Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Every $10 we earn, we’ll donate a dollar to animal shelters in need.
As pet owners, part of our responsibilities to our furry friends is feeding them. We need to serve them the right amount of food at the proper time. However, unforeseen events can happen, and we sometimes can’t feed them on time. Many cat moms and dads thus consider getting an automatic cat feeder. Such an investment can be pricey, but is it worth it?
Before you make a purchase, there are a lot of things you need to consider. The Furry Companion has made a quick guide to help you decide if you want to make the switch. Let us take a look.
How an Automatic Cat Feeder Works
From the name itself, these feeders dispense cat food automatically. There are two general styles: a gravity feeder and an electronic food bowl.
The first holds an inverted plastic or glass container, and the food drops down onto a bow. It releases food according to a set time or as soon as it detects low food levels. These types are often used primarily for dry food. An example of this is the WOPET Automatic Pet Feeder, which is one of Amazon’s top-rated bestsellers.
The second type of automatic cat feeder contains several bowls for the food which you first fill up. You close the cover, which then opens up at a specific time to reveal one serving. The feeder then moves on to the next bowl during the next set time. This type either comes with a rotating or hinged top. The PetSafe 5 Meal Pet Feeder is a bestseller of this style and has many positive reviews.
Both styles of feeders use a power source—either a battery or an outlet. This feature allows it to dispense food at a programmed schedule.
The Benefits of An Automatic Cat Feeder
Now that you know what they are, what are the advantages of having an automatic cat feeder?
For one, they allow a great deal of convenience when you are not around. If you have taken a trip out of town without your pets, you know how feeding them properly becomes a problem then. You either have to leave food out and hope they ration it themselves or ask someone else to feed them. With an automatic feeder, you do not have to worry about your cats eating on time. Most types will have a program to set feeding times at their usual schedule. Laura Monohan, DVM points out that, “Automatic feeders tempt cat owners to consider leaving cats for extended periods without daily supervision from a pet sitter, kind neighbor, or boarding facility.”
Second, weight management is achievable with an automatic cat feeder. You can prepare fixed portions according to the vet’s advice. This investment will help your cat maintain a healthy weight and manage health conditions such as diabetes. “One of the cons to free-feeding cats is that they can easily become obese, particularly if they’re not privileged to environmental enrichment — things in their environment that provide them [with] activity and mental engagement,” Tracey Jensen, D.V.M emphasizes. It also helps control owners because we are all guilty of giving kitty “occasional” treats in the form of extra food.
Moreover, some feeders will also allow you to set varying portions at different times. This feature means you can set to feed them more at night and less throughout the day. You can also choose to feed them small meals more frequently throughout the day.
Thirdly, electronic food bowls cover up leftover food. This feature helps prevent bugs and pests from reaching the leftovers. Likewise, it helps keep away other animals if you’re feeding outdoor pets.
Now that you know the advantages an automatic cat feeder can provide, let’s look at the disadvantages.
One drawback is that some feeders don’t have a program for you to set. Specifically, some gravity feeders refill the bowl as soon as your pet consumes some of the food. This feature means that the pan will continue to be full at all times. Portion control is thus impossible, and it’s easy for your cat to overeat. “Even if you overfeed [your cat] by a few kibbles per day [per feeding], over a year that results in a pound of weight gain,” Ernie Ward, DVM says. However, you can look into other models that have a program where you can set feeding times and portions.
Another is that the process of cleaning can be more complicated than a regular bowl. However, an automatic cat feeder is easy enough to wash and you can even place them in the dishwasher.
The power source can also become an issue if you’re not careful. If the feeder you have relies on electricity, problems can arise if the power goes out in your home. Some models will lose their programmed schedules after they stay off for a long time. Likewise, if you don’t change or charge the batteries regularly, you risk missing out on feeding times.
Factors to Consider
Knowing about the positive and negative sides of owning an automatic cat feeder will help you make a decision. But aside from the benefits and drawbacks, there are other factors you have to consider.
1. Type of Food
The kind of food your feline friend eats is the first thing you should look into. Dry food is the most common type of pet food owners buy. However, vets will still recommend feeding them wet food, especially for cats that are notorious for not drinking enough water. Most gravity feeders only dispense dry food. A few models are able to serve semi-wet (moist) food such as PetSafe’s automatic cat feeder.
If you feed your cats wet food regularly, a bowl type is a better choice. Certain brands will have a cooling system that keeps the food fresh for a longer time. A popular choice is the Cat Mate C500.
