Author Topic: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains  (Read 1807 times)

Daley

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The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« on: August 06, 2018, 07:53:38 PM »
The following was an article I had been working on before finally letting go of the website, only roughly edited. Thought it might be useful to someone, and I don't feel like putting together an instructable or anything as I've got enough online accounts as is. Forgive me for not cleaning up and formatting for the forums. Product links have been excised. On with the long-form, edjumacashunal original content!



The definitive guide to to the most frugal pet fountain, or how to hack the Pet Mate filters to provide the most frugal and cost effective pet fountain available for under 15/filter refill after initial purchase.

First, let's talk fountains. We've done water fountains for our cats in the past to help them drink more water. We'd foolishly purchased the cheapest we could find at the time (a Cat-It model), and found it ate us alive in filter costs, was an absolute nightmare to clean, and the worst part? From an engineering standpoint, the fountain did not fail safe. What do I mean by "fail safe", exactly? It's a question of power supply. What happens when the power goes out for an extended period of time? Can the animal still get a drink of water? In the case of the Cat-It and Dog-It fountains? No, they can't. If nobody's home and the power goes out for any length of time at all, little Fluffy or Scamp is going thirsty.

We took these lessons to heart from our first fountain, even though we didn't bother replacing it after the pump died as the cat learned an appreciation for water and simply drank more after that. Now that we needed a fountain again, we shopped with these lessons in mind. What we found was the perfect fountain. Cost effective, easy to clean, well designed, and most importantly failed safe.

The fountains? The Cat Mate and Dog Mate water fountains made by Pet Mate over in the UK. Even better, the cartridges were plastic, easily disassembled, used regular carbon pellets and standard polyester filtration media. From a let's keep our waste down, hippy tree-hugger sort of perspective, especially from a cash strapped hippy tree-hugger sort of perspective, they were perfect! May not be a stainless steel fountain to make for a permanent device outside of pump replacement, but plastics can be recycled at least. Just use gentle brushes and cleaning supplies to keep from scratching up the surface and providing hidey holes for stuff to grow in as much as possible. Fortunately, the design of these fountains makes for much easier cleaning than the old one as there are fewer sharp corners and tiny areas. Also, the only fountains in a stainless steel fail safe design don't have easily user hackable cartridges.

The following will work for either Pet Mate (Cat Mate #335 or Dog Mate #385) pet fountain that takes the blue plastic replacement filter cartridges. For optimal cost savings, purchase equipment through Chewy.com if you've never opened an account there before, as their discounts stack. When buying the fountain, no matter how many discounts you may be able to get, consider its full price before discounts plus the discounted cost of the plastic cartridges your sunk cost. The only savings you'll ever see are on the consumables, which is where our focus will be placed. All prices are through Chewy.com for the initial fountain equipment.

Cat Mate Pet Fountain #335, 2L capacity ($23.49)

Dog Mate Pet Fountain #385, 6L capacity ($29.99)

Pet Mate Replacement Filter Cartridges #339, 2 Pack ($3.98 each)


First, we'll be taking advantage of one of Chewy's frequent $15 off $49 or more for new customers promotions (look around online for a coupon code) along with getting free shipping with the order. Then, we'll be utilizing their further one-time 20% discount by setting our first Autoship & Save with them by buying multiples of the Pet Mate #339 two-count replacement filter cartridges, plus gaining the additional 5% discount for all Autoship items. The goal is to add as many two-count replacement cartridges to the order as possible by setting it up as an Autoship item after the initial cost of the fountain to get the order above $49 to trigger the free shipping, plus $15 off the entire order, plus 20% off the entire order, plus 5% off of the cartridges. The key is to set the maximum replacement date for the Autoship on the cartridges, and then cancel the Autoship after the order is complete.

By buying the fountain equipment this way and after all the discounts are applied, you should only have to spend around $30+tax for everything. If you buy the cat fountain, that means the fountain plus seven refill packs yielding a total of 15 plastic cartridges (14 +1 from the fountain). If you buy the dog fountain, that means the fountain plus five refill packs yielding a total of 11 plastic cartridges (10 +1 from the fountain). You can always buy fewer and pad out the order with other stuff, especially with the cat fountain, but I wouldn't recommend ordering any less than four to five two-packs. You'll want plenty of spare parts as the cartridges are plastic, and they will eventually wear and/or break with enough time, no matter how gingerly you treat them. Plus, it's easier to assembly-line multiple refills instead of doing them one at a time. Also, if you live in an area where they use chloramine to treat your water supply, the cartridges really won't last more than a couple weeks anyway (more on this point later), so keeping more filters on hand is useful.

As for cleaning supplies, if you've never owned a pet fountain before, you'll need to clean it often to keep it from getting gross, especially in the smaller bits near the pump. This means getting a baby bottle brush to help with all the smaller bits. Dollar Tree has 'em for, you guessed it, a buck.

Angel of Mine Baby Bottle Brushes, 10.75" ($1.00)

Out of the gate, we're already not doing too shabby. For under $35, we now have a pet fountain, somewhere between four to fifteen months worth of filters depending on the animal and the water treatment, and a tool to clean the thing. Unfortunately, replacement cartridges for this thing, even the dodgy off-brand stuff from China that gets frequent complaints on Amazon, are going to run you close to $2 a replacement. Now, for the magic of keeping costs low by refilling the plastic cartridges yourself instead of tossing them out. It's not hard to look at the cartridge and see how to gently pry the thing open.

The cartridges have two major components that need replacement: the particulate filter media, and the chemical filter media. We'll address both. Do note that doing this technically voids your warranty with Pet Mate, by the way... not that it matters, much. The three year warranty is on the plastic bowls, the pump is only covered for one year.

