catHave you ever run your hand along the bottom of your cat’s water dish and found a clear or pinkish slime? If you thought that the slime came from your cat’s saliva, you’d only be partially correct.

What is biofilm?

When bacteria are allowed time to settle and grow, they begin to emit a glue-like substance called biofilm. This secretion not only helps to adhere them to the surface, but it also protects the bacteria from cleaning products that could kill them.

You can find biofilm on your teeth when you wake up in the morning, on the bottom of your cat’s water dish, or even in the oils from the dry food in your cat’s dinner bowl. The types of bacteria found in biofilm, such as E. coli, listeria, and staph, can lead to life threatening infections if consumed or inhaled.

Where does it come from?

Using filtered water won’t stop the growth of biofilm. That’s because even microscopic food particles that are left in your cat’s saliva are deposited every time your kitty drinks from her water dish. A fountain with a filter may remove some of the particles, but bacteria floating in the air also settle into the water eventually.

How can it be prevented?

The only way to prevent biofilm build up is to regularly wash your cat’s dishes with soap and water. The putrid odor of biofilm is much worse for pets who have a keen sense of smell, but the same can be said for fragrant dish soaps. Whenever possible, opt for a gentle, fragrance free dish detergent.

Choosing the right water dish

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You’ll want to avoid water dishes and fountains with sharp angles that are hard to clean. If you do buy a pet fountain, make sure that all of the parts of the pump and filter are easy to disassemble and clean.

Stainless steel water dishes are a good place to start. However, low-quality stainless steel can contain impurities that will tarnish over time, leaching rust and other toxic chemicals into your cat’s drinking water.

Ceramic dishes are excellent so long as they are high-fired, use food-grade glaze and are made in the USA, leaving the surface with a very low porosity. Glass dishes work well for the same reason.

Are you worried about your cat’s water dish becoming slimy and unappetizing while you’re away? Hire a Katie’s Kitty pet sitter who will refresh and clean cat’s food and water dishes every day!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by Sean Naber on flickr