The Best Water Fountain for Cats and Dogs
The Catit Flower Fountain was the easiest to operate because it’s simple to clean, a cinch to maintain, and very quiet. Its smooth surfaces, lack of crevices, and small number of parts made cleaning and reassembling a breeze. While not explicitly dishwasher-safe, our test unit survived a trip on the top rack, and many people who’ve reviewed it indicate that it holds up over time as well. It holds enough water that you’ll need to fill it only once or twice a week and replace the filter about every month. We also like that it runs silently, so long as it’s not running low on water. Like with almost every model we tested, the pump on the Catit fountain makes grinding noises when it’s running low on water, but the sound isn’t as grating as it is with most other models. Plus, it looks like a flower (although you can swap the floral top for a flat one if you prefer).
If our main pick is sold out, or if you prefer a metal fountain (which may suit some pets that struggle with chin acne), Pioneer Pet’s Raindrop Drinking Fountain is a good alternative. It’s also heavier, which makes it more difficult for clumsier pets to knock around. However, the metallic construction costs more and shows dirt more easily than the Catit and emits a persistent low hum regardless of the water level. It’s also available in a ceramic version, which can benefit chin acne sufferers, too.
For households with multiple animals (or just a very big dog), the Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear fountain is the best high-capacity water fountain we found. With a max capacity of 200 ounces (and a minimum of 24 ounces), the Dogit is easy to clean and quiet—though fiddly to assemble and difficult to find replacement parts for.
This fountain will let you know when it needs a new filter, and won’t burn out the motor if it runs dry. It is small and expensive though.
If silence and ease of use are your top priority, and price is no object, it’s worth looking into the PetKit Eversweet. This drinking fountain automatically turns off the pump when the fountain runs dry (which would cause a motor burnout in all other models), has an LED indicator to tell you when it’s time to change the filter, and is the quietest fountain we tested. But it costs nearly twice as much as our top pick and has the lowest capacity of any fountain we tested, so it’s not worth it for everyone.
Table of contents
Why you should trust us
For this guide, I interviewed two veterinarians about pet hydration, behavior, and water quality, delved into product reports and reviews, and sought hands-on input from multiple pet owners to learn what frustrates people the most about using and maintaining pet fountains. I also enlisted the help of my own four pets during testing: my cats, Lucca and Robo, and my Lab mixes, Kaylee and Inara.
Who this is for
If your pet is a reluctant or picky drinker, a filtering water fountain can help encourage healthier hydration habits by keeping water fresh and debris-free. It also reduces your workload because you need to fill it only once or twice a week as opposed to daily.
Dr. Michael Lund of the ASPCA and Dr. Janet Arnet of Skaer Veterinary Clinic in Wichita, Kansas, both emphasized that water fountains have the potential to benefit a pet’s health. “It is very important that our pets have access to fresh, clean water in their daily routines to ensure adequate hydration throughout their lifetimes,” explained Lund. He told us that “for every 10 pounds of weight, your pet should be drinking roughly 1 to 1½ cups of water per day”; it’s a decent basic estimate for how much a pet should drink, though numbers can vary depending on species and size.
Cats, in particular, can experience health benefits from water fountains. “Cats typically maintain themselves in a mildly dehydrated state,” Lund said, “and kidneys function to remove wastes from the body while retaining as much water as possible.” He mentioned that using a water fountain can help encourage hydration, which in turn reduces the burden on your cat’s kidneys. Arnet speculates that cats prefer water from a filtered fountain because the water tastes fresher.
Using a water fountain can help encourage hydration, which in turn reduces the burden on your cat’s kidneys.
It’s less clear-cut for canine companions. It wouldn’t hurt to try one if you think your dog might not be getting enough water, but it may not be necessary. There is no evidence to indicate that dogs are any more likely to drink out of a fountain than they are a bowl. Fountains can still save a dog owner time and effort refilling or cleaning a bowl regularly, especially if the dog in question regularly dirties water bowls with slobber or dirt. Otherwise, most dogs are probably just fine with a plain water bowl.
