How To Train a Cat To Use a Water Fountain

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If you’ve just invested in a shiny new fountain for your cat, you’re probably really excited to see them using it. So, if they don’t take to it straight away, it might feel a bit disappointing. You might even worry that you’ve wasted your money on a product your cat won’t even use.

Don’t be disheartened. It can take cats a little while to get used to a pet water fountain, and their first reaction might be fear or indifference. Given some time, most cats will come around to the idea of using a water fountain. In fact, most end up preferring it.

Quick Overview


Cats aren’t naturally good at drinking enough water, and cats most tend to drink the absolute minimum.


Cats seem to prefer running water, so using a water fountain can encourage your cat to drink more.


With time and patience, it's possible to train most cats to love drinking from a pet fountain.

Do Cats Need a Water Fountain?

Water is crucial when it comes to life. From elephants to tortoises, most animals need to drink water regularly to survive. Unfortunately, cats aren’t naturally very good at drinking enough water, and most tend to drink the absolute minimum, meaning it doesn’t take much for them to become dehydrated.

Being in a constant state of “almost dehydrated” means that cats are more susceptible to kidney problems and it might also be related to urinary infections and cystitis.

If you’re a cat owner, you probably don’t see your cat drinking often, especially if they eat wet food. Even if you place lots of cat water bowls around the house, your cat might not seem very interested. If they go outside, they’re far more likely to drink some water from a puddle outside or the neighbor’s garden pond.

But have you ever turned on your kitchen or bathroom faucet only to be quickly accompanied by your kitty wanting a drink? Cats seem to prefer running water, so using a water fountain is the perfect way to encourage your cat to drink.

Which Cats Would Benefit From a Water Fountain?

If your cat is prone to cystitis, urinary tract infections, urinary crystals, or a blocked bladder, increasing their water intake is one of the most important ways you can help. But, maintaining better hydration could also have a protective effect on the kidneys, keeping them functioning well for longer.

This means that all cats, especially those who are fed dry food, will benefit from drinking more. Even if the cat food you give your cat is wet, they could still benefit from drinking more.

How To Get a Cat To Use a Water Fountain?

If you want the best chance of success with your cat’s water fountain, it’s a good idea to do some preparation rather than just plonking the fountain down in front of them and hoping for the best! Following these steps should help:

1. Choose the Right Fountain

All pet water fountains are not the same, so do some research before choosing one.

Not all water fountains are the same. First, choose one that’s specifically for pets so that it meets safety standards. It’s also worth reading cat water fountain reviews before you make your purchase to make sure there aren’t any particular issues. For instance, cats can be very sensitive to noise, so if the water fountain makes a noise louder than a gentle hum it might not be a great option.

2. Familiarize Your Cat With the Water Fountain

Before expecting your cat to take a drink from this new water source, place the water fountain somewhere they can see it and allow them to gradually get used to it. Don’t turn it on straight away, though. Once your cat is calm and accepting of the new feature, switch the water fountain on.

They might approach it and give it a sniff, if you’re lucky they might take a drink but don’t fret if they don’t. Once they’ve checked it out, they shouldn’t be too anxious around it and might be more open to using it.

3. Choose the Right Location

Once your cat is used to the drinking fountain, you’ll want to select a permanent home for it. This might take some trial and error, so don’t worry if your first choice of location turns out to be wrong.

Choose an area that your cat can reach easily, but make sure it’s away from the footfall. An easy starting spot is next to their food bowl. Your cat is more likely to use a water fountain if they feel safe and calm, and make sure it’s not right next to their litter box.

4. Make Your Cat Feel at Ease

Using pheromone sprays or diffusers nearby should help attract your cat to the water fountain, and help so they don’t feel anxious or on edge. If your cat isn’t showing much interest and you’ve tried a few different locations, you could try using catnip to get their attention.

Using your hand to make splashes in the water might also help your cat work out what the new contraption is for.

5. Freshen Up Daily

Dump and refill your cat’s water fountain daily, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning it.

Water doesn’t taste as good if it’s old, and it’s also a health risk. If you want to encourage your feline family member to drink, provide fresh water daily (or more often) and keep the fountain clean by following the manufacturer’s instructions to remove any buildup.

6. Provide Rewards

The mainstay of most training is providing positive reinforcement. This means giving plenty of praise and positive feedback for good behavior and ignoring bad behavior. So, if you’re trying to get your cat to use a water fountain, start by providing a treat, giving some attention, or verbally praising them each time they look at or approach the fountain.

