Not only are automatic cat feeders a godsend for anyone who has ever been woken up at 4 am with incessant meowing for food, but they are also great for pet owners who have cats with weight or health concerns who need to be fed several small portion throughout the day. If you have a cat that is anxious about food, these devices can also be a tremendous help to overcoming anxiety and the fear of not being fed. They are especially useful for busy working cat parents who spend long hours away from the home and have to worry about getting home to feed their pet. Whatever your need there is no shortage of choice when looking for an automatic feeder for your cat, from the most basic feeder to feeders that incorporate the latest technology there are devices to help with every type feeding issue that pet owners face.
Within this post you’ll find information on:
- Comparisons of the best rated products
- Features to look for
- Common issues with auto cat dispensers
- In depth reviews and recommendations
2017 Best Automatic Cat Feeders
|Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed||Can program up to 12 dry food meals a day, dishwasher-safe.||#1||Check Pricing|
|Super Feeder Csf-3 Automatic Cat Feeder||Program 8 dry food meals a day, option to increase capacity.||#2||Check Pricing|
|Pet Feedster Automatic Pet Feeder||Kibble theft proof, large capacity with a battery backup.||#3||Check Pricing|
|PetSafe Eatwell Electronic Pet Feeder||5 1-cup-capacity chambers, good for either wet or dry pet food.||#4||Check Pricing|
|Feed and Go Smart Pet Feeder||Has a webcam that lets you monitor that wet/dry food has been dispensed properly.||#5||Check Pricing|
Important Features to Consider
There are two basic types of auto dispenser, one has a large hopper that allows you to fill with dry kibble and let it go for weeks before you have to refill it. The other type is a circular style that has 5 or 6 compartments that you will have to refill every 1-3 days depending on your feeding schedule. If you are looking for something for wet food you will have to use a circular type model.
Depending on your living arrangements you will most likely want to consider the size of any model that you may purchase. Obviously the models that hold the most kibble will be the largest, if you don’t have a lot of extra living space you may want to stick to the circular flat style of feeder.
Number of Feedings per day
There is quite a range of number of times you can feed your feline using an automatic dispenser. Some units let you schedule up to 12 feeding per day, although 5 is a more standard option (especially on the circular models).
If you are looking for a product that lets you do a very small or very large serving sizes (some go as small as a tablespoon of kibble) the option to adjust the feeding size is available on most products, although the accuracy of serving size can sometimes be an issue.
Type of Food
These dispensers generally work best for dry kibble, but there are options if you are using wet food. If you are looking for wet food dispenser you can try: PetSafe Eatwell Electronic Pet Feeder or Feed and Go Smart Pet Feeder.
Auto dispensers run on either battery power or an AC adapter (you just plug it in). There are positives and negatives to both types. If it is battery powered you don’t have to worry about a power outage, although you do have to make sure your batteries don’t run out and leave your pet stranded with nothing to eat. If you go for a model that plugs in, you may be concerned that your pet may chew the cord or the power may go out, leaving your pet with no food. Unfortunately only one feeder has a battery backup and that is the Pet Feedster.
Some users are looking for a combo water and food dispenser. Generally it is not recommend putting water into one of these devices, unless it is specifically stated that it is designed for water as well as food. It is best to get a separate automatic watering bowl to avoid any damage to the device.
If you are looking for help for animals on prescription diets or weight management programs, you may want to look at SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder. It ensures that only the designated pets access their own food, you can use it for multiple pets as it can store up to 32 memory microchip identifiers.
There are a number of pet products that are coming out that have included a webcam. Including one in a feeder is great idea as it lets you supervise your pet eating when you are away from the home. This lets you know exactly who ate the food and that it was dispensed properly.
Smart Phone Enabled
Many of the newer companies are using some of the best wireless and smartphone technology to allow users to stay connected to their pets and let you control the device from your phones. For some users it can provide a bit more peace of mind controlling the feeds from a smartphone. Check out the Petnet SmartFeeder if you are interested in this type.
