Pet water fountain bowls have been all the rage for years now, I used to own one myself. As a pet sitter I am in and out of homes and have worked with pretty much every brand out there and I have found problems with all of them.
The bowls are VERY difficult to clean. The traditional fountains I see most often are made of many moving parts with nooks and crannies that are nearly impossible to get to with a sponge. One brand even sells a scrubbing kit with different sized bristles. That should tell you something right there! They are a challenge to clean even for the most diligent pet owner. Bacteria loves to grow in these fountains. Whether they are plastic, stainless, or ceramic, the only true way to keep the bacteria out is to take the fountain apart and wash and reassemble. Every. Single. Day. This is a lot of work for a pet owner. It is much easier to switch out a stainless bowl daily with a clean one and fill with filtered water from a Brita or from the water dispenser that comes with many fridge models.
Please keep in mind the filter is not magical. I have taken apart these fountains for cleaning only to find the filter itself had mold on it!. If you have a fountain bowl, empty it out and take a paper towel to the bowl and the filter compartment. If the paper towel comes out with a yellowish slime, that’s biofilm. Biofilm is a slimish film where bacteria thrives. The filter will do nothing to prevent biofilm, you will still need to wipe the bowl out daily.
If you are worried your cat is not getting enough water, try adding a water dish at different stations in the home. You can use a drinking glass or ceramic mug and place it on a nightstand or bathroom counter. If your cat likes running water, go ahead and turn on the tub or sink for a few moments each day. It might not be as good as filtered but in most cases it will be cleaner water than what is coming out of those fountains. For dogs who are not drinking enough, try adding a little water to each meal. You can also experiment with what your dog likes best, some love Brita water but other dogs prefer bottled water brands. Dogs have sensitive noses and they might pick up on something we can not smell in the water. Extra stations can help for dogs as well, consider adding a water bowl for each floor or wherever your dog hangs out a lot.
If you have already purchased a pet fountain or still would like to try one, just be sure to keep it super clean. Rinse and wipe out daily and at least twice a week soak all the parts in a vinegar solution to kill bacteria. If there are parts that go in the dishwasher, go ahead and put them in there. Although it is very tempting, refrain from just topping off the bowl. Taking the extra step of emptying and refilling daily will keep the parts cleaner and keep your pet healthier as well.