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What’s the Best Material for Cat Bowls? (Pros & Cons)

Most cat owners understand the importance of feeding good-quality food to our cats, but we tend to pay less attention to the quality and features of the bowls that we fill. Your cat is going to eat and drink from their bowls half a dozen times or more per day, and if they suffer an allergic or toxic reaction to the bowl material, then it could lead to serious illness. Some cats are picky too: They may enjoy eating from stainless steel but not drinking from it. They might refuse to eat from anything other than ceramic.


Types of Cat Bowls

Food bowls should be large enough to hold a meal and allow unrestricted access to the food. This means that the opening should not be too tight or restricted in any way.

Water bowls need to be large enough to hold a reasonable amount of water, but for some animals, you need to ensure that the water is not too deep. Small animals can climb inside and may not be able to get out again. Buy bowls specifically for kittens or puppies, and upgrade once they get older.

Certain types of food and water bowls may only be available in a restricted range of materials
  • Elevated Feeders: Elevated feeders enable your cat to eat without having to dip their head down to the ground level. This reduces strain on the neck. However, research suggests that large and giant breeds suffer an increased likelihood of developing bloat when using this type of bowl.
  • Automatic Feeders: Automatic feeders deliver a set amount of food at specific times or intervals. They can be used if you go to work during the day or just to ensure that you don’t forget to feed your cat. Although these bowls may be made from any material, it is common to find plastic variants.
  • Water Fountains: Similarly, water fountains tend to be made from plastic. Some animals do not like to drink stagnant water, while others guzzle bowls of water a day. A water fountain reminds your pet that they need to drink, offers fresh and constantly recycling water, and can be beneficial when you’re working.

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Bowl Materials

Bowls tend to come in a choice of three materials: plastic, stainless steel, or ceramic.


kitten not eating_Happy monkey, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

Plastic is everywhere. It is cheap, easy to make, and light enough to easily ship and move around. However, it is also the least healthy option, contains potentially dangerous chemicals, and can be quite flimsy and lead to ingestion.

  • Cheap: Plastic became the prevalent consumer material of the 20th century because of its low cost. Creating a plastic bowl costs a fraction of the price of a ceramic or steel bowl, and some of these savings are passed on to customers. Plastic bowls are available for a few dollars.
  • Lightweight: Plastic is easy to move around and can be stored almost anywhere. Its lightweight nature makes it equally suitable as a travel or portable food or water option.
  • Flexible: Plastic can be molded into any shape, it can be constructed with one, two, or more walls, and it can be thick or thin, according to the manufacturing requirements. It is flexible.
  • Harmful Content: Plastic can contain BPA, phthalates, and a host of other potentially harmful materials. These can adversely affect the health and development of your pet, as they may also chew on and consume small amounts of plastic over time.
  • Impossible to Clean: Abrasive damage to plastic causes small gouges and marks that harbor bacteria. No matter how well you clean the bowl, these bacteria can remain.
  • Light: Being lightweight is not only a benefit of plastic but also a drawback. Your cat will easily push a plastic bowl around while eating, and it can topple over and spill the liquid and food content.
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Stainless Steel

cat not eating
Image Credit: Alena Lebedzeva, Shutterstock

Stainless steel is widely considered the healthiest and best material for cat food bowls. There are different grades of stainless steel. Try to ensure that the grade of steel being used is considered food grade. Also, avoid thin stainless-steel bowls. They will clang and scrape around.

  • Durable: Stainless steel is durable. It can be banged about and only suffer a few minor dints. Choose one with a rubber base to prevent slippage and further reduce damage.
  • Dishwasher Safe: Because it does not suffer the same abrasive damage as plastic, stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain. It can even be put in the dishwasher, although the rubber base may prevent this.
  • Inexpensive: Stainless steel is cheap, and bowls made from this material can be bought for a few dollars.
  • Safe: If made using food-grade stainless steel, it is perfectly safe to eat from and should not leach any dangerous substances into the food.
  • Noisy: Stainless steel is noisy, especially if you have a vigorous eater. It will clang against walls and scrape against walls, hence the need for a rubber non-slip base.
  • Different Grades of Material: There are different grades of stainless steel, and you will need to ensure that the bowl you choose is safe. If the manufacturer fails to disclose the grade of stainless steel used, it would be best to avoid it.
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feline eating
Image Credit: Luisella Planeta Leoni, Pixabay

Ceramic bowls come in many sizes and designs. They tend to be more expensive than plastic and metal bowls, but some owners prefer the heft of the ceramic option.

  • Stable: Ceramic is heavy, which means that a ceramic bowl can prevent your cat from pushing their food around the floor and toppling the water bowl.
  • Design Options: Ceramic can be glazed and coated and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs, so there is a suitable option for all.
  • Need Regular Cleaning: As a porous material, ceramic needs regular cleaning, and it can be difficult to scrub away baked-on food.
  • Easily Damaged: Although ceramic is heavy, it is more easily damaged than stainless steel. Drop a thick ceramic bowl, and you could smash the bowl and the floor underneath.
  • Varying Quality: Some glazes and paints are lead-based, which is dangerous, and some will flake away into your pet’s food and water. Ensure that you buy good-quality ceramic.

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The Best Material for Cat Bowls

Stainless steel is considered the best material for cat bowls. Food-grade steel is safe to eat and drink from, inexpensive, and easy to clean. It is also less harmful to the environment than plastic, but it can be noisy, and you should ensure that you get a good grade of stainless steel.

Check out these articles on different types of cat bowls:

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Featured image: Africa Studio, Shutterstock