Lund also told us that not all pets have the same requirements. Small dogs and cats can generally share the same fountains, but medium to large dogs need fountains with higher water volumes, as they need more water than smaller pets. Taller fountains may also stay cleaner (due to their elevation off the floor) or prove to be better for older or infirm animals with a limited range of head motion, as the water source will be closer to their head.
How we picked
We researched more than 30 models, then studied spec sheets and reviews to narrow down that list. During this process, we considered:
- Ease of cleaning and assembly: Dogs and cats will drink almost anything, but what can we reasonably ask a human to disassemble, clean, and reassemble on a weekly basis just for their pet to have water? We wanted dishwasher-safe, few small parts, and simple construction.
- Water-filtering capability and cost: How well does the filter work, how often do you need to replace it, and how much does it cost to replace?
- Capacity: More water means you fill the fountain less often, and it’s more suitable for larger animals that require more water, or multiple pets at a time. But also, how little water can the fountain hold before it needs refilling?
- Noise: How loud are the fountains when they’re full? Do they make loud, obnoxious noises when almost empty?
- Material: Stainless steel and ceramic cost more, but are reportedly easier to keep clean due to reduced hard-water buildup.
- Longevity: Are there any reports of fountains breaking down soon after purchase? If so, are they easily repairable?
- Shape and size: Depending on your pet, you may want a taller or shorter fountain to better suit a tall or short pet, or a pet with mobility issues.
- Aesthetics: This is likely going to be in a visible part of your home, so it shouldn’t look too off-putting. A few of the fountains we looked at had the added bonus of being cute, coming in fun colors, or otherwise appearing aesthetically pleasing. That’s cute, but not vital for something your pet is drinking from.
Using these criteria, we found nine models worth looking at more closely: four standard plastic models for small pets, three made of higher end materials, and two designed for larger animals.
How we tested
After unboxing each fountain, we assembled it according to the instructions, evaluating how simple (or not) this was, as well as the clarity of the instructions themselves. We soaked or rinsed components or filters as required. We took note of any very small or easy-to-lose parts, and we kept track of how well the parts fit and stayed together.
Once we assembled, rinsed, and filled the fountains, we set them out across the house for pets to use. We left the fountains running over the course of about two weeks, and for fountains that had multiple water flow or energy use options, we split the testing period between them.
When a fountain ran low, we measured how simple it was to refill, and how much water the fountain required to work without noise. We tracked noise levels with the fountains full and running, low on water, and empty.
After a week and a half, we took the fountains apart to clean them and checked the dirt levels. We ran fountains through the dishwasher where possible. We also cleaned each one by hand and noted the presence of dirt or slime. Then, we tested filtering capability by dumping increasing amounts of animal fur and dirt into the water. After several minutes, we checked the filter to see how well it caught the mess. Finally, we calculated filter cost per year based on replacement intervals, price, and how many filters each replacement package contained.
The Catit Flower Fountain excelled at almost every test we gave it. It’s simple to assemble, refill, and clean; it filters water and stays grime-free while running quietly, even when low on water. Plus, look at that super-cute flower!
During testing we had two muddy Labs drinking from the fountain and it still remained visibly clean.
The Catit Flower Fountain’s smooth, open surfaces were quicker and simpler to clean than the tighter notches of the Pioneer Pet or complex parts of some of the higher end fountains if you want to follow the manufacturer’s suggested technique of cleaning by hand. While the package does not state that it is dishwasher-safe, we ran all parts except the pump through the dishwasher and found no visible damage, and reviews after long-term use indicate that regular dishwashing over the course of a year or more doesn’t harm the fountain.
The Catit is about as easy to refill as most other fountains we tested: Just pour directly into the top of the fountain. You’ll need to pour gradually, though, especially with the flower attachment—if you’re too quick, sometimes the water can overflow before it can enter into the base.
