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A few years ago I began the difficult process of trying to domesticate an abandoned cat.

A little black creature with an extra long tail, she appeared in my building’s courtyard mewing up a storm, and because I’m a bleeding heart (and a sucker) I began feeding her.

Putting out little dishes of food and water for her, slowly coaxing her inside, I noticed that the little black kitty had a large sore on her chin.

Afraid that she had some sort of virus or injury, and not wanting to endanger my other cat, I took her to the vet to have her checked out.

The vet gave her chin a look, and asked me if she was eating or drinking out plastic dishes. Yes, at the time she was.

He gave me some antibiotics for her, and told me to switch her to metal bowls. As I intended to do so anyway, I had no problem with this, but I was curious as to why my vet recommended this.

His answer was that some cats and dogs can be allergic to plastic, and that eating or drinking from plastic bowls can cause skin conditions on the chin or around the mouth — often resembling acne or sores. A simple solution is to always use metal or ceramic bowls.

I was thrilled by the simplicity of this solution!

We have many different pet bowls in the store, so as you can imagine, we get the question, “Which bowl is best for my dog/cat?” quite often.

So to help you decide which is the best bowl for your pet, here is a brief explanation of the pros and cons of plastic, ceramic, metal pet bowls.


Pros: Light weight, often (but not always) inexpensive, and often available in playful shapes and colors, plastic bowls are durable and shatter proof. If your pooch decides to chew on his or her plastic bowl, or toss it around, you don’t have to worry about it cracking or breaing into a million pieces like a ceramic bowl.

Cons: Aside from potentially causing an allergic reaction (like in my kitty), plastic bowls can breed bacteria. Even with regular washing, scratches, nicks, and micro-gouges in plastic bowls can breed bacteria, which can eventually negatively impact the health of your pet. Plastic cannot be boiled, and some plastics, if subjected to heat will release toxic substances into food. Generally speaking, plastic bowls are difficult to keep clean. If you decide to use plastic bowls, it’s best to replace them regularly.

Also, in many plastic bowls the use of bisphenol or BPA is an issue. BPA is a chemical that many studies say is an endocrine disruptor that can have serious adverse effects on a mammal’s brain, cardiovascular system, and potentially cause cancer, among other issues.

Pthalates are also an issue in plastic bowls. Used as “plasticizers”, Pthalates are used as solvents, and to make plastic products more flexible. There are studies that say that pthalates are toxic to mammals if absorbed long term.

Always look for high quality bowls that are BPA and Pthalate free.

And if your dog takes to chewing on his or her bowl, he or she could end up swallowing little bits of plastic that could build up over time or cause a blockage.


Pros: Easy to clean, can be dishwasher safe, can be subjected to high heat like boiling water (unless otherwise indicated), sturdy, and often attractive “artistic” style. Ceramic bowls can be a great alternative to plastic. If the ceramic bowl is intact (no cracks), and it is properly glazed, bacteria should not be able to breed.

Cons: Ceramic bowls can shatter or crack. Micro cracks (somtimes invisible to the human eye) in a ceramic bowl can be be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Also, if your pet tends to scoot their bowl around or be rather “aggressive” eaters, there is the danger of a ceramic bowl breaking resulting in sharp shards — not to mention a mess.

Also, be sure that any ceramic bowl you or your pet uses for food consumption does not use lead based paint. Needless to say, consumption of lead based paint flakes can be toxic.

Metal/Stainless Steel

Pros: Sturdy, long lasting, affordable, dishwasher safe, and safe to subject to boiling water for bacteria killing purposes. Stainless steel bowls tend to be the safest, most practical choice for pet bowls. If properly cared for (do not scrub with abrasive materials like steel wool), stainless steel bowls do not harbor bacteria and can last a lifetime. Plus they do not have the potential of leaching toxic chemicals into food like plastic, or lead paint like on ceramic bowls.

Simply washing your pet’s stainless steel bowl with warm water and a mild dish soap can safely rid it of bacteria. Once a month I like to douse my stainless steel bowls with just-boiled water to give it a “deep clean”.

Cons: Not as attractive as colorful ceramic or plastic bowls. Can be loud or even scratch hard floors if your pet pushes his or her bowl while eating. However, this can be avoided if you purchase a stainless steel bowl with a non-skid rubber bottom.

Hope this guide helps you to make a decision on your next pet bowl!

Happy Eating!

~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

Always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.

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