A couple weeks ago I decided to get an electric water fountain for my cats. I was tired of refilling three water bowls four or five times a day. Researching water fountains online and asking for advice here, I found there are three fountains for cats available:
Cat-It by Hagen
Fresh Flow by Petmate
Drinkwell by Veterinary Ventures
The Cat-It looks like the most intriguing design, however it’s too big to fit in one of the pet trays I already have and the floor mat that’s sold as an option for it I think is incredibly ugly, so I decided to try the Fresh Flow. My cats and I liked the Fresh Flow enough to want another water fountain, one at each end of the house, and so I decided to buy a Drinkwell and compare the two. Here is what I found.
The Drinkwell is of slightly heavier plastic contruction. Advantage: Drinkwell.
The Drinkwell comes mostly preassembled. Advantage: Drinkwell.
Both are about the same size: Fresh Flow has a footprint of about 9 x 11 and the Drinkwell about 9 x 10. Advantage: draw.
Personal preference for the Fresh Flow.
Both have the same standard capacity of 50 ounces. However, the Drinkwell has an optional reservoir available, doubling the capacity. Advantage: Drinkwell.
If you can bring the water to the fountain, the Drinkwell is much easier to fill since the bowl is the reservoir. Just pour it in. The Fresh Flow has a detachable reservoir, so you can bring just the reservoir to a water source to fill it. However, it’s difficult to pick up and one must be careful not to spill. Then the cap has to be removed and replaced. With both, it’s easy to see when a refill is needed. Advantage: Drinkwell (conditional on having a pitcher).
Both units have a mesh filter with activated charcoal, similar to the filters found in fish tank filter systems. The Fresh Flow filter is a cheap flimsy design with the charcoal rattling around loose inside, which makes it harder to insert. (And the effectiveness of the charcoal problematic.) In neither case did the filter really seem to do all that much except impede the water flow. Neither manual advises to rinse the filter before use to avoid charcoal dust in the water. Advantage: Drinkwell.
The Drinkwell is powered directly by 115 AC, and the cord is lightweight, so you’ll want to wrap it with duct tape against cat teeth. The Fresh Flow has an outlet-mount 12 volt transformer and an inline on-off switch. Advantage: Fresh Flow.
Both units recirculate water from the bowl, spilling through a spout. The Drinkwell free falls onto a ramp, and the Fresh Flow runs down a spillway. Both have a flow control. The Fresh Flow is MUCH quieter. The Drinkwell not only has the sound of water running, but a rather noisy pump. The Fresh Flow’s pump is submerged, which quiets its operation, but the Drinkwell’s isn’t. Both units advise against allowing the pumps to run dry. The Drinkwell’s warranty is invalid if the pump is not cleaned. Advantage: Fresh Flow.
The Fresh Flow is a bugger to clean, with shaped parts and many tiny recesses. However, it comes apart and goes back together quite easily. The Drinkwell is easier to clean, but the pump is difficult to remove and insert, and there are two tiny parts that are easy to lose. Advantage: draw.
The noise was the clincher for me, as I kept looking for a faucet that was running. After only a couple days, I retired the Drinkwell and bought another Fresh Flow. And I saw the cats drinking from the Fresh Flow more often than the Drinkwell. Advantage: Fresh Flow. Anybody wanna buy a slightly used Drinkwell?