First is the white polyester filter in the cartridge. You can actually hand wash these things with dish soap a couple times, but eventually they'll deform and soften and fall apart. Of all the parts to replace, this proved to be the most difficult. However, thanks to a clever guy at our local Ace Hardware who did something that no other big box hardware store employee could do, the perfect replacement was found. And I do mean, PERFECT replacement. Although this item can be found a buck cheaper at other big box home improvement stores, consider spending the extra for these things from your local Ace. What they lack in good prices, I've found that sometimes they make up for it in the sort of customer service you don't see much of anymore in retail. We need to support more of that.

Now, I'm not saying this to keep you from doing due diligence yourself, because any time you purchase something to use off-purpose - especially in situations where it is used for food and water, animal or human - RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, AND PROVE IT FOR YOURSELF! Doing this sort of thing can be dangerous if you're not careful, especially in the case of using air filtration media for water filtration. There can be flame retardants added, there could be fiberglass, plastics that leach hormone and endocrine disruptors... there's a million ways this could end badly. So even if there is a "safe" product found, there's nothing keeping the manufacturer from changing how they make it to either comply with new safety standards or to cut manufacturing costs, SO ALWAYS CONFIRM FOR YOURSELF. Go so far as to put yourself in the mix. Don't do for your animals to save money what you wouldn't expose yourself to. Don't take my word for it, I won't be responsible for your choices and actions if they're harmed.

To give you an idea of how serious I take this, I "dog fooded" the replacement filtration media myself before I even gave it to my cat. Once I determined everything was safe to use, I still rinsed, washed, and soaked both the replacement particle filtration media and the chemical filtration media in some water, mixing it regularly for a couple days and then proceeded to drink it. It tasted like filtered water, and I was satisfied. Before I even considered typing this up, after this human test, I still tested it for a few weeks on our cat, watching for any changes in health or decrease in drinking. The cat likes it fine and is doing well. Don't just stop there and take my word for it. If you follow these instructions, be willing to do the research and test yourself as well before even exposing it to your animal. If you screw up, again, don't blame me. YOU ARE USING PRODUCTS NOT DESIGNED FOR THESE THINGS, THIS IS AT YOUR OWN RISK!

This said, let's talk replacement particle filter! The Web Vent Filters are literally perfect, from the size to the composition. I called and spoke with a representative on the phone and got the composite of the materials. I was told the composition is as follows: 100% polyester, resin bonded fiber blend, 6 denier fiber 60%, 15 denier fiber 40%, fiber blend 70% by weight, 30% PVAc resin binder. This composition should be safe in water. All the same, I wash the new filters with soap and water anyway before placing them into the cartridge. Just to be 100% certain it was safe and there were no flame retardants present, I still took some and burned it, and it sustained its own flame and burned (this is a little trick I learned from the fish keeping community by folks who buy cheap polyester batting for filtration media - speaking of, these air filters are even used for filtration media by some aquarium owners).

What is Polyester:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyester

What is PVAc:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_acetate

As for the size, seriously, almost beyond perfect. The four inch width is the exact same width as the 4" x 2" polyester filter from the cartridge, and the twelve inch height cuts perfectly into six exact fitting replacement filters. There's literally zero scrap waste, and this $4-5 pack of air filters will yield 72 perfect little replacement water cartridge filters, minus whatever you used to test with.

The only difference between the original filter media and these is the fineness of the fibers, as these fibers are a bit coarser. It doesn't seem to matter much in real world use, however. It still catches hair and all but the finest dirt particles just as well as the other does. I highly recommend you cut these with a straight edge and either a razor blade or a rolling cutting blade. Measure twice, cut once, keep it straight and at right angles. Compare the sizes you get to the originals.

Web 12" x 4" Polyester Vent Filter WVENT ($4.99)

Next is the chemical filtration media, which we'll be using aquarium filtration supplies for. If the filtration media is good enough to keep a critter alive removing the things that'll kill it in the very fluid it depends on to survive? I don't care that the warnings say it's not meant for any use beyond aquariums. Fish are like aquatic canaries in a coal mine. If the activated carbon and zeolite (specifically clinoptilolite) won't kill them, your fuzzy pet in theory should be fine as well. Heck, most cat litter technically has at least some zeolite in it! (Not that you should ever use cat litter for water filtration, just don't.)

What is Activated Carbon:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activated_carbon

What is Zeolite:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeolite

What is Clinoptilolite:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinoptilolite

Now, you'll notice that the filters from Pet Mate only have activated carbon in them. This is fine for most folks, but it's worth noting that straight carbon won't last as long or take out the ammoniates present in chloramine water treatment. It used to be that most municipal water supplies were just treated with chlorine to kill off pathogens, but chlorine doesn't stick around long in the water supply, so most places shifted to chloramine. What's chloramine? You know how you're told never to mix chlorine bleach with ammonia because it's dangerous? Yeah, that's what they did anyway, and then they placed it in our water supply as an antimicrobial.

What is Chlorine:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine

What is Ammonia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonia

What is Chloramine:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chloramine

This stuff doesn't break down naturally very well even in sunlight, and it breaks down activated charcoal a lot quicker than just chlorine, which is why your water filter pitchers probably go funky a lot quicker than the rated number of gallons that filter's supposed to get to begin with. It's great for keeping us from getting dysentery by drinking from the tap, but still can prove problematic if you're doing any end-point water filtration. Fortunately, the aquarium world knows how to handle this. While the carbon gets the other chemicals, they use zeolite to get the ammoniates to keep from killing the fish with tap water.

Whether you keep using activated carbon only, or use a mix of carbon and zeolite is up to you. Both approaches are fine and should be safe. Just be aware that the zeolite is usually smaller than the carbon pellets and can sometimes slip through the cracks on the filter cartridge. Personally, I added the zeolite anyway. The cost difference was negligible, and it was technically an upgrade over the filtration media from Pet Mate. You don't have to pack the cartridge full to where water barely can flow through, just get some in every chamber like the originals. A 30oz. package should be enough to refill over 50 cartridges.

