How Often To Change Cat Water

The water for cats should be changed daily when using a traditional water bowl.

Cats like fresh water better than stale, and cats need to drink water to avoid dehydration and to help them stay healthy.

When the water sits in the bowl for too long, it will get a film on it. Or the water could get dirty from cat hair, food particles, or tracked kitty litter getting into the bowl.

Also, your cat may be more attracted to drink from the water dish if it’s not placed right next to the food bowl.

How to Make Changing the Cat Water A Daily Habit

Cat owners can establish a daily habit of changing the cat’s water in a traditional bowl to always have fresh drinking water.

The easiest way to have clean water is to have two or more water bowls (or a set of bowls for each location where you are setting out water dishes).

Each day at the same time, you can pick up the bowls and replace them with a clean bowl of water. Then the dirty bowl can be placed in your dishwasher or cleaned with soapy water along with washing dishes.

To help make the new habit, you could try habit pairing. For example, you can try changing the cat water right after something else you are already doing every day. This could be right after you have breakfast, or when you come home from work, or brushing your teeth.

Having a daily habit will also mean that your cat’s water bowl will be clean.

We use stainless steel bowls for our indoor cats as we have at least one cat that is bothered by plastic dishes. The cat fountains that we have are ceramic.

cat bowl with stagnant water
This bowl needs cleaning and fresh water! There is a film on the top of the water as this water has not been replaced in a few days.

Cat Water Fountains

The water in a cat water fountain does not need to be changed every day. Instead, you can follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for how often to change the water completely.

You’ll also want to pay attention to the condition of the water in the fountain. Multiple cats will go through the more quickly, and the drinking water may need to be replaced more often.

The water bowl of the cat fountain can be topped off or refilled every day with fresh water or as needed.

We have two of these quiet cat water fountains, and one of them is used much more than the other.

We added cat fountains when Buster was having urinary problems, to help encourage him to drink more water. Some cats prefer flowing water to stagnant water in a dish.

Also, if you have cat water fountains, the filters will need to be replaced sometimes (every 2-4 weeks). Remember to include the cost of the filters when calculating the monthly cost of a cat.

How often to change the water in a cat water fountain
If you look closely, in the water fountain you will see a few specs of dirt indicating that the water should be changed.

Changing The Water For Outdoor Cats

If you care for a cat colony, community cats, or any outdoor cats, they should also be given fresh and clean water every day.

Sometimes, we have raccoons visit our yard, and they get the water bowl very dirty when they wash their paws in it. This short video shows the mess the raccoons can make in the bowls in just one visit.

Also, in the summer months, a water bowl is much more likely to have bacteria and algae. Washing the outdoor bowl every day may not be practical. I recommend wiping the bowls out with a paper towel to remove as much dirt as possible whenever the water is refreshed.

We use a heated water bowl in the winter, which would be inconvenient to wash with soap and water every day (we only have one heated water bowl). So, I wipe it out with a paper towel when refilling or cleaning the water bowl.

If you don’t have a heated water bowl in the winter, dealing with water freezing in the bowls can be quite the task. But it does mean the cats are going to get fresh water often. You can see the method I used to delay the cat water from freezing here before we had a heated bowl.

Changing the Cat Water Summary

How often you should change the cat’s water will depend on if you are using traditional water bowls or cat fountains.

The cat’s water in a regular bowl should be changed daily. And don’t forget to clean the bowl as well!

The water can be changed out weekly with a cat water fountain, as needed based on your observations or the cat fountain manufacturer’s recommendation. Also, if you have multiple cats the water will need to be replaced more often.

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

2 thoughts on “How Often To Change Cat Water”

  1. Thank you for this, Heidi! Actually, I’ve never had any problem making this part of my early morning routine. I pick up food and water bowls from the night before, wash them and refill them. Their filtered water fountain gets cleaned weekly as per instructions. And yes, if I see any particles of anything in a water bowl, it gets dumped, washed, and refilled.


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