The Catit was one of the easiest fountains to assemble and is comprised of only a few, sturdy parts. There’s a bucket-like tank, a pump that slides into the bottom with suction cups, a cord protector connected to the side of the bucket, and a filter that sits between the fountain’s lids. You can swap the flow between a flat top with water running over the surface or, with the flower inserted, a gentle drip or flow. All the pieces snapped together and came apart without excessive force or fiddling. The assembly is simple enough that you won’t constantly have to glance at the instructions, as was the case with some of the other fountains we tested, like both the PetSafe 360 and Pagoda.
The two-year warranty will cover anything that happens to the Flower Fountain within the parameters of normal use. Beyond the warranty, Catit will sell replacement parts if you call the company, and you can replace the pump through Amazon—though it’s barely more affordable than replacing the whole thing.
The Catit Flower Fountain doesn’t show grime or dirt while running. The filter will catch any dirt or fur before it can slide into the bottom of the bowl. Since the filter tucks under the plastic top, the fountain looks clean all of the time. This should especially be true with indoor cats, which tend to be cleaner, but during testing we had two muddy Labs drinking from the fountain and it still remained visibly clean.
All the pieces snapped together and came apart without excessive force or fiddling.
That said, the filter’s direct contact with everything from fur to mouth slime to dirt takes a toll over time. Some of the other fountains we tested used a casing to keep the large bits out of the filter, but the Catit doesn’t. Replacement of the carbon filter about once every four weeks, as recommended, costs about $32 per year in filters—which is about average for most of the filters we looked at. You can also keep the filters going longer than recommended by rinsing them in clean water.
At 100 ounces, this fountain is about average as far as water capacity, and will hydrate multiple cats at a time with a weekly refill. However, more active, outdoor cats may drain it more quickly. The Flower Fountain will stop running at roughly 20 ounces of water and begin working again at about 24 ounces. This was one of the lowest water requirements we found, so the fountain can run with less water in it than most other models.
Maximum capacity (ounces)
Minimum functional capacity (ounces)
Usable capacity (ounces)
|Catit Flower Fountain||100||20||80|
|Pioneer Pet Raindrop||96||24||72|
|Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear (Blue)||200||24||176|
|Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear (Large)||355||48||307|
|PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum||168||54||114|
|PetSafe Drinkwell 360||128||48||80|
|PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda||70||24||46|
Flaws but not deal breakers
Though the fountain runs quietly while full, it does make an obnoxious humming or grinding noise when low on water. This sound is loudest right when the fountain starts to run low and softens a bit as it loses the ability to pump water at all. Many pet owners have cited loud pumps as a major concern, but we found only one fountain in our testing that did not make noise when low on water, the PetKit Eversweet. Annoying as they may be, such sounds are nearly inescapable with the type of pumps used in most pet fountains. Also, the noise shouldn’t become an issue so long as you remember to fill the fountain regularly.
As a small, lightweight fountain, the Catit Flower is prone to falling over or sliding across the floor when low on water, especially if your cats like to play with it. And, if the name wasn’t a good enough indicator, it’s only for cats. Our medium-size dogs had a hard time maneuvering their muzzles into the smaller space between the flower and the base, which made drinking difficult. Small dogs will have no trouble with the Catit.
If you replace the Catit’s filter as often as suggested, the price difference between it and the more expensive Pioneer Pet Raindrop becomes negligible after two years.
Since the flower part of the Catit Flower is totally detachable, it’s possible for pets tall enough to see over the top of the fountain to figure out that it makes an excellent plaything and chew toy. Like my dog did.
Runner-up: Pioneer Pet Raindrop Fountain
Though pricier, the Pioneer Pet Raindrop Fountain is a good choice if the Catit Flower Fountain is unavailable, if your pet suffers from chin acne, or if you are willing to spend more for a heavier, more aesthetically pleasing material. It’s quieter and easier to clean than the Catit but trickier to assemble, and it did a worse job of catching grime and floating gunk in the water.