They’ll start to associate the fountain with feeling good and will be more likely to repeat this behavior. Over time you can provide a treat when they touch or sniff the fountain, and then finally when they use it. Continue to provide praise or something tasty after each time they drink for a few days to cement the habit.

7. Try Flavors

If you’re finding that, despite your best efforts, your cat isn’t showing any interest in drinking from the water fountain, you could try using something to flavor the water, like spring water from tinned tuna. Before you do, though, make sure what you’re adding is safe for your cat and won’t break the fountain or void any warranty.

8. Try Bottled

Depending on where you live, you might use bottled water already. However, if you live in an area where you get drinking water from the tap and your cat won’t drink it, you could see if they prefer bottled. This method might be expensive, but different levels of minerals in bottled water brands may mean your cat likes the taste.

9. Don’t Force It

Cats will pick up on your energy, so don’t put too much pressure on them to use a new fountain.

Cats don’t like to feel pressured. If they feel like you’re making a big deal out of the water fountain, they’re less likely to use it. You might even cause them to feel stressed and anxious. So, stay calm and relaxed, avoid punishing them and keep the vibes positive.

What if Your Cat Is Drinking Too Much?

The main purpose of using a water fountain for cats is to increase their water intake. However, after an initial period of adjustment, the amount they drink should remain pretty stable.

So, if you’ve been using a water fountain for a while and then suddenly notice that your cat is back and fore drinking a lot, it could be a sign of an underlying disease. Increased thirst can be caused by diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease, so you should always speak to a veterinarian if you’re concerned.

How To Clean a Cat Water Fountain, Pump and Filter

In Summary

Cats love to drink from flowing water rather than standing water, so a running or dripping tap is their idea of heaven. You can recreate this with a water fountain, which will help increase the amount of water your cat drinks and reduce the risk of kidney and urinary issues.

However, just because cats like running water, doesn’t mean they’ll take to a water fountain straight away. With time and patience, and the tips above, you should be able to train them to love it.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Hate Water as Much as They Do?

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my cat get used to a water fountain?

Cats usually get used to water fountains, but it takes time. Reward them with a treat when they show interest in it and make sure it’s in a location where they feel safe.

Why won’t my cat use her fountain?

A cat might not use a water fountain when it’s brand new because it smells strongly of plastic or cleaning chemicals. Leave the fountain somewhere your cat can see it and allow them time to get used to it.

Do cats like water fountains better?

Cats tend to prefer drinking running water, so water fountains can work well. Choose one that’s not too loud and make sure that you spend lots of time praising them when they use it.

Do cats prefer a water bowl or fountain?

When it comes to water sources, cats usually prefer a water fountain over a water dish, because the water is moving. You might also find they enjoy drinking from the tap for the same reason.

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.

2 thoughts on “How To Train a Cat To Use a Water Fountain”

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  1. Lisa Latimer

    As mentioned on another post, I have tried 2 other models before purchasing the most recent one, just over a month ago. It is stainless steel, is super quiet, has two different spouts (speeds) and got high reviews on Amazon. The filters are easy to purchase (on Amazon). It is also easy to put together and I have already misplaced the written manual but was able to find one online. They also provided videos.

    Still, my cat Vita who is 16, prone to cystitis, would benefit from a cat fountain, yet she still has yet to try it. The other water bowls are right next to it, plus there are 2 additional water bowls in the living room. I was reluctant to remove the water bowls as she goes back and forth between the living room and kitchen. Recently she has shown a stronger preference for the living room water bowls so I will clean out the fountain, assemble, using the gentler spout, and remove the kitchen water bowls and watch what happens.

    You mention treats for positive behaviour. My cat Vita doesn’t like any of the treats I have tried. Her idea of a treat is social praise. Since she only eats portions of cat food from the small cans, she gets multiple cans pe day, as they generally add up to 3 ounces.

    I will try the pheromone spray if my next approach doesn’t work. Great suggestions.

    My cat Vita is a very good drinker from standing water, but that is because I follow the steps to make it appealing, however, it would be convenient and probably add to her overall daily hydration if she had the option of a water fountain, aa the water would always run cold.

    1. Lisa Latimer

      Yes, so most cat parents probably realize water and food should not be placed near each other, and yet it is one of your suggestions when training them to use a water fountain. I will try this also.