Let’s talk stainless steel vs plastic pet fountains and which is better overall, shall we?
I know, it’s a seemingly random topic, but trust me, it’s more important than you might think!
After all, what goes into those fountains also goes into your cat!
Today, we’ll cover plastic vs stainless steel pet fountains and determine which one is better for your kitty.
We’ll even toss ceramic fountains into the mix and see if it changes the results.
Let the contest begin!
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Ceramic vs Stainless Steel vs Plastic Pet Fountains
I think the easiest way to do this is to look at the pros and cons of each material individually.
Then, we’ll sum it all up in my “final recommendation” section. Make sense? Good, let’s start with stainless steel, shall we?
In each section, I’ll also share my #1 favorite fountain to buy with links to find it on Amazon and Chewy.
FYI, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Pet Fountains
I can make this super easy on you and tell you right now that stainless steel water fountains are definitely better than plastic.
That said, there are some cons along with the pros, so don’t go running off to buy one just yet.
- Stainless steel is far more germ-resistant than plastic or other porous materials.
- As the name implies, they resist stains far better than plastic, so they don’t look dingy after a few months of use.
- For the most part they’re dishwasher safe (check manufacturer directions, though, to be sure).
- Super sturdy overall, so they’re likely to last longer and won’t break if your toddler “accidentally” throws it across the room. Hey, it happens!
- More expensive than plastic (and even pricier than most ceramic options).
- Quality varies significantly depending on the “grade” of steel that is used.
- While the main part is stainless steel, most fountains still use plastic parts inside
As you can see, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, especially if price isn’t an issue.
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Out of all the stainless steel cat fountains (and there aren’t as many as you’d think), I have to go with the Drinkwell 360 as my top choice.
It’s a fairly low-frills compared to fancier automatic cat fountains, but it gets the job done.
The large capacity holds an entire gallon of water, making it a great option for those times when you know you’ll be gone all day and into the night.
Like most fountains, it uses a carbon filter to keep nasty odors and tastes from wrecking the water, and you will need to replace those regularly.
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However, the filter refill packs are pretty cheap at just under $5 for a 3-pack (and even less if you use Chewy’s Autoship feature or buy a 12-pack instead).
The only major drawback is the pump. It’s made of plastic (but that’s pretty common no matter what fountain you buy) and has a rep for not lasting a long time.
Fortunately, you can also just buy a replacement pump if it’s out of warranty when yours breaks down.
- Age Range Description: all ages
Plastic Pet Fountains Pros and Cons
Between stainless steel vs plastic pet fountains, plastic is typically the most economical choice.
While it’s not the safest option overall, per se, it’s also not necessarily an unsafe option, either.
Let’s take a look at the plastic pros and cons.
- Inexpensive compared to stainless steel
- Shatterproof (it’s really hard to break a plastic bowl)
- Since it’s porous, it can more easily trap bacteria and other nasties, then leech them back into the water
- Harder to get really clean (plastic tends to absorb odors, and not in a good way)
- May contain BPA and other toxic chemicals
- Not an eco-friendly option by a long shot
Unfortunately, the cons really outweigh the pros, especially when we’re talking stainless steel vs plastic pet fountains.
That’s not to say that plastic is a necessarily dangerous or bad choice, just that you’ll need to be far more diligent about keeping it clean.
Once again, we turn to Drinkwell to find the best plastic cat water fountain.
With a solid 4-star rating on Amazon and 4.5 stars on Chewy, it’s as close to perfection as you’ll get in a plastic fountain.
It holds more water than the stainless steel option- 168 oz in all- so it’s great for multiple pet households, especially if you work outside the home.
The pump allows you to adjust the flow for your pet’s preference while the carbon filter keeps out most of the nasties.
It’s also top-rack dishwasher safe, making it easier to clean and sanitize.
Plus, it’s BPA-free (and no matter what fountain you buy, absolutely make sure it says those words somewhere).
Again, you can buy cheap replacement filters as well as replacement pumps.
The biggest drawback is something that’s common with all plastic fountains: the water reservoir can get slimy and gross pretty fast.
Honestly, I notice this even with my Keurig, which routinely grows algae if I don’t clean it fast enough (gross, yes, but hey, algae isn’t without its health benefits!)
So, as long as you keep up with the cleaning- and by that I mean every other day at least- you should be satisfied with this option.