I bought some through the local Petco using their in-store price match for their online pricing. Their Imagitarium Activated Carbon Pellets & Zeolite Crystal Mix looked promising, even though it was "Made in China". Fortunately, we've had a good track record in the past with the quality control Petco has pushed with their in-house branded pet food stuffs, so I wasn't overly concerned, but not enough at ease to forgo testing it on myself first. Of course, your mileage may vary.

I went with this mix over the more popular and available Marineland Ammonia Neutralizing blend, because although I did want some zeolite in the mix, I still felt carbon was the more important filter media to have present, especially with near daily water replacements in the fountain. The Marineland blend is a lot heavier on the zeolite than the carbon, and their carbon pellets are also small enough to potentially slip through cracks as well. It's up to you, though, go with what makes you most comfortable. The carbon's the key for keeping it fresh tasting, though. Nothing says you have to have any zeolite. Whatever you purchase, just be sure you purchase FRESH WATER aquarium carbon and/or zeolite filtration media.

Imagitarium Activated Carbon Pellets & Zeolite Crystal Mix, 30 oz. ($4.19)

Once you wash and dry the polyester filter and wash, scrub and dry the cartridge plastic to get rid of the old carbon residue, you can reload them with the carbon (and zeolite). My only advice to you is thus: Don't rinse the carbon and zeolite until you're ready to use the filter. Leave it dry. Reassemble the filter cartridges wholly dry, make sure there's no water present, and pop them into some cheap fold-over sandwich baggies to keep 'em clean in storage until you use the things. As always, rinse these new refilled cartridges the same way you would the new ones to get rid of the carbon dust and whatnot before using them in the fountain.

And there we go, the prices speak for themselves. For another $10, we now have enough supplies to refill cartridges for at least another two years after you finish using up the initial cartridges, even replacing the filters every two weeks. This can take an otherwise trashed plastic Pet Mate filter cartridges and revitalize it for under 15 a filter! Sure beats spending $2-4 a month. Extra bonus, you can then take the spent carbon and zeolite, and compost it and add it to your garden! Eco-friendly and easy on the pocketbook. Win-win.

May these instructions guide you well, and may your pet enjoy their now cheaper water fountain.



If anyone has any questions, fire away.

To answer a few questions in advance, the instructions above are Buddy Cat approved (see below), and have been used for the past five months.

He's an indoor/outdoor cat, and the filters only last about two weeks. I mentioned washing the old filters, but from a practicality standpoint given how stiff and gross they get by the end of the two week run, I just replace it.

As for the carbon/zeolite mix, I find myself using a bit more than I would straight carbon (about 20g of the mix versus 10g of the carbon only). The biggest pain with the zeolite mix is the zeolite flakes themselves, as about a third to half of it wants to escape through the back mesh. Despite the minor benefits of ammoniate filtration, the mess isn't worth it, and I haven't seen an appreciable life difference between the two filter types. As such, I'd probably put the current costs around 20 a filter.

Lastly, it's easiest to refill them all at once at the end. Another cheap plastic Dollar Tree scrub brush with bristles stiff enough to scrub out the carbon residue, but gentle enough to not break or scratch anything. Then, just soak them in bleach for a while to kill off any biofilm and send them through the top rack of the dishwasher without the heat dry, or hand wash. Once dry and put back together, I'll stick them in the oven on warm (around 125F) for a half hour (usually just time the bake to use the residual heat from the oven) to really dry everything out and stick the filters in a plastic bag to keep clean.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 08:33:20 PM by Daley »

HAPPYINAZ

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2018, 11:40:30 AM »
hahahah....how is this frugal?  It needs replacement filters and power.  A bowl of water is a lot cheaper.  My dog likes to drink out of the elevated clay pot that I have on it's side and fill with water.  It stays shaded all day and evaporatively cools.  It's part of a landscape feature that wasn't built for the dog, but she loves it!

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2018, 12:46:50 PM »
hahahah....how is this frugal?

With a response like this, I'm pretty sure you've never owned a cat or known the pain and cost of dehydration or kidney problems in a pet... especially with toms. Frankly, I hope you never do. If running water entices the animal to drink more water and stay properly hydrated when they wouldn't otherwise? A fountain operated frugally is peanuts in comparison to the surgeries (and especially the pain and suffering of the animal) incurred through issues from dehydration or kidney disease. This guide has laid out a path to do so with a very cost effective fountain that is easy to clean, with DIY filter replacements that are pennies.

I'm sorry to point this gap in knowledge out to you in such public conditions, though. Perhaps there's a lesson to be found in that. Perhaps not.

There is a difference between frugality and stinginess. We would all do well to learn the difference and understand the motivation for certain choices... and if you don't see the value in a specific topic? Perhaps consider the fact that you might not be the intended audience.

Edited for politeness, and apologies to HappyInAZ for being more blunt than necessary in the original reply. Sadly, it's a reminder that a lack of manners can frequently beget a cycle of ugliness if we're not careful.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2018, 06:24:12 PM by Daley »

BrightFIRE

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2018, 10:53:04 AM »
hahahah....how is this frugal?  It needs replacement filters and power.  A bowl of water is a lot cheaper.  My dog likes to drink out of the elevated clay pot that I have on it's side and fill with water.  It stays shaded all day and evaporatively cools.  It's part of a landscape feature that wasn't built for the dog, but she loves it!

A bowl of water can't be filled if you're not there. The pet fountains keep the water from getting stagnant and you can leave for the weekend and they still have fresh water. I am currently catless, but if I ever get another one, I'll be checking this thread out again.

Thanks for sharing, Daley!

