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.
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.
- What's an Automatic Feeder?
- Feeders for Wet or Raw Food
- Timed Feeders
- Microchip Feeders
- Motion Sensor Feeders
- What to Look for in an Automatic Feeder
Some photos on this page are links to Amazon where I receive a small commission when you buy them… and I get to share them with qualified rescues!
Check descriptions and reviews carefully for any products you wish to buy… quality, sizes, colors, etc., can’t be guaranteed by anyone but the manufacturer.
Who Is Skye Blake?
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
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!
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.
If your cat responds best to plates or saucers, you might be able to use a wide, shallow bowl to help contain the mess.
See “How to Feed a Cat” for more about whisker fatigue.
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).
Once there are teeth or claw scratches, bacteria can accumulate and be a problem, especially if the bowl can’t go in the dishwasher.
If you choose to use plastic, be sure it meets FDA approved standards for safe food and water contact.
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 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 bowls are sturdy and usually heavy enough to make it easy for your cat to eat, although an aggressive cat can push the around.
They’re easily cleanable but can chip, crack, and even sometimes get scratched.
Check them each time you wash the bowls.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
For those who aren’t happy with the basic cat food bowl, there are automatic feeders that can help, 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.
What’s an Automatic Feeder?
An automatic feeder is a food container with a bowl at the bottom that has a timer.
You can set it for whenever you want your cat’s food dispensed.
This allows you to control meal quantity and frequency, even when you’re not home.
These feeders are helpful for dealing with weight loss and getting more sleep.
If your cat wants to eat at 4:00 a.m., he’ll go to the feeder and not wake you up!
Some you can program 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.
Feeders for Wet or Raw Food
If you feed primarily wet or raw food, there are only a few feeders made to handle it, using cold packs to keep food fresh.
The challenge is in preventing bacteria buildup while it’s waiting to be served.
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.
Using an ice pack or frozen food can work for a few hours (1 or 2 feedings) but isn’t a good idea for later in the day… if your cat will eat cold food.
You can’t expect the food to stay cool enough from breakfast through evening.
Timed feeders give you the power to choose when your cat gets fed.
You preprogram the feeder, put food in the compartments, and get it started.
Your cat has no power to open the compartment until the feeder unlocks it.
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 are battery operated so be sure you have extra batteries and use one that has a “low battery” light or signal.
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.
Motion Sensor Feeders
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.
If these are used with wet food, be sure the food can stay cool long enough for your cat to eat it.
What to Look for in an Automatic 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Here are some reviews of automatic cat feeders you might find helpful…
Water Bowls & Fountains
Having water bowls and/or fountains is vital for your cat’s health.
Some cats prefer running water from a spigot or fountain.
Others are fine with a glass of water, small bowls of water in a few different places or one bowl in a quiet spot.
Fountains are great for cats because they’re drawn to moving water.
They instinctively know that running water is clear and clean, not stagnant and potentially harmful.
Most fountains come in plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel.
Stainless steel is better than plastic because it stays clean a lot longer and is more durable.
Plastic is porous, which can allow bacteria to grow faster, whereas stainless steel is not 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)…
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.
If so, check out these related pages…
Related Pages of Interest
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
“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 February 18, 2023