Best Food and Water Bowls for Cats

Welcome to the “Healthier Cat Detox Series” Part Two

Who doesn’t like a cute cat bowl? But did you know some shapes are not easy for your cat to eat out of? Which materials are best and which ones to avoid? This is all about the best kinds of food and water bowls for cats and keeping them clean.

*Disclaimer: This post contains a affiliate links, which means I receive a very small commission if you purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). It is a great way to say thanks if you find my information helpful for you and your cat. I personally use or have used any products I recommend. 

Types of materials for a cat’s food and water bowls

Avoid plastic

Plastic is porous. It nicks and scratches. Bacteria and fungi grow in these scratches. Plastic bowls may cause feline acne on a cat’s chin. This is due to the bacteria in the plastic, or a cat may have an allergy to the plastic. (Stress causes feline acne too.) People have told me when they got rid of plastic bowls, their cat’s feline acne cleared up. Plus, over time, plastic bowls start to get an unclean odor.

Many plastic products carry labels that claim the plastic was treated to prevent bacteria. A polymer has been added to the plastic. These plastics are shiny and often used to make cat litter boxes. This kind of plastic does not seem to scratch as easily and can go long periods of time before developing odor. I’d rather be on the safe side and avoid plastic. I mean, think about this. Plastic is porous and wears away with continuous abrasion. A cat’s tongue is pretty rough and is basically rubbing away at the plastic while licking up canned or raw food and even pushing particles of food and saliva into the tiny nicks and scratches.  

Another reason to avoid plastic bowls is the Bisphenol A (BPA) used to manufacture plastics.  Since at least 1936, BPA has been known to mimic estrogens.  Tests show it promotes breast cancer cell growth and lowers the sperm count in rats. Heat–such as from the microwave, the dishwasher or very hot dish water–increases the leakage of BPA from plastic. Not worth the risk when there are much safer materials to use for our kitty cats.

Best materials to use

Ceramic, Glass, and Stainless Steel

These are easy to clean, not porous and less likely to have scratches to harbor bacteria.  Obviously, if the ceramic or glass becomes cracked or deeply scratched, it is wise to get rid of them. 

Best food bowl shapes to use — yes — there are best shapes to use! 

The best shape is shallow and wide. Whiskers have a lot of nerves and are very sensitive.  If a cat’s whiskers touch the bowl while eating, they hold their whiskers back out of the way. With this shallow and wide shape, their whiskers are less likely to touch the sides. If your cat has really long whiskers, choose a wider diameter dish. Also with this shape, they can easily clean up all their canned or raw food. Whereas in a dish with high sides, food gets crammed into the crease where the side meets the bottom. Using a shallow and wide dish means less stress and discomfort when eating.

In the event you cannot find any dishes at pet stores made specifically for cats with shallow and low sides and in one of the listed best materials, here are some ideas:

  1) Corelle bowls. They are nearly indestructible, stackable, dishwasher safe and lightweight.  Choose the 10-ounce bowl (cereal size) for larger cats or the 9-inch all-purpose dish for smaller cats/kittens (the dish is very cute!).  These sizes have a wide enough bottom and fairly low sides–but not so low that food gets flicked over the edge. In the photo below, the white bowls are the 10-ounce bowl.

  2) Saucers and flowerpot saucers (the flowerpot saucers need to be glazed ceramic). In the photo below, the yellow and blue saucers are glazed ceramic flowerpot saucers. 

The silver bowls in the photo below are stainless steel cat food bowls. The flowered bowl to the far left is a cereal bowl. 

Best water bowl shapes

Wide diameter with higher sides are better for water bowls. You can see how canned or raw food can get pushed into and stuck in the area where the sides meet the bottom. Corelle’s 28-ounce bowl works well, as does Corningware’s 16-ounce or 24-ounce bakeware bowls. I have found the Corningware bowls at thrift stores, often sold singly or in sets of two.  

Food and water bowl hygiene

This might seem like a subject that doesn’t need explanation. Well, I’m gonna cover it anyway because as a pet sitter, I’ve seen some pretty dirty food and water bowls in peoples’ homes.

Food bowl hygiene

If we are not washing the food bowl after every meal, bacteria will grow on the crumbs or residue leftover and it may attract ants, cockroaches and flies. Dust and cat fur collects in bowls. We don’t like to eat off of dirty dishes. It’s best health practice to wash food bowls after every meal. Wash bowls in a dishwasher or with hot water and an earth-friendly dish soap. Rinse thoroughly so as to not leave any dish soap film or scent on the bowl. I keep a squirt bottle at the sink filled with a 50/50 mixture of dish soap and water. If there isn’t already dish water in the sink to use. I squirt a little of this 50/50 soap onto a washcloth to wash cat bowls. 

Water bowl hygiene

Mold and bacteria grow in standing water. Dust and animal hair settle in it. Water should be changed daily, or at the very minimum every other day. Wash in the dishwasher or with hot water and an earth-friendly dish soap. Rinse thoroughly so as to not leave any dish soap film or scent on the bowl.

Water dispenser hygiene

In water dispensers, mold grows inside the bottle, the bottle’s cap, and the bowl. It grows in all the little crevices. A water dispenser should be dishwasher safe and washed once per week in the dishwasher. Then again, heat causes BPA to leak from plastic. Be sure your dispenser does not contain BPA. Personally, I don’t like water dispensers for two reasons.

  1) The amount of mold that grows in them

  2) If you wait for the bottle to finally empty before washing out the bowl, the bowl has lots of stuff in it just from sitting there: animal fur, food from your cat’s mouth, dust, bugs, bacteria, etc. Yuck! The same thing happens with dry food dispensers (which by the way, you may already know, I am absolutely not a fan of dry cat food or free-feeding). Dry food — dry food dispensers — convenience.