Though the Pioneer Pet Raindrop is simple enough to clean by hand, we preferred dishwashing. The Raindrop’s two pieces fit easily into the bottom rack, and dishwashing keeps the surface from showing waterdrop stains from air-drying. Handwashing is still effective, but thin, tight crevices around the rim and in the water flow trough can easily accumulate gunk or hair if not cleaned carefully.
The Raindrop’s higher price comes from its stainless steel body (it’s also available in a ceramic version, which we didn’t test), which gives it a sturdy heft to prevent pets (or people) from knocking it over when it’s low on water. Aside from stability, the other possible advantage to a stainless steel fountain is a potential reduction in chin acne, if your cat is prone to it. As veterinarian Janet Arnet put it, “Chin acne can develop with pets who drink from plastic bowls. They can harbor bacteria. I typically recommend metal bowls and cleaning them regularly.” If your cat doesn’t already have this issue with plastic bowls, then it shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s something to keep in mind if you know it’s an issue.
Where the stainless steel proves a slight disadvantage is during assembly and reassembly. Though the Raindrop was even easier to stack back together than the Catit, the suction cups securing the filter casing to the bowl slid around on the slick, stainless steel surface as we tried to align the pump. Several times, after assembling and filling the fountain, we had to take it apart again and re-center the pump because it had slid too far and was no longer aligned. This meant that the water from the pump couldn’t flow from the top of the fountain and instead ran back into the bowl. We were able to get the suction cups to stick a bit better to retain the alignment by completely drying the surface. But this added several extra minutes of frustration during each reassembly.
Also, some people have reported the pump cable bending in odd ways where it exits the housing, causing the cable to break and wires to become exposed over time. We were able to wrap the cable gently around the pump with no sharp bends. If this becomes a problem, the fountain is under warranty for the first year provided you keep it clean as described in the manual. As with the Catit, a replacement pump is also available.
You refill the Raindrop by pouring water into the larger main water reservoir rather than the top spout area, which is too small to fill without overflow. But, the reservoir is deep enough to avoid the filling/overflow issues we encountered on fountains such as the Catit and Eversweet.
Unfortunately, while the large lower bowl made the Raindrop easy to refill, it also shows dirt more readily than the other fountains. With the main water reservoir exposed, pet hair and dirt can fall in and sit at the bottom until you clean or change the water. It’s easy to clean out, but looks unpleasant to human eyes—although your pet may not mind.
The filter can go about six weeks before replacement, as the filter cover keeps the worst of the grime from reaching the filter in the first place. During our testing, even with no way to remove large pieces of dirt from the main bowl, the filter itself kept the water flow pristine for over a week without rinsing. Pets that find the running water more attractive than the bowl will always drink clean water from the top.
At 96 ounces, the Raindrop is roughly equal to the Catit in water capacity and requires the same amount of water (24 ounces) to run. As with the Catit, this amount is perfect for a cat or two, but you may need to refill it frequently for many outdoor cats or very active small dogs.
The Raindrop loses out if you’re sensitive to noise. It makes a continuous low hum regardless of water level. That said, it doesn’t make any awful grinding noises when the fountain is low; the hum simply gets louder. You won’t have to worry about the Raindrop waking you up in the middle of the night like the PetSafe fountains.
Also great: Hagen Dogit Fresh & Clear Dog Drinking Fountain
Both the fountains we’ve mentioned so far are perfect for cats and some small dogs, but larger dogs will lap them dry in no time. For a high-capacity fountain, the Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear Dog Drinking Fountain proved excellent for many of the same reasons its Catit cousin did: It’s easy to clean and assemble, runs on the quieter side, and keeps a clean appearance. It’s big enough to need refilling only once a week for a couple of medium-size dogs, or possibly one large one. That said, you may struggle to find replacement parts for it if needed, and its construction can result in an odd water flow if not assembled correctly.
The Dogit is basically a Catit Flower Fountain sans the flower, with many of the same advantages. Like the Catit, its instructions do not mention dishwashers, but we ran it through one without any trouble. For washing by hand, it’s even easier to clean than the Catit due to its larger surface area and lack of a detailed flower piece. And it’s made of the same plastic material, so grime wipes right off.