Radagast

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2018, 02:01:58 PM »
Some other brilliant ideas:
1) Leave out an ordinary bowl, rinse and refill twice per day. Dishwash and scrub with stainless steel wool as needed.

2) Leave a tap running at 0.02 gallons per minute, resulting in a use of 10,512 gallons of water per year and $42 annually if water is $4/kgal.

3) mix of 1) and 2)

Similar results, similar or much lower cost, way easier. But no joy in tinkering or buying frivolous garbage. If you do 2) you don't even need to heat your house, and your pipes won't freeze!

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2018, 02:15:23 PM »
As "electrical costs" have been brought up, I thought it fair to mention real world usage and costs for the fountain. Given the same pump (#33501/REF#354) is used for both fountain models, it's worth going off of real-world over theoretical numbers as implied by the power brick. It is worth noting that the power adapter is actually an AC voltage stepper, and not an AC/DC transformer, as output is listed as 12VAC, 3.9VA with the pump itself listed as 12VAC, 2W. AC powered pumps are typically considered more efficient and reliable (provided you don't let the fountain dry out), and are typically what are used in all pet water fountains. It's also worth noting that they're all pretty well designed identically across multiple brands, size, shape and configuration wise... so if a pump burns out? You have options. I've seen some aftermarket/generics that look like they'd work in this fountain without modification for around $10-12.

Now, actual electrical usage here in the US. I busted out the trusty-rusty Kill-A-Watt for confirmation. This thing uses 3.4W, tops. So, for those nickel-rubbing sorts? That works out to 0.0816kWh of electrical usage a day, or 29.784kWh/year. Using the current highest reported price per kWh in the United States currently (Hawaii, $0.2387/kWh), that electrical cost works out to a whopping $7.11/year. If you use the US average price of $0.1041/kWh, the electrical cost works out to $3.10/year. Most people's powered off television sets probably draw more electricity in 24 hours sitting in standby mode waiting to be turned on than this thing uses to physically pump upwards of 1600 gallons of water.

Let's see... $50 or so for the fountain, filters, and replacement filter consumables to keep it operating for about three years, and another $12 for the electricity in that time frame... so, about $62 to hopefully teach a desert animal to drink water regularly (and drink more than they would normally) instead of rolling the dice on potentially spending $5000+ for kidney stone surgery, and dealing with a lifetime of prescription food and more frequent vet visits from that point forward? And the fact that the alternative to this cost, if I bought all the replacement filters new instead of refurbishing them myself, it would drive that fountain cost up closer to $200 and generate a crapload more plastic waste - just for this specific model fountain alone, which itself already has one of the cheapest replacement OEM filters? And it only creates maybe an extra hour of work a year doing it? Yeah, not only do I think I can swing that... that sounds like the very definition of mustachian frugality. Improving the quality of life of you and the lives you care for by maximizing your resources in meaningful ways. An ounce of prevention is more valuable than a pound of cure, after all.

So, bottom line: Guide details how to refurbish replacement filters at less than 10% of the cost of premade filters on already one of the cheapest pet water fountains available. Additionally, the cost of operating said setup for three years is substantially less than 1% of the alternative lifetime costs of animal care if you have a cat that otherwise has trouble staying hydrated with the added bonus of sparing said animal the misery of major surgery.

Given the math, anyone inclined to complain about the electrical usage of a pet's water fountain in general, and complaining about the filter costs of this setup specifically is perhaps focusing on the wrong thing.



Thanks for sharing, Daley!

Not a problem, glad someone else found it of actual use.



2) Leave a tap running at 0.02 gallons per minute, resulting in a use of 10,512 gallons of water per year and $42 annually if water is $4/kgal.

What!? How is using 28.8 gallons of water a day frugal, let alone brilliant? Even refilling the smaller fountain daily only uses a gallon at most.

Some animals need running water to entice them to drink more. Just as an example. We could place fresh water bowls in every room of the house for this cat, and we could pitch that water hourly... and he was still drinking a quarter of the water he's drinking with one fountain now. We've even kept other water bowls out for him after the fountain, and even after a literal fresh refill from the sink, he will sniff the bowl and then go across the house to drink out of the fountain that's been recirculating the same water for the past 12 hours. Every cat I've known that has been introduced to a water fountain over a bowl will gravate towards it and simply drink more water.

Radagast

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2018, 02:26:23 PM »
2) Leave a tap running at 0.02 gallons per minute, resulting in a use of 10,512 gallons of water per year and $42 annually if water is $4/kgal.
What!? How is using 28.8 gallons of water a day frugal, let alone brilliant? Even refilling the smaller fountain daily only uses a gallon at most.
We can quantify it: $42/ year. I'd personally only leave the tap running either while at work or while asleep, so perhaps half to a third the above value. Also maybe only 0.01 gpm is necessary, which is still 1.3 oz/min, probably enough for a cat. Beyond that you'd need to compare externalities of manufacture and transport of frivolous items vs. loss of local water resource. Grow tomatoes!

Anyhow, no way I'd go through all that complication myself.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2018, 02:38:07 PM »
2) Leave a tap running at 0.02 gallons per minute, resulting in a use of 10,512 gallons of water per year and $42 annually if water is $4/kgal.
What!? How is using 28.8 gallons of water a day frugal, let alone brilliant? Even refilling the smaller fountain daily only uses a gallon at most.
We can quantify it: $42/ year. I'd personally only leave the tap running either while at work or while asleep, so perhaps half to a third the above value. Also maybe only 0.01 gpm is necessary, which is still 1.3 oz/min, probably enough for a cat. Beyond that you'd need to compare externalities of manufacture and transport of frivolous items vs. loss of local water resource. Grow tomatoes!

Anyhow, no way I'd go through all that complication myself.

