have a cat that likes to “fish” in its water bowl, make sure you buy a heavy-based bowl that cannot be tipped over.  It won’t stop them from splashing the water everywhere, but it will stop them creating their own pond on the kitchen floor.  If you are buying a ceramic bowl, make sure the glaze used to waterproof it is lead-free.

Stainless steel bowls

Stainless steel bowls tend to keep the water cooler than the other choices, but it is hard to find a heavyweight bowl that can’t be tipped over.  Some stainless steel bowls come with nonslip rubber rings on the bottom, but this rubber can perish over time.  Beware of steel bowls that can rust quickly, especially if out in a run.  Stainless steel is a good choice for longhaired breeds as it won’t break the coat.

Depth and width

Stainless steel food and water bowls

How deep your cat’s bowl is depending on a number of things.  How many cats are sharing the bowl, and if any of them play with the water and are likely to empty the bowl while you’re away or at work.  It’s always good to have two water bowls full at all times, and if you are a multi-cat household, four or five in different locations will ensure all cats can have a drink when required.  Remember, however, that you will be lifting the bowls at least once if not twice a day, so don’t get something so heavy you end up with back problems.

Shape:  Most bowls are round but you can find different shapes if you search hard enough.  Some cats don’t like having their whiskers touch the side of a bowl, so look for rectangular or bowls wide enough that the whiskers don’t touch the sides.  For long-coated breeds, consider using a spaniel bowl.  These bowls are specifically designed to keep the long ears of spaniels out of their food and water bowls and work for cats by keeping their ruffs out of the bowls when they drink.

Bowls for nursing queens and young kittens

For nursing queens with baby kittens, it is best to start with hanging water bowls, the type used by bird breeders.  This ensures that baby kittens can’t drown when they are first moving around.  When the kittens are old enough to drink water provide a shallow bowl with a depth of less than 5 inches.  As the kittens get older, you can increase the depth of the bowl.

Automatic water bowls and water fountains

Automatic water bowls for cats
Image Chika Wantanbe, Flickr

There are various types of water fountains and automatic refill water bowls on the market now.  All recirculate the water through a filter, usually charcoal, which supposedly keeps the water cleaner for the cat.  These need to be sited near a power point, and you need to keep an eye on any cat that likes playing with electrical cords.  The automatic refill type is best for outside cat runs that have a tap inside the run, or near it.  Not all cats like the moving water of a fountain and you may find that they ignore the expensive bowl for a traditional one. 

Whatever type of bowl you choose, clean and refill at least once a day. If you see a change in how much water your cat is drinking he should see a veterinarian. 

Article was written by Tracy of IceRegal.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio