If there’s one thing every cat owner needs, it’s food and water bowls. Whether you feed wet or dry food, you will need several dishes which you can put down for your pet to eat from. Many of us are using dishes which could be dangerous to cats and harbor bacteria. And have you ever heard of whisker fatigue? If you haven’t then you will want to read on.
We’ve looked through the food and water bowls available on the market, and have come up with the pros and cons of each type. We recommend using a wide, shallow stainless steel bowl such as the PetFusion Premium bowl, which makes it easy and comfortable for your cat to eat and is simple to clean.
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Where to Feed
The best place to put your cat’s food bowls is somewhere out of the way, where they won’t be disturbed while eating. Don’t put them close to the litter box; cats are very clean animals with sensitive noses and the food smell will soon become contaminated with toilet smells.
Ideally, water should be served in a different location, again this is because the water will take on the smell of the food and cats are very particular about drinking fresh water.
If you have more than one cat, make sure that you supply more than one water bowl, and that you feed each cat from a separate food bowl, ideally placed a distance apart. Cats are naturally solitary hunters and get stressed if other cats are around when they eat.
Not all bowls are equal; what they are made of makes a huge difference to the performance you can expect from your pet bowl. Here’s a run through of the most common types:
Perhaps the most popular material for making pet food bowls is plastic. Plastic is cheap, easy to mold into different shapes, comes in a range of colors, and is easy to clean. However, your bowls might not be getting as clean as you think they are.
The trouble with plastic is that it scratches easily, and that leaves a space for food fragments to get stuck and bacteria to grow. If you’ve had a plastic bowl for a while and your cat is starting to turn up their nose at it, it might be time for a change.
Ceramic bowls are a good choice for pet bowls. As they are naturally heavy, they don’t tend to get knocked over so easily by a clumsy kitty. They’re easy to clean, and don’t have the problem of scratching that plastic does. However, ceramic bowls will break if they are dropped or knocked off a surface.
The material of choice for pet bowls, stainless steel doesn’t get contaminated with odors and so stays ‘fresh’ to your pet’s nose. It doesn’t scratch, is easy to clean, and won’t break if dropped. The only downside of stainless steel is that some cheaper brands don’t use food-grade steel, so it’s worth buying one of the premium brands to be on the safe side.
If you’ve never heard of it before, whisker fatigue (sometimes called whisker stress) might seem like a made-up condition. However, it can be very uncomfortable for your cat. Whisker fatigue is, as you might expect, a problem that occurs when your pet is overstimulated through their whiskers.
You probably know that your cat’s whiskers are there to help them navigate narrow spaces. The tips of the whiskers are very sensitive and contain an organ called a proprioceptor. If the whisker is brushed, it sends a vibration down to the receptors near the nose. Too many touches and the whiskers can become sensitive.
What does this have to do with food bowls? Well, many of the traditional design of bowls are quite deep and narrow, so that they aren’t so easy to spill. This means that the cat has to put their head down into the bowl, brushing their whiskers as they eat. If you find that your cat is acting hungry but refusing to eat, whisker fatigue may be the reason. Try offering them food on a plate instead and see if that makes a difference.
We’ve made this our first choice cat food bowl because it ticks all the right boxes and is a reasonable price tag. This is great for owners of multiple cats, or to have enough bowls to keep one on the floor and one in the dishwasher.
This is the deluxe version of the whisker fatigue bowl, wide and shallow and made of food grade stainless steel, it also has a rubber base so it won’t slip.
This one is plastic, but it’s melamine rather than the usual kind. This makes it more resistant to scratches, which eases the hygiene concerns. If your cat doesn’t like a cold bowl, this would make a good choice.
Those of you who can be trusted not to drop your cat food bowl may like this cute ceramic dish from ThinkPet. Shaped like a cat, this bowl will look great in any home.
Raised Food Bowls
For most pets, eating from the floor isn’t a problem. In the wild, cats don’t take their prey to a raised platform to feed, they eat where they are. However, for some pets that are experience bloating or discomfort after eating, or those that have neck problems such as arthritis, a raised feeder is preferential.
These usually come in the form of a stand, with a bowl or two inserted. They can also help to contain food waste if you have a messy eater. One thing to keep in mind with these is that they need a particular size of bowl inserted, so it will limit your options when you replace them.
This wooden stand holds two bowls, with silicone rings to ensure they don’t slip around. It comes with two large and two smaller bowls so that you can keep one in the dishwasher and one in use.
With a minimalist aesthetic, these ceramic feeders will enable you to separate food and water for your pet.
This feeding station contains two wide, shallow bowls (great for whisker relief) kept raised from the ground in a chic wooden stand.
Cat’s don’t generally have much of a drive for thirst, they get all the liquid that they need from their prey. However, if they’re being fed dry food, or if the weather is particularly warm, they will drink. You might think that your cat doesn’t drink because they leave their bowl of water untouched and instead drink from puddles or even taps.
That’s because cats like to drink fresh water; they’ve evolved to be suspicious of standing water as it might contain bacteria. That’s why we recommend that rather than giving your cat a bowl to drink from, you choose a water fountain.
We’ve reviewed these in the past, and you can read the full details of water fountains here. Rather than repeat ourselves, we’ll just say that our favorite was:
With a cute, flower shape this affordable fountain will give your pet a perfect place to stop for a drink.
If a water fountain isn’t for you, then there are alternative options that are an improvement on a bowl of standing water:
This waterer doesn’t have the movement that keeps the water fresh, but it does ensure that you cat bowl will not run dry. Ideal if you are out during the day and don’t want your cat to get thirsty.
This pretty ceramic bowl comes with a measuring line, useful if you want to keep an eye on what your pet is drinking.
Hopefully you’ve learned something about feeding your cats from this post. Although it’s not complicated, it also isn’t as simple as you might at first think. The most important thing to consider when feeding your cat is where you place the bowl. Cats like to eat solo, and out of the way of others – and they like their water to be located elsewhere.
As we said, we think the best type of dish is a stainless steel, shallow dish that will minimize whisker fatigue. Our top choices for food and water are the PetFusion Premium combined with a Youthink Pet Water Fountain. Even the fussiest of felines should be happy to eat, drink and be merry if you have that combination!
Sarah Dixon is a freelance writer specializing in pet care and recruitment, and the author of the Alfie Slider series of children’s Sci-Fi novels. She lives in York, UK with her two children and her fur babies Tilly (Calico) and Casper (DSH).