I didn't even deal with the cost and logistics of your own plan. Who wants animals on their counters just to force them to drink water? What if they can't even get up there? Or the cost of the plumbing and setup for your proposed water retention inside or outside? How is your plan even going to fly in regions with mandatory water conservation? Talk about pound wise, and penny foolish.

I figure out how to provide a fresh water fountain for pets that costs under $75 for three years, including water, that barely takes more effort than a regular water dish to maintain, heavily reduces the consumer waste associated with it in the process, and dramatically improves the quality of life of an animal that would be more prone to dehydration and the medical complications thereof... and this is deemed unnecessary complication and wasteful? Somehow inferior? Foolish?

I'm not even telling anyone that they have to go out and use a fountain for their pets... this is literally an optional thing to help people who need them out of necessity for the animals they're caring for.

Wow, the values of this community have gotten twisted and downright embarrassing.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2018, 02:40:04 PM by Daley »

Radagast

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2018, 02:57:06 PM »
2) Leave a tap running at 0.02 gallons per minute, resulting in a use of 10,512 gallons of water per year and $42 annually if water is $4/kgal.
What!? How is using 28.8 gallons of water a day frugal, let alone brilliant? Even refilling the smaller fountain daily only uses a gallon at most.
We can quantify it: $42/ year. I'd personally only leave the tap running either while at work or while asleep, so perhaps half to a third the above value. Also maybe only 0.01 gpm is necessary, which is still 1.3 oz/min, probably enough for a cat. Beyond that you'd need to compare externalities of manufacture and transport of frivolous items vs. loss of local water resource. Grow tomatoes!

Anyhow, no way I'd go through all that complication myself.

I didn't even deal with the cost and logistics of your own plan. Who wants animals on their counters just to force them to drink water? What if they can't even get up there? Or the cost of the plumbing and setup for your proposed water retention inside or outside? How is your plan even going to fly in regions with mandatory water conservation? Talk about pound wise, and penny foolish.

I figure out how to provide a fresh water fountain for pets that costs under $75 for three years, including water, that barely takes more effort than a regular water dish to maintain, heavily reduces the consumer waste associated with it in the process, and dramatically improves the quality of life of an animal that would be more prone to dehydration and the medical complications thereof... and this is deemed unnecessary complication and wasteful? Somehow inferior? Foolish?

I'm not even telling anyone that they have to go out and use a fountain for their pets... this is literally an optional thing to help people who need them out of necessity for the animals they're caring for.
OK, lets assume only 0.01 gpm is needed. $21/year for 24/7 operation. $10.50 annually if used 12 hours per day. The rest goes down the drain. Are the externalities worse than what you propose? (It probably varies by locality.) If your cat is 15 and too old to jump you can run a tube to a shower drain for less cost and effort.

Quote
Wow, the values of this community have gotten twisted and downright embarrassing.
If you want things to improve, feel free to leave.

MOD EDIT: No. Telling someone to leave is not okay, it's rude. Please read forum rule #1.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2018, 03:08:09 PM by arebelspy »

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2018, 03:05:58 PM »
OK, lets assume only 0.01 gpm is needed. $21/year for 24/7 operation. $10.50 annually if used 12 hours per day. The rest goes down the drain. Are the externalities worse than what you propose? (It probably varies by locality.) If your cat is 15 and too old to jump you can run a tube to a shower drain for less cost and effort.

Your solution for providing running water is to literally waste enough water to fill a back-yard swimming pool, every year, for one cat, and deprive them of that fresh water for half the day, while tying up both your sink and your shower with a hose draped across the bathroom... because you think it's cheaper and easier for you than to spend an hour of minor effort every year cleaning a few pieces of plastic and replacing some charcoal in a dedicated fountain?

Wow. Just... wow.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2018, 03:10:20 PM by Daley »

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2018, 03:10:33 PM »
Daley, thank you for the informative post. I was recently considering a fountain for my cats, but I wasn't sure what models to look at or how much maintenance would be. I'm still on the fence (my female cats seem to drink enough for now(?)), but if  I do decide to buy one I'll definitely take a look at this model.

Radagast

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2018, 03:25:00 PM »
OK, lets assume only 0.01 gpm is needed. $21/year for 24/7 operation. $10.50 annually if used 12 hours per day. The rest goes down the drain. Are the externalities worse than what you propose? (It probably varies by locality.) If your cat is 15 and too old to jump you can run a tube to a shower drain for less cost and effort.

Your solution for providing running water is to literally waste enough water to fill a back-yard swimming pool, every year, for one cat, and deprive them of that fresh water for half the day, while tying up both your sink and your shower with a hose draped across the bathroom... because you think it's cheaper and easier for you than to spend an hour of minor effort every year cleaning a few pieces of plastic and replacing some charcoal in a dedicated fountain?

Wow. Just... wow.
Your solution to providing readily available running water is to ship carbon, plastic, mechanical items, and others tens of thousands of miles from around the globe from who knows what sources or manufacturers, with regular replacement, greater cost, and much fiddling, in order to save 14 gallons of water per day (7 gallons per day if providing 12 hours, which can be supplemented by a bowl). UnFreakingBelievable!

The lowest cost solution is the most environmentally friendly solution, excluding externalities which are not clear in this case.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2018, 03:43:15 PM »
Daley, thank you for the informative post. I was recently considering a fountain for my cats, but I wasn't sure what models to look at or how much maintenance would be. I'm still on the fence (my female cats seem to drink enough for now(?)), but if  I do decide to buy one I'll definitely take a look at this model.

Glad you found it of use.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2018, 04:11:18 PM »
Your solution to providing readily available running water is to ship carbon, plastic, mechanical items, and others tens of thousands of miles from around the globe from who knows what sources or manufacturers, with regular replacement, greater cost, and much fiddling, in order to save 14 gallons of water per day (7 gallons per day if providing 12 hours, which can be supplemented by a bowl). UnFreakingBelievable!

