It’s good that you’ve paused to research the various materials used to make food and water bowls for cats. At first glance, it may seem like choosing the best material for your cat’s bowls is a minor decision, but that’s not the case at all.
There are five materials most commonly used for pet bowls: stainless steel, ceramic, plastic, glass, and stoneware. Of these, stainless steel has the most pros and no real downsides, making it an easy call for the best option. Ceramic, glass, and stoneware can be considered runners up, but plastic is a material to avoid altogether.
The Best Cat Bowl Material: Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a durable, practically unbreakable material, so even though it’s a little pricier, it’s cheaper in the long run because you shouldn’t have to replace it. However, there are different types of stainless steel of varying quality. To increase the chances that you purchase a good product, select a stainless steel dish that specifies it is dishwasher safe and that labels the gauge (thickness) or series of the stainless steel.
Being dishwasher safe is beneficial, allowing for sterilization of the food and water bowls at least every few days. Also, stainless steel won’t develop surface scratches; scratches harbor bacteria that can create an off-putting smell that prevents your cat from eating and drinking and can even make her sick. A stainless steel bowl also won’t crack or develop nicks and chips that could injure your cat.
Some stainless steel products from certain countries have been found to contain high levels of lead. To protect your cat from the associated dangers of lead ingestion, choose a product made in the US, where strict safeguards are in place. Also, opt for a bowl with a rubber rim on the bottom edge of the dish to prevent slipping and tipping.
The Runners Up: Glass, Ceramic, and Stoneware
Glass, ceramic and stoneware all offer scratch-resistant surfaces which, as with stainless steel, prevents bacterial accumulation. They are also easy to sterilize on a regular basis since most are dishwasher safe and can take the high heat generated in most washers. The exception may be some stoneware products so double check the label and choose an item you can easily throw into the dishwasher.
There are, however, some downsides to these materials that make stainless steel preferable. Glass, ceramic, and stoneware are all breakable, so if you drop them, even if they don’t shatter, chips or cracks can injure your kitty and become bacteria havens.
As with stainless steel, there’s a good reason to buy only US-made products when choosing cat food and water bowls made from these materials. Some of these materials and the paints and glazes used on them can pose health risks when not adequately regulated. They can contain lead, cadmium, and other toxins that seep into your cat’s food and water. Along with buying domestic products, check the label to make sure the bowl is food-safe.
The Clear Loser: Plastic
Each of the foregoing options works well for cat food and water bowls. But plastic, another commonly used material, is a poor choice for several reasons.
Plastic readily develops surface scratches where bacteria can accumulate. Your cat’s teeth or claws, an abrasive cleaning surface and silverware, among other things, can leave scratches, and the resulting bacteria can be difficult to eradicate if you can’t sterilize the plastic bowl in the dishwasher.
Bacteria aren’t the only threat to your cat’s health from plastic dishes. Many plastic items release bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and other potentially harmful compounds into the environment or the food and water your cat ingests. Some compounds are known carcinogens and/or known to have other harmful effects in humans. While there hasn’t been as much study of the effect of these compounds on animals, it’s not much of a leap to assume they can have negative effects on your cat. Besides, why take the chance when there are better alternatives?
Although you may be drawn to plastic bowls for their lower price tag, keep in mind that you’ll probably need to replace them often. They become soiled, scratched, and otherwise due for disposal fairly quickly. So, while the plastic bowl may be considerably cheaper than a quality stainless steel bowl, the stainless steel is still the cost-saving investment.
Updated on 3/16/2016
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