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FOOD AND WATER CONTAINERS

A bowl is a bowl, right? Wrong. Choosing the right food and water bowls for your cat can be just as important as choosing the right food.

First, each cat needs her own set of bowls - one for water and one for food. If two or more cats share a bowl, Ms. Pushy may decide that she deserves more food then Mr. Pushover. Its also better to give your cat two separate bowls instead of a partitioned bowl, so the water and food don't mix when your cat bumps her bowl in her enthusiasm for the grub.

A Little Tipsy

You can choose from stainless steel, plastic, and ceramic food and water bowls for your pet. Stainless steel bowls won't put a big dent in your wallet, but they're light and can tip over easily, spilling your cat's precious cargo. Look for weighted or non-slip stainless steel bowls to prevent this catastrophe.

And don't choose a plastic bowl. They also tip over easily and can cause a contact allergy, irritating your cat's sensitive muzzle.

Many people pick ceramic bowls because they're heavy, which helps head off the tip-over problem, and they often feature designs that complement your kitty's decor. But watch what type of bowl you buy: Some foreign-made ceramic bowls contain lead, which can contaminate the food and water - and your cat when he eats and drinks from them. So stick with ceramic bowls made in North America.

Keep the Bugs at Bay

You wouldn't think of serving your family a meal on the same plates without washing them. It's no different for your cat.

Wash her food and water bowls every day to prevent bacteria from building up and to keep your cat from ingesting harmful germs. And some cats are finicky about their water, so you might need to wash her bowl and give her fresh water twice a day. Keep in mind that some ceramic bowls cannot be washed in a dishwasher, which makes cleanup more of a hands-on experience.

A Helping Hand for You

If you're frequently out of town - or you're feeding your new kitten three times a day and you can't be around to give her one of those meals - an automatic feeder and waterer can help keep your cat full and hydrated. Of course, you'll still need to find a human helper to stop by and offer attention and a clean litter box.