The lowest cost solution is the most environmentally friendly solution, excluding externalities which are not clear in this case.

You know, people who voluntarily demo a perfectly lovely and usable bathroom just to remodel it probably shouldn't be throwing many stones about the environmental impact of other people's life choices.

You made your point, and I'm sorry that I can't seem to show you the logic of this path either. Have a nice day.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2018, 08:40:34 PM »
So, just to make sure I wasn't missing something, I did some research and ran the numbers with a greater mind towards environmental impact and hidden costs against one of the "simpler" and "cheaper" alternatives proposed here. I genuinely wanted to see if I was actually wrong, and if I was cutting off my nose to spite my face. That's right, I did the math.

I'll start by saying that quoting a cheap flat rate for water per 1000 gallons is disingenuous, and it hides the steep cost of infrastructure maintenance and sewage fees for most people. If the price we were billed was simply just $X.XX/kGal, it would be one thing, but we get billed for far more. Using my own city's insanely cheap water rate (one of the cheapest in the nation) at the discounted volume usage of the average national two person household, when factoring in all the costs tied to the water bill popped out a number closer to $12.50 per 1000 gallons with all the infrastructural costs included - which is only fair to include if anyone wants to reference any "hidden" costs, both financially and environmentally. The price only goes up from there in places like San Francisco, Santa Fe, or Atlanta. (Frankly, I find water prices in the United States don't accurately reflect the true value and necessity of this stuff, and we tend to ignore the miracle of on-demand, flowing, potable water... even with droughts.)

I also priced a faucet diverter, a reasonable length of vinyl tubing to drape to a shower, and a 100mL/min flow restrictor just to keep things as "simple" as possible to use with a guaranteed restricted flow rate, and found that it'd cost nearly $25, and that was bargain bin shopping. No quality, repairable brass diverter fixture with that setup.

I then ran the numbers with undiscounted hardware on the fountain and supply end to better reflect the total unseen peripheral environmental costs of shipping around $2 worth of plastic and a pound and a half of activated carbon. I also included the same prices per gallon on water as used for the other setup, included electrical costs, the whole nine. It's been made clear the majority of the cost with the "simpler" setup is in the water, I'm inclined to agree. The longer the non-consumables can be made to last, the less of a factor in the total cost of ownership.

I then estimated costs across three years. Here's the final numbers:

RUNNING TAP WATER @ 100mL/min 12hrs/day FOR THREE YEARS - $125
4oz. metal
6oz. vinyl
2oz. plastic
4oz. stainless steel
8,200 gallons water
benefits: nothing to wash but a simple bowl, potentially keeps pipes freezing for a few days every year.
drawbacks: your animal has to use your bathroom for their fresh water supply, animal does not have full-time, at-will access to running water, you have to act as a water concierge for the animal, you have a tube running across your bathroom from your sink to your shower/tub, likely crossing over your toilet, guests have to figure out how to operate the diverter to wash their hands and then ensure the diverter is turned back on with the water pressure low enough not to blow out the tubing before the restrictor, all the undrunk water literally goes down the drain at volumes of usage that's typically reserved for livestock.

RUNNING TAP WATER @ ORIGINAL 0.02GPM 24hrs/day SUGGESTION FOR THREE YEARS - $395
4oz. metal
6oz. vinyl
2oz. plastic
4oz. stainless steel
31,500 gallons water
benefits: nothing to wash but a simple bowl, potentially keeps pipes freezing for a few days every year.
drawbacks: your animal has to use your bathroom for their fresh water supply, animal does not have full-time, at-will access to water, you have to act as a water concierge for the animal, you have a tube running across your bathroom from your sink to your shower/tub, likely crossing over your toilet, guests have to figure out how to operate the diverter to wash their hands and then ensure the diverter is turned back on with the water pressure low enough not to blow out the tubing before the restrictor, all the undrunk water literally goes down the drain at volumes of usage that's typically reserved for livestock.

FOUNTAIN FOR THREE YEARS - $85
12oz. polypropylene
3oz. polyester
1 small water pump
24oz. activated carbon
1,150 gallons water
90kWh electricity
benefits: undrunk water can be easily repurposed for plants, carbon (and zeolite) can be added to enrich compost and soil for gardens, used plastic is more environmentally friendly and cheaper to recycle versus metals and glass, fountain can be placed anywhere within ten feet of an outlet, very low water usage.
drawbacks: still using plastic, have to clean, cut and refill stuff occasionally, more complicated to wash than a bowl, electricity forever lost circulating water around in circles.

I can show the math if necessary, but I'll let others draw their own conclusions and prefer to encourage others to run the numbers and factor as many genuinely calculatable hidden costs as possible themselves, like water infrastructure costs, sewage costs, shipping costs, etc. Just remember: The lowest cost solution is the most environmentally friendly solution, excluding externalities which are not always clear...

Let's just say that I'm satisfied with my choice.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2018, 09:21:22 PM by Daley »

Radagast

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2018, 10:27:39 PM »
In fact, apart from what I feel is a questionable idea, I am also here to stir things up because of a rude and misguided response to HappyinAZ who correctly pointed out that this is basically like finding a cheaper way to operate a cold brew coffee machine, but you don't need a machine to cold brew coffee, in fact you don't even need coffee.

Now, first infrastructure costs should not be considered part of your per gallon water bill because they are fixed: the main feeds water to your house and needs to be replaced every 80 years either way, regardless of what you use. Likewise, all water infrastructure is sized for much higher fire flows and "peak hour" demand, which the tiny use here wouldn't affect (I am told superbowl sunday at halftime is the hardest halfhour for every sewer in the country). There is a hydrant near you which has been designed to put out a truly absurd amount of water, and all the mains and storage devices are sized for this. Many utilities bill a flat rate for infrastructure and a per gallon rate for water, similar to gas and electricity practices, which is probably the correct way to view it. So the lower $4/kgal or whatever for your area is really what the per gallon cost should be, short of possible ramifications to water source sustainability.

