There are two main considerations for which drinking water bowl is best for your indoor cat: 1) what's healthiest for your cat and 2) what's most appealing to your cat.
Healthy drinking water
You don't want any bacteria to build up in the drinking bowl. You can make it a point to clean the bowl thoroughly and often but you may not always be able to do that and it could become a hassle.
Solution: Make sure the bowl is made of a material that reduces the chance for bacteria to build up and filters the water continuously.
Plastic (especially when scratched) and porous materials allow bacteria a place to cling. Stainless steel and non-porous ceramic do a better job of avoiding that problem.
Stainless steel and non-porous ceramic drinking fountains also filter your cat's water continuously.
Appealing drinking water
Clean water without any strange taste to it is more appealing and cats are instinctively drawn to moving water instead of still water.
Solution: Make sure the bowl isn't made of a material that affects the taste of the water, the water is kept clean, and the water has a gentle but noticeable movement to it.
Plastic and some other materials can affect the taste of the water. Stainless steel and ceramic not so much.
A well-designed cat drinking fountain has a gentle and appealing flow that continuously filters the water.
If the drinking water is appealing then your cat is more likely to drink from it and stay hydrated as well.
The best choice for a drinking source for your cat is a fountain that filters the water and is made of a non-porous material such as stainless steel or ceramic. If your cat has already developed a habit of drinking directly from the faucet then you may want to encourage that as well.
Some considerations for a drinking fountain
- The pump and some other parts of the fountain may be made of plastic but the bowl (where the water sits) should be made of a non-porous material that doesn't affect the taste (e.g., stainless steel or non-porous ceramic).
- Look for a fountain with a gentle flow. Too much splash in the fountain stream can make your floor wet around the fountain and may make your cat less likely to use it.
- Another way water can end up on the floor is if the water pump and the bowl are designed in such a way that a leak can occur where the two attach. You want the bowl to be solid with the pump coming in over the bowl rather than through it.
- The noise can also be annoying to some people and possibly your cat. This noise can come from the pump or the splashing water. A quiet pump and gentle stream reduces the noise.
- Make sure it comes with a pump that's powerful enough. Cheaper fountains may cut costs by using inadequate pumps.
- It should be easy to clean. Although the water is filtered continuously, it will still need cleaning on occasion. You should be able to put all the parts but the pump in the dishwasher. You'll likely have to clean the pump by hand.
Which products are best?
The products below are good examples of what to look for in a cat fountain.
The stainless steel fountain above holds one gallon of water (plenty so that your cat won't run out of water), has a ramp that reduces splash and makes drinking easier, and filters the water for better taste and operation (if used, the filters will need to be replaced once or twice a month).
While most of the parts are dishwasher safe, the pump needs to be cleaned manually as shown in the video above.
Some fountains are specifically designed for multiple cats where each can have their own water stream.
One to five streams can be created with the product above. Each stream is like a slow flow from a faucet. The flow of all streams can be adjusted. Like the Drinkwell Zen fountain, this Drinkwell fountain also holds one gallon of water, filters the water, reduces splash, and all parts are dishwasher safe except the pump.
This iPettie fountain offers a similar configuration to the Drinkwell 360° fountain except it's ceramic instead of stainless steel, has four fixed non-adjustable streams, and holds a little more than half the water of the Drinkwell product (70 oz.).
If you're looking for something extra quiet then you may want to look for a product without the splashing. The water in the above product flows out of the top and spills over the sphere back into the water.
The video above shows all the pieces to the Drinkwell Seascape fountain.