At 200 ounces, the Dogit should meet the water needs of one to two medium-size dogs for a week without refilling, or one large dog. Despite that increased capacity, it only needs 24 ounces of water to run, the same as the Catit. For very large or active dogs, 200 ounces may not be enough if you want to avoid frequent refilling. Higher capacity fountains such as the Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear Drinking Fountain for Large Dogs are available, but the size and shape required to contain that much water made the larger fountain more frustrating to refill, assemble, and clean.
The larger size also proves helpful when refilling the Dogit. We didn’t need to be quite as careful when pouring water into the top, since there’s more room for water to land without overflowing. Though, with the extra 100 ounces of water in this fountain, you’ll need a large pitcher to avoid too many trips to and from the tap.
If you can assemble the Catit, you can assemble the Dogit, too. Again, as a larger version of the same fountain without a flower attachment, it assembles the same way. The filter is the one exception: The Catit’s filter drops into the space set aside for it, but you need to press the Dogit’s filter evenly down into a divot, or else the fountain may not fit together.
Like the Catit, the Dogit fountain’s filter will catch debris before it falls back into the bucket. This ensures that the water within and coming out of the top remains clean. Similarly, this results in the filter collecting dirt more quickly than fountains like the Raindrop with a filter casing. Since the Dogit targets larger dogs, which tend to be messier, you may spend a bit more in filters. It’s about $30 per year if you replace them every three weeks, or about $40 per year if you go with every two weeks. You can extend the life of the filter in this case by cleaning the fountain every week and rinsing the filter at the same time.
The pump noise is another area of similarity between the Dogit and Catit fountains. Both fountains run silently when full, but tend to make an obnoxious humming noise when low on water—it’s audible even from several rooms away. Again, while this is a drawback, it’s one we found for almost every fountain we tested.
Despite its closeness to the Catit in design, the Dogit has one major drawback as far as how the water comes out of the top. If the fountain is placed on a slightly uneven surface, or if the filter and top piece are not snapped in exactly the right position, the water flow will be uneven. If you want a steady flow of water from all sides of the fountain, you may need to spend extra time repositioning the fountain and its parts.
Upgrade: PetKit Eversweet
This fountain will let you know when it needs a new filter, and won’t burn out the motor if it runs dry. It is small and expensive though.
The PetKit Eversweet is the most efficient, clean, and quiet fountain available, and is smart enough to stop pumping when the water runs low so the motor doesn’t burn out. If you’re adamant about having a quiet fountain, the expense might be justifiable. But at almost double the price of the Catit, and with the lowest capacity of any fountain we tested, it might not be worth the extra cost for everyone.
Most water fountains have pumps that use the passage of water for cooling, so if they run dry the pump will burn out. The Eversweet avoids this fate by automatically switching itself off. Then, it lights up blue to alert you that it needs more water, a feature that looks fabulous especially at night or in a dark room. This, combined with its subtle water sound while running made it the quietest fountain we tested. The Eversweet also has an optional “Smart” mode, which will intermittently turn the water on and off. In this mode, the fountain will spend more time running during the day and less time running at night.
The Eversweet was simpler to assemble than any other fountain we tested. It consists of a bottom case that contains the power cable, a tank insert containing the pump that you can remove and refill without unplugging the fountain, two top pieces, and a filter that slides between them. Assembly is as easy as stacking the pieces atop one another and letting them lock into place. Although it’s made of plastic like most of the other fountains we tested, its pieces are far less flexible than those found in fountains such as the Catit. As a result, the fountain felt sturdier on the whole and less prone to being knocked around (or eaten) by rowdy pets.
While the Eversweet’s main tank isn’t dishwasher-safe, it was the easiest to hand-wash. Its smooth surfaces keep any grime from sticking, though they may feel a bit slimy by the end of the week. If you don’t have time to thoroughly clean the fountain every week, a quick wipe down with a damp rag will remove any obvious grime or slime until you can wash it. You can also toss the top sections of the fountain into the dishwasher and rinse out the main tank for a fast, efficient cleaning if you’re low on time or patience.