Next you have a lot of double standards like being a "water concierge" which seems like it would apply to your option also, you say "does not have full time access to running water" next to the 24 hour option, you could use an existing porcelain or whatever bowl rather than a metal one, you could use a screen Scotch scrubber pad rather than steel wool, glass what where did that come from.

For aesthetics, I picture a tee under the sink and a simple plastic ball valve for flow control, rather than unsightly and confusing diverter on the faucet. Put a mark on the valve at the correct flow setting. Many people keep cat litter in a bathroom, and if this is you then that room is already lost and you might as well have a plastic tube as well.

So the constant flow option would use considerably less material than what you represent, with lost water being the only significant cost.

Now for what I would do, I would just throttle my already existing tap to a tiny trickle for a few hours throughout the day and not bother with any of the materials except the watering bowl and cleaning materials I had on hand anyhow. I always turned the faucet on to the tiniest dribble, barely even a constant flow, for my parents cat before I went to school and shut it off when I got home. I thought the cats loved it for purely entertainment and didn't realize it was a preference, but if it is a big thing you are concerned about you could leave it on for longer.



Radagast

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #16 on: August 14, 2018, 10:42:30 PM »
To test my hypothesis I put an existing cat beside the bathroom sink and turned on the water a trickle, but the cat expressed no interest even after I demonstrated by sticking my own tongue under the falling water. Your cat may vary.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2018, 03:10:06 AM »
Let's see...
In fact, apart from what I feel is a questionable idea, I am also here to stir things up because of a rude and misguided response to HappyinAZ who correctly pointed out that this is basically like finding a cheaper way to operate a cold brew coffee machine, but you don't need a machine to cold brew coffee, in fact you don't even need coffee.

So, your entire argument and contrarianism is founded upon a petty misunderstanding and vengeance, with the deliberate intent to disrupt a thread intended to help others save money with unfortunate pet situations, and you've blindly and hypocritically said anything possible to try and execute that goal and personally shame me because you have enough free time to do that sort of thing in the first place. Gotcha.

If you have this much time? Go finish putting your bathroom back together. I won't take critiques about needless consumer waste and environmental ethics over a $50 water fountain purchased to keep a cat with FIV from developing further kidney problems seriously, especially from a guy who just tore apart a bathroom because it displeased him and chooses to badger me about the hidden costs of less than one pound of plastic and 24oz. of activated charcoal after advocating his own plan for every person who might need a fountain to waste thousands of gallons of water running a faucet every year instead from his conflict-mineral mined, slave labor assembled, internet connected computer.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2018, 03:19:18 AM by Daley »

totoro

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2018, 09:13:03 AM »
We just rinse and fill the water bowl twice a day.  I didn't realize about the issues with the need to encourage cats to drink more, but I agree our cats like to drink from running water and if we felt there was an issue I can see how a pet fountain is helpful.  Our cats also drink from the decorative (non-pet) water fountain outside that gets topped every day too.  Not sure it is the most hygenic, but seems to work.

geekette

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2018, 10:25:54 AM »
Our male cats always jump on the powder room counter a couple times a day for running water and petting (no clue why only the males do so, but at least that's the only counter they jump on).  When our previous cat got too old to make it up on his own, we put a chair in there to break up the jump (awkward since we couldn't close the door anymore!) 

This fountain set up sounds more convenient than babysitting the dripping water, assuming we can train the cats to drink from the fountain instead of the sink.  And miss all that petting?  Ha!

Their other favorite water bowls are mud puddles and watering cans...

GuitarStv

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #20 on: August 15, 2018, 10:40:02 AM »
Owning a dog is easier.  They just drink from the toilet when they want fresh water.  :P

letired

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #21 on: August 15, 2018, 10:56:10 AM »
Thanks for the extensive and detailed writeup! I adopted the runt of the litter I was fostering, and she's got a congenital heart issue and I'm a sucker, so I worry a little about keeping her in top health for as long as possible. I was recently researching pet water fountains, and I really appreciate your attention to detail! The Wirecutter liked the Catit fountain, but a ton of the reviews made me think it might not be that great a choice for my cat. She really likes to stick her paws in her water bowls, so I'm assuming she'll do the same with any fountain, and most of the catit reviews talked about how their cats pulled the fountain apart all the time. I also live in drought country and subscribe to wind power, so in my personal calculus, I think the cat fountain is the way to go for me.

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #22 on: August 15, 2018, 02:32:42 PM »
I use a cat it fountain and have been pretty happy with it, but it's not perfect. I don't remember how much it cost but I spend about 15 bucks on filters about 4 times a year so $60 a year. I clean the pump when it gets gummed up and so far it's lasted about 3-4 years I think. The potential of it failing to work and leaving the cat thirsty is possible, but unlikely, and at most she'd be out of water for a day but could probably find some in the toilet or a glass I left out. It's annoying to clean but that's not a big deal. She never used to drink water out of her bowl before, so the fountain has probably been really good for her health, but since cats are assholes she also still drinks out of my cups and out of the tub, so there's that. I would never leave a tap running for her constantly, that seems wasteful, but I'm not going to change my existing setup til it stops working, then maybe I'll consider an alternative that costs less in replacement filters.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2018, 08:35:47 PM »
Glad a few others actually found a use for the write-up as well. One of the things I realized that I forgot to do/include before sharing this was an actual chemical water analysis, just for peace of mind. I know that activated carbon is activated carbon, and that polyester is polyester, and our cat is fine... but it's worth testing anyway (even by yourself) as the materials are being used off-purpose, not that you should just take my word for it anyway. That should be forthcoming once I have the info. I would encourage anyone else willing to go down this path to be willing to do likewise. Reliably test and confirm for yourself, even if you have full confidence, because we're talking about messing with the very liquid that sustains life itself, and I've never shied away from admitting that there is no shortage of stuff I don't know - and it outweighs what I do. I even entertained the complaints of someone who was just grinding an axe on me. Ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure. Know that what you're using is good stuff. Don't do it at all if you can't rest in both that level of comprehended knowledge and uncertainty of life.

