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. Cats in particular can benefit from a water fountain, because they tend to like running water, and making sure your kitty stays hydrated can help keep its kidneys healthy later in life.
How we picked and tested
To find the best water fountains, we considered ease of cleaning and assembly, water-filter capabilities and the cost to replace a filter, capacity, noise levels, material, longevity, shape and size, and aesthetics. Based on these criteria, we selected 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.
After unboxing each fountain, we assembled it according to the instructions. We soaked or rinsed components or filters as required, then 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, taking careful notes about how easy to process was. We also tested filtering capability by dumping increasing amounts of animal fur and dirt into the water, then waiting to see how well each filter caught the mess.
Our pick: Catit Flower Fountain
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!
The Catit Flower Fountain's smooth, open surfaces were quicker and simpler to clean than its competitors'. Though the package does not state that the fountain 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 was also one of the easiest fountains to fill and assemble, and its filter catches dirt and grime before it can slide to the bottom of the bowl.
Runner-up: Pioneer Pet Raindrop Drinking Fountain
Though pricier, the Pioneer Pet Raindrop Drinking 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. This fountain is 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.
The Raindrop's higher price comes from its stainless steel body, which gives it a sturdy heft to prevent pets (or people) from knocking it over when it's low on water. Aside from stability, nonplastic fountains can potentially reduce chin acne, if your cat is prone to it. However, the slick steel did make it more difficult to properly align the suction cups attached to the the pump while reassembling the fountain after cleaning.
Also great: Hagen Dogit Design Fresh & Clear Dog Drinking Fountain
Both 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. At 200 ounces, it's big enough to need refilling only once a week for a couple 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.
Upgrade pick: PetKit Eversweet
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. It was also easier to assemble and hand-wash than other fountains we tested, though it isn't dishwasher-safe. The Eversweet is designed such that the top part of the fountain nudges dirt and debris to the outer edge and captures them there as the water cycles past. You can still see them, but they're much easier to clean than in the other fountains we tested.
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