Refilling the Eversweet is a touch more precarious than replenishing the Catit, as the water drains through small holes and into the center. You’ll need to slowly pour water into the top to avoid overflow. But if you don’t want to fuss with that, the tank slides right out of the base of the fountain (no need to unplug) and can be refilled at the tap, saving you the trouble of dealing with a pitcher.
The design of the top part of the fountain nudges dirt and hair to the outer edge and captures them there as the water cycles past. This keeps them from sinking into the tank and dirtying the water. They remain visible, but a quick rinse of the top piece will remove them, no disassembly or full cleaning required. This design helped keep the rest of the fountain, even the tank, much cleaner than the other fountains we tested and contributed to the ease of weekly washings.
This construction kept the Eversweet’s filter clean, too, which is why the recommended filter replacement schedule of every three months make sense. If you’re worried about forgetting to change the filter over that long of a time span, don’t be. A light on the front of the fountain will remind you when it’s time, and it can be reset using a switch on the bottom. The cost of the filters themselves is much higher than with our other picks: about $30 per year. Though considering that the other filters require more frequent replacement, total maintenance cost is on a par with the other fountains.
One of the few drawbacks to the Eversweet is its capacity, which is 70 ounces compared with the Catit’s 100 ounces. You wouldn’t think 30 ounces would make a huge difference. But with two cats drinking from it, the fountain didn’t always make it through the full week.
The shape of the Eversweet’s open top makes it suitable for animal mouths of almost any size. The top’s slope keeps water from splashing out and making a mess, though the light weight of the fountain may cause it to slide a bit if your animals bump it. A gauge on the front clues you into the fountain’s current water level. It seems extraneous given the low water indicator, though it doesn’t interrupt the fountain’s high-tech, polished appearance.
- The PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain may look nice in your kitchen, but it’s a pain to assemble and clean due to a myriad of small parts. The most onerous to assemble was a rubber stopper with a foldover skirt requiring significant effort to wedge into the pillar the power cord escapes from. Furthermore, the multi-piece pump must be perfectly centered in the bowl for the fountain to work at all. You’ll need to clean it frequently, too, as dirt will settle right at the bottom of its ceramic bowl and ruin the aesthetic angle it’s gunning for. It’s also noisy, both when running normally (the water splashes) and when low on water.
- After the Pagoda, we didn’t think any fountain could possibly have more small parts to juggle, but the PetSafe Drinkwell 360 Fountain proved us wrong. Not only is it a nightmare to assemble, but the plastic clasps that hold the centerpiece of the fountain in place also were not secure enough to keep the fountain together during assembly or use. The extra rings to change the flow from the top of the fountain provide little practical benefit.
- The Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear Drinking Fountain for Large Dogs is a suitable alternative to the original Dogit Fresh & Clear we mentioned above, but with a much greater capacity of 355 ounces. That capacity comes with a caveat—the fountain is enormous, unwieldy, too big for most dishwashers, and difficult to refill, as you must remove the reservoir to add water or else the whole thing will overflow. The trade-off may prove worth it if your dog is enormous and will drain any smaller fountain within a day or two.
- The PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain may be desirable for multi-cat households due to the reservoir on the back and its dual filtering that keeps the worst dirt and grime from reaching the actual water filter. Be warned that though it comes mostly assembled in the box, it’s made up of many small parts and has lots of nooks and crannies, making it difficult to keep clean and free of hard water buildup or slime.
- For a low-cost fountain, the Cat Mate Pet Fountain is decent, but between its cheap plastic construction and its tendency to accumulate dirt in all three chambers quickly, this just isn’t a great look. Surprisingly, though, this was one of the quietest pet fountains, and with only two main parts plus a pump and filter, it was the easiest to toss into the dishwasher and clean.
(Photos by Rebekah Valentine.)