I definitely would have included the old HARRUMPH! lawyer chimp disclaimer on the website with this thing though, citing entertainment, warning about never reproducing my stupid actions... and that it would lead to scalding by boiling voil, walleyes, dramatic pause, awkward death, wearing MAGA hats, etc. Kind of how I disclaimered the old 75 cent shoe shims. That's what I get for not editing it, and just wanting to share a useful hack.



@letired - As a former CatIt user, I can't recommend to stay away from it enough. They're the epitome of form over function. Pain to keep clean, the filters don't keep the water clean and the dirt out of the pump, and because of that, the pump is easier prone to damage by sucking stuff in. Our older cat when she used it liked to wash her paws in it as well, and we're pretty certain that it was this design flaw that contributed to the motor burn-out. Plus, the filters were a price we found insulting for how quickly they got gross and how useless they were as an actual filter. The fact that The Wirecutter is recommending it says something interesting about the priorities of The Wirecutter these days.

@PoutineLover - Before replacing yours when/if it does, or even before your next batch of filters need ordered? Try going back to the bowl again. When we had used the CatIt in the past and it finally died, we were surprised that after using it for about three years, our cat had finally learned to like to drink water and kept up the same consumed volume from a bowl after that point. You may find that after the years used, you can just finally put the fountain away (and honestly, we're kind of hoping likewise will happen with Buddy this go around - by the time we need to buy more filter supplies, he'll hopefully be conditioned to drink more out of habit and we can just tuck it away). And if you find you can't? Keep using it until it's unusable anway. I'd never encourage anyone to just go and replace a perfectly functional anything for another one unless it actually needed replacement... it's just being needlessly wasteful otherwise.



Owning a dog is easier.  They just drink from the toilet when they want fresh water.  :P

Tell me about it. *eyeroll*
« Last Edit: August 15, 2018, 08:59:38 PM by Daley »

GuitarStv

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #24 on: August 16, 2018, 08:10:54 AM »
Owning a dog is easier.  They just drink from the toilet when they want fresh water.  :P

Tell me about it. *eyeroll*

Actually, I've been thinking about this.  Toilet water tends to be reasonably clean and cold, which I'd figure is what your cat is looking for.  It's always sitting out there in the open ready for drinking.  He's probably just too small to reach it.

Could you just build some kind of cat ramp so that your kitty could drink from the toilet?  Is it possible to raise the toilet level by messing with the level it fills to at the tank in the back?   If so, this could be a much easier way to have constantly available fresh water for your cat.

Daley

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #25 on: August 16, 2018, 11:47:44 AM »
Owning a dog is easier.  They just drink from the toilet when they want fresh water.  :P

Tell me about it. *eyeroll*

Actually, I've been thinking about this.  Toilet water tends to be reasonably clean and cold, which I'd figure is what your cat is looking for.  It's always sitting out there in the open ready for drinking.  He's probably just too small to reach it.

Could you just build some kind of cat ramp so that your kitty could drink from the toilet?  Is it possible to raise the toilet level by messing with the level it fills to at the tank in the back?   If so, this could be a much easier way to have constantly available fresh water for your cat.

Clever idea, but it's the running water that seems to entice cats to drink more. Same failure cycle as the bowls. Plus, then you can't use this party trick*.

* There's some prime Disney Vacation material there if anyone wants the free karma.

geekette

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #26 on: August 16, 2018, 05:23:04 PM »
Owning a dog is easier.  They just drink from the toilet when they want fresh water.  :P

Tell me about it. *eyeroll*

Actually, I've been thinking about this.  Toilet water tends to be reasonably clean and cold, which I'd figure is what your cat is looking for.  It's always sitting out there in the open ready for drinking.  He's probably just too small to reach it.

Could you just build some kind of cat ramp so that your kitty could drink from the toilet?  Is it possible to raise the toilet level by messing with the level it fills to at the tank in the back?   If so, this could be a much easier way to have constantly available fresh water for your cat.

Oddly, our female cat does drink from the toilet (just not all the time).  She'll put her front paws on the inside of the bowl and lean down.  Gotta check the seat before sitting!

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #27 on: August 18, 2018, 04:24:14 AM »
What the...? Is this a joke? Fill a bowl of water, for god's sake. If you have chlorinated water, it EVAPORATES, ffs. Like in a few hours.

Dabnasty

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #28 on: August 18, 2018, 08:51:20 AM »
What the...? Is this a joke? Fill a bowl of water, for god's sake. If you have chlorinated water, it EVAPORATES, ffs. Like in a few hours.
Read the previous comments? No, why on earth would I do that.

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #29 on: August 18, 2018, 10:16:27 AM »
Confession time. I run one of the bathroom taps on a constant drip for my cat. She wont drink water any other way. I tried a cat fountain. Nor will she drink from a bowl at all. Yes, a waste of resources and money, but I figure the drain on Lake Michigan is far less than those who water lawns or have pools. Money wise, the water fees are included with my condo assessment and I pay the same no matter how much or how little I use.

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Re: The Gold Standard of Frugal Pet Water Fountains
« Reply #30 on: August 19, 2018, 08:49:01 AM »
Very cool! Already have this fountain (and no, my cat won’t drink enough from a still bowl) and will def try out recharging the filters this way :-)