Are Plastic Cat Food and Water Bowls Bad for Cats? Yes! Here's Why...

What is the best kind of cat bowl for your cat’s food and water?

When you search for a cat bowl, you will quickly become overwhelmed by the plethora of options. Which cat bowl material is best? Plastic, ceramic, glass, or stainless steel?

According to the 2019-20 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 44% of cat owners use food and water bowls that are made of plastic. Although a lot of people use them, plastic cat bowls can actually be bad for cats.

In our article "Plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel cat bowls?", we shared the pros and cons of each material and gave each type of cat dish a grade based on safety, design, and overall performance. In this article, we will dive deeper into whether plastic bowls are safe for cats.

Dangers of Plastic Cat Food and Water Bowls

Cat with plastic bowl

Plastic cat bowls can leach harmful chemicals, harbor bacteria, and cause medical conditions. Surprising, right? 

Harmful Chemicals from Plastic Can Leach Into Cat Food

Recent studies indicate that the plastic containers we use to store our food and drinks pose a threat to our own health. Many plastic containers and bowls contain toxic chemicals such as phthalates or Bispehnol A (better known as BPA). These chemicals have been shown to damage the liver, kidneys, and other organs, and cause reproductive issues in women, men, and other animals.

BPA and other chemicals can transfer or leak from plastic into food through a process called leaching. Leaching occurs more quickly when products are used a lot or exposed to high temperatures (like microwaves and dishwashers). Some studies suggest that even sunlight may speed up the rate of leaching.

While most studies about the effects of plastics, phthalates, and BPA have been on humans, rats, and other animals used for testing, rather than cats, it seems likely that cats would also be vulnerable to many of the same negative effects.

Since plastic cat bowls are subject to daily use, are exposed to high temperatures in the dishwasher, and may also be sitting in sunlight, they may be prone to leaching. We at Americat Company know that when it comes to protecting our cats, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Plastic Cat Bowls Cannot be Fully Sanitized

Along with the potential danger of BPA and other chemicals leaching out of the bowl into your cat’s food, plastic cat dishes also harbor bacteria which can put your cat’s health at risk. Many cat owners do not clean their pets’ food and water bowls frequently enough. Learn more about how often and how best to clean your cat’s bowl in our previous blog article.

But, even frequent and thorough cleaning cannot get all of the bacteria out of plastic bowls. Plastic bowls develop tiny cracks and scratches, and it's impossible to fully sanitize within these crevices. Bacteria that grow in these cracks can remain inside even after the surface of the bowl is cleaned. This means that despite your best efforts, your cats can still be at risk of ingesting leftover bacteria—a scary thought!

Cat with plastic bowl

Cats Can Develop Feline Acne

Cat acne is a medical condition which results in inflammation and the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, bumps, and lesions on a cat’s chin, face, and surrounding area. Plastic bowls are the main cause of cat acne, as the bacteria within the scratches and cracks of plastic food and water dishes can aggravate a cat's skin.

Fortunately cat acne can be treated, but it can occasionally lead to further infections. So, if your cat has acne, stop using your plastic bowls and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss medical treatment.

If Plastic Cat Bowls are Bad, What Kind of Cat Dishes Should I Use Instead?

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences shared that “Plastic food dishes tend to harbor microbes, so we recommend that owners switch to metallic dishes and clean them daily.”

Stainless steel is the best and safest material for cat food and water dishes. Thanks to its non-porous surface, stainless steel doesn’t scratch or crack to harbor bacteria like plastic and ceramic. Also, it isn’t breakable like ceramic or glass.

There are countless stainless steel cat bowl options that range in safety and quality. So, we wrote an article "5 Tips for Choosing the Best Stainless Steel Cat Bowl" to help you choose the safest stainless steel bowl for your cat. 

Stainless Steel Cat Bowls are Safest and Most Sanitary

For our own cats, we use these stainless steel bowls from Americat Company which are made in the USA from U.S. materials in a facility that also makes medical and cooking products. These bowls are certified free of lead and other radioactive metals. I know our cats are safe eating and drinking from them thanks to the bowls' safe materials and manufacturing. 

Cat eating from stainless steel bowl

Cats love to lick their bowls to get every last piece of food! They eat and drink from their bowls multiple times a day every single day. So, we encourage you to think carefully about the kinds of bowls you serve your cats. Our cats are a part of our families and they deserve the best!

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  • Tanya- That is a great question. Similar to plastic cat bowls you’d want to watch out for toxins found in plastic, including BPA and phthalates. Do you know if your plastic toys have been tested and certified as BPA-free and phthalate-free? We wrote some articles about picking safe cat toys that you can read here: and

    Americat Company
  • Hi there. I am a cat owner who has been having a spirited debate about the proper bowls for cats. Reading your article gave me pause – so I will ask you what popped into my mind – what about plastic toys? We have a multitude of balls, mice, etc – that I am sure contain plastic. Should I be worried? Should I replace?

    Tanya Irwin
  • I read this post your post so nice and very informative thanks for sharing this post.

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