How can we get our Cat Mate pet fountain working?
February 15, 2012 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Last summer we bought a Cat Mate Pet Fountain for our cats. One of them ignores it and drinks from the old ceramic bowl, but the other is crazy about it. It's stopped working a couple of times (you can hear the motor running, but water does not move), but cleaning the parts has fixed it before; now it doesn't. Does anybody have experience with this? (In general, the product gets excellent reviews, so we'd prefer to avoid having to try another brand unless we have to.)
posted by languagehat to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend buying a replacement pump. They are inexpensive. I have one waiting in a cupboard for when it inevitably fails, as all things with moving parts do. :)
posted by airways at 11:25 AM on February 15, 2012

We have a Drink-Well, not ah Cat mate, but the problem always seems to come down to cat hair clogging up something. Generally blasting water from the sink through each of the component parts (in the reverse direction if possible) finds and cures the problem.
posted by rtimmel at 11:26 AM on February 15, 2012

I've had a couple of cat fountains, though not your particular brand. However, both brands I've had have had this problem, the pump running with no water flow. This seems to be caused by by air locks in the little cheap pumps they use---a bubble of air gets into the pump impeller and restricts water flow.

Jogging the pump power, rapidly turning the pump on and off will sometimes dislodge the bubbles and cause flow to start again. Air bubbles create turbulence; when the pump stops gurgling and become quieter, I know the air has worked it's way out.

When this (sometimes) doesn't work, I prime the pump directly. Running a gentle, smooth stream of water from the tap into the outflow of pump assembly for a minute or two reliably does the trick.
posted by bonehead at 11:26 AM on February 15, 2012

Can you contact Cat Mate directly? Sometimes the manufacturers will replace them if they fail early on or sell you an exact replacement.
posted by oneear at 11:27 AM on February 15, 2012

I used to have a Catit fountain which my cats loved at first but then I found the plastic would get really slimy, even when I cleaned it every day. It took up a lot of floorspace and it was noisy. I had to replace the pump twice, and generally found it a pain to take care of. Once it went through the dishwasher the dome went milky and it looked nasty.

Then they both decided they didn't like it any more and so I put a bowl out for them and gave the fountain away. I now have just one cat and she does like to drink running water (such as a tap drip) so I bought a ceramic fountain, which looks like a urinal, but she loves it, and it's really easy to clean and completely silent.
posted by essexjan at 11:45 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is this your card?

Given that it sounds like it's running, you might be able to get it going again with more cleaning (i.e. there is something in there fouling the works) but maybe whatever passes for bearings are well and truly shot and it's time for a new pump.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:01 PM on February 15, 2012

I have a Petmate fountain that one my of cats similarly goes crazy over - he will meow incessantly if it isn't working or if I take it away for cleaning!

It's my understanding that the pump in your model and mine are similar if not the same. When mine clogs up, like yours, I can hear the motor but there is no water flow. I have found that the major clogs are only partially due to cat hair - it's actually algae/bacterial slime that keeps the pump from working properly. Frequent cleaning certainly helps. But last year I also started adding a tiny bit of water additive for oral hygiene (i.e. Dental Fresh, although there are other brands too). This not only helps with oral hygiene, but has the added benefit of inhibiting algae and bacterial growth in the fountain, thus extending the time periods between necessary cleaning.

For cleaning - I typically will take apart my fountain and run it through the dishwasher about once a month, while also using an old toothbrush to thoroughly clean the pump. I then put the pump in the bottom of a large bucket and fill it with water and a bit of bleach - about the same ratio you might use for a cleaning solution or to brighten whites in the laundry - then I plug it in and let the pump circulate the bleached water. This effectively kills all the algae and bacteria the toothbrush doesn't get deep inside the pump. Of course when the dishwasher is done I thoroughly rinse the pump in fresh water before I reassemble the fountain.
posted by trivia genius at 12:07 PM on February 15, 2012

Forgot to add...with this regimen, which sounds like more work than it really is, I've kept my fountain running (and my cat happy) for nearly 8 years now. I only had to replace the pump once, last year, because the fountain ran dry while I was on vacation and the motor in the pump burned out.
posted by trivia genius at 12:08 PM on February 15, 2012

Response by poster: My wife read this thread, cleaned it again, and now it's working! (And Lyuba, the cat who loves the fountain, trotted over as soon as she heard the motor working and has been drinking ever since.) Thank you all—I won't mark a best answer because I don't know which of them combined to do the trick (and I hate people who mark all answers as "best"), but you have the satisfaction of having helped a thirsty cat and a pair of concerned helper monkeys!
posted by languagehat at 12:49 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Glad to hear that everything worked out. Draining and refilling is the way to reliably remove whatever was blocking the pump, in my experience.

maybe whatever passes for bearings are well and truly shot and it's time for a new pump.

I've had this happen too---the pump sounds much rougher than normal operation. It's fairly obvious when it happens.
posted by bonehead at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2012

I have a similar model, and I find that I have to take it apart and clean it every week or so, because the bit on the pump that spins around to move the water (impeller, I think) gets wrapped up in cat hair and stops spinning properly. I wish it had a filter before the pump, not after...
posted by baggers at 5:48 AM on February 16, 2012

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