HOW TO CHOOSE AN AUTOMATIC CAT FEEDER:
Most automatic cat feeders were designed for single kitty households or a home where dogs do not have access to the kitty food. If you have multiple cats or other animals in the home who have access to the feeder, it could be problematic, especially if any of them are pushy about food. You would not want your kitty’s food to be eaten by the dog or one cat to get all the food, all the time. It’s a good idea then to assess what might go wrong in this kind of scenario. If you have multiple kitties on different diets or one of them is greedy, there are feeders on the market today with RFID chips that will only open for a cat with the matching tag on his collar. It may also be more convenient to feed a cat higher off the floor such as on a sideboard or lower table where it is easier for him to eat in peace.
It’s essential to consider your cat’s dietary needs as most automatic cat feeders are only suitable or work best with dry kibble unless they are a plate style feeder. Soft or wet food may be used with some plate feeders but as a general rule should not be left out very long and if this is primarily what your kitty eats a feed automatic feeder may not be an effective solution for absences of more than a few hours. Does your pet have a particular amount of food he should be fed each time or is there room for error? Not all feeders are specific enough for the needs of some cats on a limited or medical diet, and plate-style feeders are the few that will allow the exact measurement of cat food as you create the meal portions. It’s important to think about the cups of food your cat needs. Hopper-style feeders are not as precise and therefore not an effective way to manage your cat’s calorie intake. Electronic hopper feeders are rarely exact enough for a dietary purpose, and a gravity feeder will continue to distribute food until it’s gone. This can be a problem with cats who have no self-control with available food.
You should also take stock of your cat’s physical requirements for eating. Does your cat need a specific size or height of bowl to eat food easily or would he struggle with a narrow opening that some feeders use for access? Be sure to measure the dimensions of the container or food compartment including the depth to be sure your kitty can reach his food without straining.
Some automatic cat feeders can be very noisy and scare even the hungriest cat away. Most cats can tolerate change provided they are allowed to ease into a new routine or technology gradually. It is critical to acclimate your cat to a feeder before leaving him unattended with one, so he does not develop anxiety associated with the unit. Some feeders have the function where you can record your voice calling your kitty for dinner. While this is a thoughtful feature, again consider if this may frighten your cat.
Other considerations for an automatic cat feeder: If it’s a hopper-style feeder is the food kept securely inside and will the design of the food storage compartment ensure food stays fresh? Is there a possibility a power interruption or outage could disable the unit? Some units have a battery back-up. However, if your unit relies on wi-fi, you could experience the same issue with it not feeding correctly. You may not be able to diagnose a physical problem with the feeder such as a blockage or clog remotely either.
As convenient as it may seem, an automatic cat feeder may not be the best idea to utilize unattended for more than a few days as even the most expensive one could fail or malfunction, leaving your kitty without food if you do not have anyone coming to look in on him.
We’ve narrowed the cat feeders we’ll be reviewing into three categories. While we do not recommend the gravity-fed hopper style feeders for most kitties, they may work well for you if you are lucky enough to own a cat that only eats when he is hungry, paces his eating habits and does not gorge himself on food because it’s available. Gravity-fed feeders do not require electricity, programming, or wi-fi and are simple for your kitty to figure out.
Not all cats are alike, however, and we know that when left to their own devices with unlimited food, most kitties will overdo it and you may come home to a starving cat and a lot of vomit. That’s where the automatic feeders that dispense specific portions at intervals you choose come in.
Gravity-Fed Hopper Feeder Style: This style of feeder is basically a large plastic bottle with a wide mouth upside down over a food bowl or tray. As the cat eats, gravity allows more to flow into the bowl or tray.
Plate Style Feeder: This style of feeder is typically a rotating tray with compartments or a series of compartments with lids that flip open
- Portion size easy to control: pet owner determines and measures portions
- Limited quantity of meals that can be distributed
- Ideal for single-cat family
Programmable or Smart Hopper Style: These are typically designed as a reservoir of kibble over a tray or bowl with the ability to program the frequency of cat food distribution or control remotely using an app
- May malfunction with power/wifi outage
- Precise portion control may be more difficult to achieve
- Usually higher price point