Additionally, if you do opt for a gravity feeder for dry food, always check the specifications. The unit will clog up if the kibble size is too big for the hole.
2. How Many Cats You Have
If you have lots of cats, you know feeding time can be a struggle. Some felines fight each other over food, while others tend to eat faster than the other kitties.
With an automatic cat feeder, you’ll potentially run into the same problem. One solution is purchasing something like the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder. This model, as you can tell from the name, makes use of microchip and RFID technology. The bowl will only open for animals whose info you program into the system. You can thus set each bowl to open for each of your cats.
3. Capacity and Features
Another thing you should look for is the features you’ll need. Each pet owner is likely to prioritize different things when it comes to an automatic cat feeder. Some will want one that can hold food enough for a couple of days. Others will want the option to record their voice to call the cat to eat. Some models allow WiFi connectivity so that you can monitor your cat from the convenience of your phone.
Think about what you need in a pet feeder. From there, you can start to look for options at the pet store or online.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Now, you’re almost set to decide whether or not you plan to buy an automatic cat feeder. Still, here are a few other things you should keep in mind.
1. Monitor Your Cat and the Feeder
Although it feeds your cat automatically, it’s still best to check up on your cat while they’re eating. This way, you can monitor if the feeder is working correctly and if your cat is taking to it well. Some kitties will take a while to adjust to your new investment. Some models may make a noise, which can scare some cats.
You can also check if they’ve outsmarted the machine and have broken into the feeder. Observe how they interact with the feeder and hope they don’t destroy it.
Remember, having an automatic cat feeder doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about your kitty during eating time.
3. A Cat Feeder Is Not a Water Dispenser
Unless the manufacturer says so, do not, by all means, use the automatic cat feeder as a water dispenser. Water can seep into the electrical parts and cause damage, potentially even hurting your feline friend.
There are tons of water dispensers in the market. Remember to use these products exactly for what they’re made for. If you’re unsure, contact the manufacturer for advice.
At The Furry Companion, we want to make your life with your pets more comfortable. When you find ways to make things more efficient, it gives you more time to spend with your beloved cats.
An automatic cat feeder may be a smart choice for some owners because of the convenience it provides with its variety of features. It also helps manage weight and health conditions with fixed portioning. While there are some hiccups you might run into, these are relatively minor problems which you can quickly fix.
When deciding to make the switch, consider factors such as how many cats you own. Also, look into what specific features you need for your household. Each home and cat has different needs, and you’ll want an automatic cat feeder that caters to that.
In the end, you’ll know what’s best for kitty and you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which automatic cat feeder is the best?
Automatic cat feeders are a convenient way to feed the cats when the owners are busy. The best automatic cat feeders to get are PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Feeder, Petmate Pet Cafe Feeder, and Arf Pets Automatic Pet Feeder.
How much is an automatic cat feeder?
A cat feeder costs around $75. This type of cat feeder is rated at 4.5 stars on Amazon, is programmable up to four feeds per day and in large portions, and with an infrared sensor. The price of an automatic cat feeder varies and is dependent on the type and specification.
Are automatic cat feeders a good idea?
Yes, automatic cat feeders are a good idea. It is very convenient for busy owners, making sure your cats don’t skip meals. Also, if your pet requires different food combinations, it makes life easy.
How do you make an automatic cat feeder?
You will be needing two bottles to make a DIY cat feeder. Cut a hole at the bottom of one bottle then cut a hole on the side bottom of another bottle. Fix together the two holes by gluing them. Then, cut the hole on one end where the cat will eat and another hole on another end where the cat food will be poured. Make a stand for the feeder.
Is it OK to leave the cat alone for 3 days?
No, cats can’t be left alone for three days because they will go hungry and thirsty. It will be a better choice to leave them in a boarding facility where they can be taken care of.
Do cats hate being picked up?
It depends on the cat. Different cats have different attitudes towards gestures, some like being held, but some don’t.
Do cats feel sad when you give them away?
Scientists say that cats don’t feel separation anxiety from their owners. Cats do not need owners to make them feel safe or secured.
How do you make a cat food puzzle?
Cat food puzzles are a good way to keep pets stimulated. Some good ideas are puzzle boards, the bottle feeder, and the egg carton.
Believing the Ancient Egyptians were right, Agatha plays human to a loving but feisty tortie. Outside of HR work, she enjoys dancing, taking photos, binging on Netflix, and chasing after stray cats.