Finding a safe and lead-free cat water fountain or dish

The other day a customer emailed to say that she always trusts my opinion (aw, shucks!) and wanted to know if I had a favorite cat water fountain. I told her that I do not, but that it would be fun for us both to check Etsy, eBay, and other online sources as well as the local pet shops to see what creative and pretty options exist.

I did caution her to not buy a plastic one. Plastic is bad for many reasons including that it can cause “rodent ulcers” on a cat’s lips. Also, it’s very hard to clean plastic and remove it of bio films which are the saliva slime that accumulates, and which harbors many forms of bacteria, bad bacteria. Also, plastic contains cancer causing chemicals which leach into food and water, and heck – it’s plastic and we want to stop using it for a million health and environmental reasons.

After a quick perusal on Etsy, we both found a few fountains that appealed to us. But me being me, she who asks tough questions, I messaged several sellers: “Do you test for lead?” I’m sad to say that none of them knew what I was talking about! How can you sell or make something ceramic and not know about lead especially when many states have banned lead in glazes! When I wrote back, I dumbed it down: “Many ceramics and their glazes contain lead. Lead is toxic, exposures can lead to lead poisoning which is particularly harmful, even lethal, to children and small animals. You can purchase lead test kits for dishes and ceramics.”

One of the sellers said that her products contained “an acceptable level of lead.” At this point I gave up! There is no acceptable level of lead!

Several years ago, when Mister Cat Faerie was out of town for the weekend, and I knew I was free to make a big mess and have fun with a science project, I bought several boxes of lead test kits for ceramics and dishes. Then I hauled into the kitchen every vintage piece, every modern piece, every vintage planter, etc. that I could find. If it was ceramic, it was being tested. I cleared space on the countertop for two piles: Safe. Not Safe. Was I in for a shocker!

The hand painted fine bone china from the late 1970’s tested positive! Many of my adorable vintage planters tested positive. Antique teacups and saucers that my great grandmother gave me tested positive. Odds and ends that Mister Cat Faerie inherited from his family tested positive. And most horrifying was a new “lead free” cache pot that was glazed tested negative but the surface where the lid fit on to the bowl, which was unglazed, tested positive! I wondered how this could be! I knew the potter, I knew she’d been using lead free everything for years. More investigating.

I learned that if a kiln ever in its history fired pieces which contained lead, the lead lingered, and in the future would contaminate the unglazed surfaces of a ceramic! Possible contaminating the glaze itself. YIKES!

If you want to conduct a similar science project with your own ceramics this website lists and reviews lead test kits. It turns out that their first choice is the brand that I used. It does a great job and it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it.

So, what plates and bowls do Auntie Cat Faeries’ own cats and bunnies drink from and eat from? Pyrex, you cannot go wrong with Pyrex. And for splashes of uplifting color, I have bowls and small plates from Fiesta Ware (modern Fiesta Ware, NOT vintage). At this time, I won’t be buying a water fountain. I will continue to use my Pyrex and Fiesta Ware. The water I give my fur children (and myself and Mister Cat Faerie) is filtered at the kitchen sink or Castle Rock from Mt Shasta which is spring water bottled in glass bottles.

After you’ve done your own lead testing tell me what you discovered!

Auntie Cat Faerie