Cat Food and Water Bowls - Cat Info Detective

Cat Food and Water Bowls

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings crazy cat people! Skye Blake here with some tidbits I’ve uncovered for you about cat food and water bowls… and fountains too!

Does your cat have trouble eating or seem hungry but walks away?

If you’ve ruled out medical problems, you might want to try something new… your cat might just need a different food or water bowl.

paw prints coming in from a distance

Let’s discover more about them…

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

Types of Food and Water Bowls

Dark tabby kitten curled up sleeping in wood bowl, cat food and water bowls

There are many ideas you can use for feeding (and watering? hmm…) your cat.

Everything from paper plates to bone china or crystal bowls and saucers can be used.

Hey, we’re not picky about it… at least not all the time!

white cat licking inside of crystal glass, cat food and water bowls

Test and see first whether your cat prefers bowls, plates or saucers.

Some cats don’t want their whiskers squashed or even touching the sides of the bowl.

See “How to Feed a Cat” for more about whisker fatigue.

black cat lapping, drinking water from sink with water stream hitting head

If your cat responds best to plates or saucers, you might be able to use a wide, shallow bowl instead to help contain the mess.

All types of bowls and feeders are available at suppliers like Amazon, Chewy, PetSmart, Petco, and Walmart.

Specialty feeders and water fountains are also available at Felaqua and other manufacturer sites.

Plastic/Acrylic

Tabby cat eating from plastic bowl

Plastic is the cheapest type of bowl, sturdy, lightweight, and usually dishwasher safe.

Some cats will chew on it (probably attracted to the oil base in plastic).

If you choose to use plastic, be sure it meets FDA approved standards for safe food and water contact.

dark tabby kitten eating out of plastic food bowl

Vets recommend avoiding plastic bowls for a few reasons…

  • They can cause chin acne in cats
  • Plastic gets scratched and can harbor bacteria
  • Lightweight bowls move around too easily when your cat’s trying to eat

Acrylic is similar in that it can be scratched, making it difficult to disinfect.

Stainless Steel

white, patch cat looking up warily from bowl of food

Stainless steel bowls are very sturdy, lightweight, and safe for any food, including raw.

It’s easy to clean and can be in the dishwasher. It’s not porous so bacteria can’t hide in cracks.

Some stainless steel bowls have rubber rings on the bottom to keep them in place and some are also weighted.

Glass

white cat licking inside of crystal glass food bowl

Glass bowls are sturdy and usually heavy enough to make it easy for your cat to eat, although an aggressive cat can push them around.

They’re easily cleanable but can chip, crack, and even sometimes get scratched.

Check them each time you wash the bowls.

Ceramic/Porcelain

ceramic bowl with dry food

Ceramic bowls are heavy, making them good for cats who aggressively push their bowls around.

They are breakable, though, so be sure to watch for chips and cracks.

Porcelain is similar to ceramic but is more durable and doesn’t chip, crack or break as easily.

Be sure ceramic and porcelain bowls are food-grade and have lead-free paint or glaze.

Disposable

pile of paper plates; cat food and water bowls

If feeding raw food, disposable is best since certain bacteria like Salmonella can survive washing, even with bleach and/or in a dishwasher.

However, disposable is typically made from pressed paper and is very lightweight.

This makes it hard for your cat to eat without scooting the bowl across the floor.

Elevated Food Bowls

elevated food bowls

Some cats prefer having food and water bowls raised up off the floor, which is helpful for cats who vomit food right after eating.

It’s also good for older cats who may have trouble swallowing when eating from floor level.

“Necoichi Extra Wide Raised Cat Bowl Review (We Tested It)”, All About Cats, October 29, 2021

Food Mats

colorful mats, cat food bowls

Food mats are helpful for underneath your cat’s bowl to help catch food… something to think about if your cat is a food flipper.

Some people like the idea of a mat while others feel it just makes one more thing to have to wash… it’s up to you.

Keep It Clean

person washing dishes, water, cat food and water bowls

Would you consider your plate clean if you just licked it and put it back in the cabinet?

I think not! Humpff!

Wash your cat’s bowls just like your own… after every meal for wet or moist food, once a day for dry food and water bowls.

dishes, plates, bowls, clean, wash, cat food and water bowls

Ideally, pet food bowls should be washed separately from yours because certain bacteria can be transferred.

Use hot water and rinse completely, even if it was in the dishwasher.

Detergent and rinse agents leave residue that might not agree with your cat!

Automatic Feeders

Curious cat and automatic feeder

For those who aren’t happy with the basic cat food bowl, there are automatic feeders available, especially for people who aren’t home to monitor meals.

This is very helpful for multi-cat households and cats with medical conditions that require special meals and timing of meals.

Read details and reviews for any product you’re interested in purchasing.

What’s an Automatic Feeder?

white cat sitting on automatic feeder waiting for food

An automatic feeder is a food container with a bowl at the bottom that has a timer you can set for whenever you want your cat’s food dispensed.

This allows you to control meal quantity and frequency, even when you’re not home.

dark tabby eating

These feeders are helpful for dealing with feline weight loss and they allow humans to get more sleep.

If your cat wants to eat at 4:00 a.m., he’ll go to the feeder and not wake you up!

Playing with your cat before you go to bed will tire him out and help with that too.

automatic cat food dispenser

Some feeders are programmable to open only for a specific cat, which works well for multiple cats with individual diets.

They also help when you have to travel for a day or two, making sure your cat eats on her regular schedule.

Don’t use them as a pet sitter substitute… you’ll still need someone to check on your cat while you’re away, especially if it’s for more than a weekend.

What to Look for in an Automatic Feeder

automatic cat food feeder

It can be rather confusing trying to decide what automatic feeder is best for your situation.