Cat food bowls are generally ceramic, stainless steel or plastic. Ceramic doesn’t tend to work well in auto dispensers because of the weight, so most use a stainless steel or plastic bowl. Stainless steel is a good option, although some users find the kibble dropping into the bowl can be loud enough to wake the owner up. Plastic is the other option and is okay if it is BPA free and is a safe plastic to use with cats. Some plastic cause cats to develop acne, which is as unappealing as it sounds.
Felines are smart creatures and have a lot of free time on their hands. Many make it their mission to figure out exactly how to break into the supply of food. Most will only get a bit of kibble, but some go so far as to knock the unit over the unit or shake it until kibble falls out. If you have a furry friend who is a bit of a cat burglar, you may have to spend a bit more money to get something that they aren’t able to break into.
If you are interested in one of the larger capacity models that can store a few weeks’ worth of kibble, a handy feature to have for this style is a low food indicator as well as a low battery indicator( if it is running on batteries). These are pretty important features to have to avoid your pet from accidently going without anything to eat.
Some of the most common performance issue are:
- The unit jamming and nothing getting out. This tends to be solved by changing the food type or making sure you aren’t overfilling the hopper.
- Pets breaking into or moving the trays to access more food is another pretty common issue that kind of defeats the purpose of the product.
- Not being reliable and giving your pet the food when it isn’t supposed to.
- If you are using a dispenser for wet food, you will want to look for feeders that keep the wet food fresh so it doesn’t go hard in the way that it would if it is just sitting in a dish over a number of hours.
Unfortunately the return policies on most of the feeders on the market are not great. Generally companies won’t accept returns on these types of products due to health and safety reasons. If the product is defective and doesn’t work you will most likely be able to return it, but if it turns out that you have used it and found that wasn’t quite what you wanted, there is a good chance you won’t be able to return it. Make sure you do your research before purchasing.
You will want to ensure you check over the warranty of any products you are interested in purchasing. Most of the companies offer a one limited manufacturer warranty. Since some models cost well over $100, you should be familiar with what the warranty will cover (usually defects in workmanship and material) and make sure that you are only using it for its intended purchase (i.e. don’t use an indoor device outside).
How long can you leave cats if you are using an automatic cat feeder?
If you are leaving your feline alone for more than a couple of days, it would be best not to rely on an auto dispenser, in case it should fail or something unexpected happens. If you have no choice but to leave for more than a few days there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure the safety of your cat. One is to install a camera focused on the dispenser, so you can tell if it isn’t working properly, or can use the Feed and Go that has a webcam installed. If you see a problem, you can have someone come and check in.
The other thing that you can do is have two feeders programmed to go off at alternate times, so if one fails you will at least have the backup to prevent your cat from going without anything to eat for too long of a period. These machines aren’t designed to let you leave your pet home alone unsupervised for extended periods of time, so you really shouldn’t rely on them for more than a couple of days.
Problems with dominant pets eating everything
A common problem if you have more than one pet is the dominant personality eating all of the food, while the grazer or submissive animal will go hungry. If you are facing this type of situation, you may want to have a look at the Wireless Whiskers. It uses a wireless tag that the device reads and the doors shut whenever a pet reaches its allowance of food, so all pets are guaranteed their fair share. Another option is the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder that reads your pet’s microchip and only gives the set amount of food for that cat.
Reviews and Recommendations
Auto Feeders are a great help to pet owners struggling with many different food related issues. Not only do they help pet owners get more sleep, but they may also help pets with feeding anxiety problems, dietary issues, help with dispensing medicine and they give owners peace of mind when they are away from the home and are unable to feed their pets. There are a lot of great, innovative products on the market for a wide range of budgets that can help improve life with your cat. As long as you supervise and test your feeder on a daily or weekly basic, they are much more convenient than hand-feeding, but be aware that they do require some level of monitoring to ensure that your cat is being fed when they are supposed to be.