There was a time when I thought it was silly to own a pet fountain. After all, why couldn’t my cats drink out of a plain old bowl? After someone told me a fountain would encourage my cats to drink more water, possibly preventing urinary tract problems, I decided to give one a try. I discovered the person was right — my cats did consume considerably more water when their bowl was replaced with a fountain.
My first fountain was a Drinkwell Original, the plastic kind with a relatively small footprint. One thing I didn’t like about it was that the parts for mine were not dishwasher-safe (although newer models are), and I grew tired of taking the fountain apart every week and washing everything by hand.
When the time came to replace my old pet fountain, I did a lot of research. One of my key criteria was that the fountain had to be dishwasher-safe (understanding that motors must always be cleaned by hand). This significantly limits your fountain choices. After reading many reviews and spec sheets, I settled on the Drinkwell 360 stainless-steel pet fountain. I found the best price on the Doctors Foster and Smith website. I’ve been using the fountain now for 7 months, so I feel I can offer a fair review of its performance.
The dishwasher-safe factor has proven to be a nice benefit. However, I was unprepared for how much room the fountain would take up in my dishwasher. The bowl has a 12.5-inch diameter, so it takes up about 60 percent of the space in my top dishwasher rack. The interior fountain parts (minus the motor) go in a dishwasher basket in the top rack, taking up another 10 percent of the space in the top. I put the fountain insert on the bottom, where it takes up about 20 percent of the available space. In other words, don’t expect to get a lot of other dishes washed when running the pet fountain through the machine.
I do believe the stainless-steel construction helps the Drinkwell 360 stay cleaner than the Drinkwell Original, which had plastic parts that got “slimy.” However, the filters for the 360 do not work as well as the filters for the Drinkwell Original. The 360 filters are much smaller and in cylinder form. The Drinkwell Original filters had a much larger surface area and seemed that kept the water cleaner longer.
The 360 filters seem so ineffective that they weren’t worth the cost, so I’ve stopped using them. Now, I just run the fountain without the filters. This is one bonus of the 360 — you can run the fountain without the filters, according to the instruction manual. Other manufacturers say their fountains will not operate properly without a filter.
The 360 holds a gallon of water, while the Drinkwell Original holds 50 ounces. However, you can buy an optional reservoir for the Original, like I had, which automatically refills it as the water level goes down. I do miss the reservoir. With the 360, I have to remember to add to or check the water level daily, which leads me to unplug the fountain if going away on a weekend trip.
The 360 also takes up a lot of space. When it first arrived, my husband referred to it as a “cattle trough.” The Drinkwell Original was less noticeable in our kitchen.
The 360 is slightly harder to assemble then the Original, in my opinion. The first few times I washed it, I had to read the instructions to remember how to put it back together. Once you get the hang of it, though, it is pretty easy. However, even after numerous washings, I still find it very hard to remove the filter cover. I worry that I will break it one day trying to pry it off.
The big question is: if I had to do it again, would I purchase the Drinkwell 360? Probably not, mainly due to the ineffectiveness of the filters. I feel like I have to wash this fountain more frequently than I did the Drinkwell Original. If I purchase a second pet fountain, I will likely try a dishwasher-safe ceramic model.
Do you use a pet fountain with your cats or dogs? Share your model and experience to provide valuable feedback for others.