- LARGE WATER CAPACITY: 168 ounce water capacity is great for pets of all sizes or multiple pets
- ENCOURAGES DRINKING: Free-falling stream entices pets to drink more water
- FILTERED WATER: Includes replaceable carbon water filter that removes bad tastes and odors, keeping water fresh
- LESS REFILLS: Built-in reservoir increases capacity and extends time between refilling your fountain
- ADJUSTABLE STREAM: The pumps adjustable flow allows you to customize the water flow for your pet
- EASY-TO-CLEAN: Fountain is BPA-free and top-shelf dishwasher safe
- U.S. BASED CUSTOMER CARE: Let our pet product experts help
- EXPERIENCE: PetSafe brand has been an industry leading U.S. manufacturer of pet behavior, containment and lifestyle products since 1991, helping millions of people and pets each year
Ceramic fountains pros and cons
I know you came here mostly looking for stainless steel vs plastic pet fountains, but I want to offer you one more choice: ceramic.
Although they’re not quite as on par with stainless steel in the safety and hygiene department, they’re pretty darn close.
Again, though, there are cons. Let’s look at both sides of ceramic pet fountains.
- Less porous than plastic, so not as likely to harbor bacteria IF they remain undamaged (see cons for the flip side of this)
- Tend to be more stylish than both plastic and stainless steel options. You can find some truly beautiful fountains.
- Fairly durable as long as you’re not to rough on it.
- Price is dependent more on style versus the material, so you can find options that are cheaper than steel (although some are pricier).
- Can become porous if it gets cracked or chipped, in which case it CAN harbor bacteria.
- Not good for homes with young kids, as it isn’t shatterproof.
- You need to be very careful to choose a brand with a non-toxic glaze.
By now you shouldn’t be surprised to find another Drinkwell fountain under my “top pick.”
While there are a ton of other options, PetSafe’s Drinkwell typically has the highest ratings overall.
This particular ceramic cat fountain is pricier than the stainless steel option, but I figured go big or go home, since we talked about style as a major pro.
Not only is it gorgeous, but it also has both an upper and lower dish so your pet has two drinking areas.
Like the other Drinkwell fountains, it uses a carbon filter that doesn’t cost a fortune to replace.
The downside: it only holds 70 ounces compared to the larger capacities of the the fountains here.
- 70 OZ WATER CAPACITY: This fountain is perfect for cats and small to medium-sized dogs
- ENCOURAGES HYDRATION: 2 free-falling water streams entice pets to drink more and help prevent urinary and kidney diseases through increased hydration
- OPEN BOWL DESIGN: This fountain incorporates an open bowl design, so if your home loses power, your cat will still have access to water from any side
- FRESH, FILTERED WATER: Replaceable carbon filter removes bad tastes and odors while the foam filter catches pet hair and debris
- GREAT FOR SENIOR PETS: The tiered design of the fountain is great for senior or arthritic pets
- CLEAN AND HYGIENIC: The constant water circulation and premium, scratch-resistant ceramic material help to inhibit bacteria growth
- EASY TO CLEAN: Simply disassemble the pump to hand wash and place all other parts in the top rack of your dishwasher
- COMPATIBLE FILTERS AND PUMP: Fountain uses PetSafe Drinkwell Carbon Filter (PAC00-13906), PetSafe Drinkwell Foam Filter (PAC00-13711) and Drinkwell Replacement Pump (PAC00-13206)
- QUALITY GUARANTEED: PetSafe brand has been a trusted global leader in pet behavior, containment and lifestyle innovations for nearly 30 years; we help pets and their people live happily together
Final Recommendation: Which is the Safest Overall?
As we saw throughout the pros and cons, when it comes to stainless steel vs plastic pet fountains, steel is the big winner.
Even with stainless steel vs ceramic, steel wins. However, with ceramic vs. plastic, ceramic takes the prize.
Long story short, plastic is the worst option of all. However, “worst” isn’t code for “unsafe,” and it’s entirely possible to have a safe experience with a plastic fountain.
Just remember that it requires more upkeep than its steel or ceramic counterparts, and don’t expect it to last quite as long.
Tell me your thoughts on ceramic vs stainless steel vs plastic pet fountains. Use the comments below to share your experiences and top picks.
Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the writers here on CatVills. She’s been a cat lover most of her life and-at one point- counted five felines as part of her family. Today, she’s proud cat mom to two indoor kitties and caregiver for a slew of ferals.
Last update on 2021-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API