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Can Dogs and Cats Share Water Bowls? Vet Approved Advice

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There are many things that cats and dogs can’t share, like their food and their food bowls. If your cat and dog are both healthy and are happy to do so, letting them drink from the same bowl is okay. However, many animals, especially cats, find sharing resources such as food and water stressful. Therefore they should have their own separate bowls to drink from should they prefer to do so.

This guide will help you determine whether your dog and cat can share a water bowl. Also included are a few tips for making sure all your pets get plenty of water.

Can Dogs and Cats Share Water Bowls?

Most of the time, it’s fine for cats and dogs to share a water bowl. In fact, it can sometimes be difficult to convince either animal to not use a certain water dish. If they’re thirsty and it’s the closest source of water, they’ll likely drink out of the closest dish.

There is a caveat, however. While it’s generally safe for healthy animals to share water bowls, you still need to make sure the bowls are kept clean and that they have the choice not to share. You’ll also need to watch out for contagious illnesses and parasites that your pets can spread to each other when they use the same bowl. How your pets interact with each other, especially around resources like food and water, is an essential factor to keep in mind too.

a dog and cat sharing a bowl outdoors
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

Are Dogs and Cats Happy to Share a Water Bowl?

Whether your dog and cat are happy to share a water bowl depends on them as individuals. While some pets are more than happy to share, others can become protective or be scared of drinking or eating if the other animal is too close. You’ll need to observe your pets, especially if they’re sharing a water dish, to see how they react to the other’s presence.

If there’s no sign of aggression or fearful behavior regarding the water dish, it’s safe to let them share. They should always have the option of drinking from different bowls though, so make sure to have more than one water bowl positioned around the house. If either your cat or your dog starts to chase the other away or shows an unwillingness to drink when the other animal is anywhere nearby, you’ll need to keep them in different areas of the house and maybe even put the cat’s dish up higher so it’s out of your dog’s reach.

Is Sharing a Water Bowl Dangerous?

Letting your dog and cat share a water bowl isn’t always a good idea. While there might not be a problem if they don’t mind sharing and they’re both healthy, there are a few ways that only having one water bowl can be problematic.

Aggression and Fear

A potential issue when it comes to pets sharing a water bowl is aggression. Some cats and dogs are naturally protective of resources, which include anything from their food, beds and toys. Water is another resource that they can be protective of.

In this case, sharing a water bowl can lead to aggression between your pets. Your cat or your dog might chase the other away from the bowl or even snap or swipe at them if they try to drink whilst the other one is there. This is unnecessarily stressful for both parties and having multiple water bowls should reduce the likelihood of resource guarding.

dog and cat fighting
Image Credit: asife, Shutterstock

Illnesses and Parasites

“Sharing is caring,” but there are a few things that shouldn’t be shared at all. Unfortunately, sharing a water bowl is a surefire way of spreading contagious diseases.

Respiratory infections like kennel cough are among the more common illnesses that can spread between pets, but you also need to consider risks like Salmonella and E. coli. Parasites like tapeworms can be passed on through shared water dishes too.

If your cat or your dog is sick for any reason and whatever they have can be passed between species, it’s best if you keep them separate as much as possible. This includes encouraging them to use separate water dishes if they don’t already do so.

Personal Preference

The preferences of your cat or dog aren’t necessarily why sharing a bowl is dangerous, but it can be a problem. If your cat or dog refuses to drink out of the shared water bowl, they’ll try to find the water somewhere else.

Drinking from other water sources might include the grimy pond in the backyard, the open toilet, or even the water from houseplants. Unfortunately, in many cases, you have no way of knowing if the water that they find is safe for them to drink.

How to Provide Water for Multi-pet Homes

Water is a vital part of everyone’s bodily functions, and ensuring that you have clean, fresh water available for all your pets at all times is a necessity. Whether your cat and dog choose to share a water bowl or not, you need to always make sure they have free access to water in multiple bowls.

Check the Bowl Regularly

You’ll need to check all the water dishes frequently throughout the day to keep them topped up and clean. If you have more than one pet drinking out of the same bowl, the water level will drop faster and need regular top ups.

Keep Water Dishes Clean

When your cat or your dog drinks from their water bowl, bacteria builds up in the bowl and in the water itself. If you notice the water bowl has food particles and saliva in it you should be sure to refresh the water in the bowl. Water bowls are also prone to developing a biofilm. This slimy goop develops due to the bacteria, minerals and saliva that your pet leaves when they drink. It can be seen on the bowl sides and needs to be cleaned off thoroughly.

To prevent the build-up of bacteria, and other pathogens, keeping the water dishes clean is vital. Whether your cat and dog share a water dish or not, the water should always be clean, and you should scrub the bowl with hot, soapy water regularly.

washing pet food bowl
Image Credit: MargaPl, Shutterstock

Use a Water Fountain

Water fountains are ideal for multi-pet homes. They not only keep the water circulating—which is often more appealing to cats and dogs—but they also help reduce the number of bacteria building up in the water.

You’ll still need to replace the water frequently, clean the fountain thoroughly every 2–3 weeks, and change the filters regularly. The more pets that use the fountain, the more often you’ll need to replace the water and clean it to prevent the build-up of biofilm.

Use Several Water Bowls

Although some cats and dogs don’t mind sharing, there are plenty of others that simply don’t want to. They might not want to let another animal get that close, or they don’t feel safe drinking when the other pet is nearby. You’ll need to set up another water dish in another room to allow your pets to have space to themselves.

It means more bowls to keep clean and topped up, but your pets will have more access to water throughout the day, especially if one bowl runs out before the other. It should reduce stress and help maintain a harmonious household.


Although dogs and cats can share a water bowl if they choose to do so, it’s not always a good idea. They should always have the option not to share. Some pets will be more than happy to share a bowl, while others might be warrier or more aggressive about protecting what they see as theirs. Make sure your cat and dog are happy sharing, and only let them do so if they’re both healthy. If they’re sick or aggressive toward each other make sure they have separate water dishes and try placing your cat’s water somewhere your dog can’t reach.

Featured Image Credit: ALEX_UGALEK, Shutterstock

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