Here are some considerations…

  • The size of both the feeder itself and any separate bowls
measure size, tape
  • Do you want stainless steel or plastic bowls and compartments? Stainless steel doesn’t crack or harbor bacteria and lasts longer than plastic. Plastic is lighter weight and cheaper.
  • One bowl or multiple sections for more than one cat
  • How noisy it is – some cats can be spooked by mechanical noise
label of wet canned food-turkey
  • Type of food it will hold
  • If there’s an option for refrigeration or cold packs
  • Ease of cleaning – you don’t want lots of nooks and crannies that hold bacteria or mold. The main eating area should be dishwasher safe.
person holding phone, iphone held in hand
  • Technology – determine how much tech and fancy stuff you need… the more there is, the higher the price.

If you want things like a voice that calls your cat to come eat, microchip reader, or an app that tells you when and how much your cat eats, the higher price might be worth it.

If you’re not big on techie stuff, you might get frustrated with programming some feeders.

Feeders for Wet or Raw Food

Chartreux cat eating from automatic feeder

If you feed primarily wet or raw food, there are only a few feeders that can handle it, using cold packs to keep food fresh.

The challenge is to prevent bacteria buildup while it’s sitting in the feeder.

Typical wet or raw food must be eaten within 1/2 hour of serving, so you’re dependent on the cold packs to keep it cold enough.

This is fine for cats who will eat colder food, but many cats won’t eat unless it’s warm or at least room temperature, so you’ll have to judge whether it’s worth the risk.

Timed Feeders

longhaired cat eating from automatic feeder

Timed feeders give you the power to choose when your cat gets fed.

Preprogram the feeder, put food in the compartments, and away it goes!

Your cat has no power to open the compartment until the feeder unlocks it.

cat being fed treat-closeup

Some cats sit by the feeder for long periods waiting for it to open, which can become a problem if they become obsessive.

Some timed feeders are made for one cat and others have multiple compartments for more than one cat.

Most of these feeders run on batteries… be sure you have extras. Some have a “low battery” light or signal.

Microchip Feeders

Chartreux cat eating from automatic feeder

A microchip feeder has one compartment that opens only when it reads the matching collar tag or ID microchip on the cat.

It’s useful for multi-cat households, especially with one or more food hogs, or when cats have different nutritional needs.

For best results, a protective rear cover is recommended to keep food hogs from defeating the feeder by going around in back of it.

This feeder is for dry food mainly, but some people find they work well for wet.

“Are the Surefeed MICROCHIP PET FEEDERS worth it?”, One Man Five Cats, December 15, 2020

Motion Sensor Feeders

automatic motion cat feeder

These are feeders that open when they sense movement near them.

They’re useful for cats who take a while to finish a meal since the cover closes when they walk away.

The food stays fresher and when the cat comes back to finish, it’ll open again.

cut raw chicken meat, knife, on cutting board

If these are used with wet food, be sure the food can stay cool long enough for your cat to eat it.

Here are some reviews of automatic cat feeders you might find helpful…

Videos

Here are some videos about cat food bowls and what to consider when choosing them.

“Top 6 Best Cat Food Bowls (We Tested Them All)”, All About Cats, October 23, 2021
“Top 5 Best Automatic Cat Feeders (We Tested Them All)”, All About Cats, July 9, 2020
“Why You SHOULD Get Petlibro’s WIFI and CAMERA Automatic Pet Feeders”, Facts About Cats, July 27, 2022
“Petlibro Granary Automatic Cat Feeder Review (We Tried It)”, All About Cats, August 13, 2021

Water Bowls & Fountains

calico drinking from automatic water fountain

Having water bowls and/or fountains is vital for your cat’s health.

Many cats actually prefer to have their food and water bowls in separate areas, which is what they do in the wild.

Some cats prefer running water from a spigot or fountain because they like moving water.

grey, white cat drinking from automatic fountain

Cats instinctively know that running water is clear and clean, not stagnant and potentially harmful.

Some are fine with a glass of clean water, small bowls of water in a few different places or one bowl in a quiet spot.

Most fountains come in plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel.

fountain

Stainless steel is better than plastic because it’s not porous, durable, doesn’t affect the taste, and is easy to clean and sanitize.

If you have a cat with kidney or urinary problems, you might want to have a bowl like the Felaqua Connect smart water bowl (by Sure PetCare) that lets you monitor water intake.

Here’s a review of it (I make no money from this company)…

“Review of FELAQUA, the SMART water bowl that could save your cat’s life!”, One Man Five Cats, May 20, 2021
“PETLIBRO STAINLESS STEEL PET WATER FOUNTAIN REVIEW”, SVEN AND ROBBIE, October 2, 2021

Where to Go From Here

Now that you have some idea of the types of cat food and water bowls, you may have more questions about cat nutrition and food.

Discover more at “Cat Food!


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. Sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Amazon

Felaqua

Feline feeding programs: Addressing behavioural needs to improve feline health and wellbeing” – Tammy Sadek, Beth Hamper, Debra Horwitz, Ilona Rodan, Elizabeth Rowe, Eliza Sundahl, JFMS, October 30, 2018 (sagepub.com)

Food puzzles for cats: feeding for physical and emotional wellbeing“, JFMS-Accepted-Version.pdf (foodpuzzlesforcats.com)

How Much Should Cats Eat And How Often” by Dr. Pete Wedderburn, DVM, All About Cats, Updated Jul 29, 2022

How to Feed a Cat” – Cat Friendly Homes

New Study Out on the Best Way to Feed a Cat“, by Jackie Brown, Catster, March 25, 2019

Pet Food Bowls” Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, mercola.com, June 5, 2022

Updated April 12, 2024

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