Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I bought one of those water dishes that has a plastic bottle that you can fill up and it replaces the water in the bowl as the cats drink it. Great idea except I have one particular cat, a sable devil called Sid (Sid Vicious), who is a teenage ball of fun but loves to put his paw in the water. Therefore, the water always has something floating in it and doesn’t seem clean. It seems I’m emptying the water out before it’s time and of course, cleaning the inside bowl as well. I’m thinking about just replacing it with a metal bowl like the other one I have. What is your advice?
Siouxsie: Well, Anita, we cats are quite particular about water. We don’t tend to drink very much of it, since we are, after all, creatures of the desert, but when we do, we want it a certain way.
Thomas: If your kitties are used to a certain type of drinking bowl, this new contraption may be confusing Sid.
Bella: And, of course, a confused and curious cat explores by smelling — and touching — the object of her exploration. I do that all the time.
Siouxsie: Or Sid maybe like the cat on the right in this photo, who is being blocked from the bowl and therefore has to resort to drinking by dipping his paw in the water and licking it off his little toes.
Thomas: Or maybe when the water level goes down and the bubbles come up as the reservoir replenishes from the bottle, that stimulates Sid’s curiosity.
Bella: If some bowl started burping bubbles, I’d probably get all fat-tailed and run away. And then I’d come back and touch the water with my paw just to make sure it’s safe.
Siouxsie: That’s because you’re a foolish kitten and you don’t know any better.
Bella: Thomas, Siouxsie’s being mean to me!
Thomas: You know, Bella, sometimes it’s really best just to smile and nod and not take things personally.
Bella: But I want Siouxsie to like me, and she’ll never play with me, and she always growls at me when I try to play with her. *sniffle*
Thomas: You know you can always play with me, Bella.
Bella: But I want to play with Siouxsie!
Siouxsie: Bella, darling, I know you want to play with me, but honestly, I’ve reached a point in my life where I just can’t play quite as hard as I used to. If you want to snuggle and sleep with me sometime, I’d like that, though.
Bella: Really? Let’s sleep together right now!
Siouxsie: We’ve got to finish today’s column first, sweetie. Anyway, Anita, there are a couple of things we recommend when it comes to kitty drinking water supplies. First, you should have more than one water dish. That allows for everyone to drink if more than one cat should happen to get thirsty at the same time.
Thomas: You should try a couple of different types of water dishes, too. You can have one traditional water bowl like the one you mentioned in your letter, for example.
Bella: Then, you can get a pet drinking fountain. Some cats prefer to drink moving water.
Siouxsie: Pet fountains come at all kinds of price points, depending on whether you want to go with a basic model or a custom handmade work of art like the one Mama got us for Christmas.
Thomas: Whatever type of drinking vessel you invest in, we strongly recommend against plastic.
Bella: Plastic is easily scratched, and no matter how frequently you wash plastic water and food dishes, bacteria can grow in those tiny scratches. Eeew!
Siouxsie: If you’re worried about fragility, go with steel. But if you do, you’ll want to make sure it comes with a non-skid mat for the floor. Steel dishes can be pretty light, even with water in them, and an adventurous kitty could end up getting the water all over the floor.
Thomas: Ceramic is also quite strong. We’ve been eating from ceramic dishes ever since Mama adopted us, and the only time they ever break is if Mama accidentally drops them on a hard surface.
Bella: If you do go with ceramic dishes, you’ll want to make sure the dishes are made with food-grade glazes in order to avoid potential contaminants like lead.
Siouxsie: Almost all glazes these days are made lead-free, but be cautious if you’re using old earthenware, ceramic pieces made in China or other places where environmental standards are a bit less stringent than they are in many western nations, or any dishes with cracked or chipped glaze.
Thomas: But really, as long as the dish is labeled food-safe, you should be OK, no matter where it’s made.
Bella: So, Anita, if you try some different drinking options, you’ll probably find which ones work best for your cats, including your little paw-dipper. Good luck, and please tell us how things turn out.