We all wish we could spend all of our time with our kitties, don't we? To care for and cater to all their needs, at all times.
Fortunately, we can at least provide our cats with excellent care 24/7. And here's how you can always feed your cat on time: use automatic feeders.
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Automatic food dispensers are gaining in popularity. Whether simple gravity-driven kibble feeders or hi-tech digital gadgets that deliver cooled portions of wet cat food—finding a good automatic feeder can reduce your workload as well as ensure your cat gets the right kind of nutrition on time.
We set out to explore the world of automatic feeders for cats. We'll discuss the types of automatic feeders out there with their various pros and cons. We'll then review the most popular automatic feeders for cats in 2018 to see which one best meets your needs.
What Is An Automatic Feeder For Cats?
An automatic feeder for cats is an advanced food dispenser that provides food for your cats even when you’re not there to fill their dishes. There are several types of automatic feeders designed to meet different needs. Some people use automatic feeders on a daily basis to make everyday life easier, while others only set them up while on vacation.
Types of Automatic Pet Feeders
Though there are many specific models to choose from, there are three basic categories for automatic pet feeders:
- Gravity feeders
- Automated electronic feeders for dry food
- Automated electronic feeders for wet or canned food
Let’s review each of these types to see what they do and how they can help you with your cat feeding needs.
Also known as a self-feeder, this type of device uses gravity to continually offer food to your cats. They work by filling up a large compartment with food that sits above the bowl. Then, as your cats eat the food, more falls down to take its place.
This type of automatic feeder can be great for multiple-cat homes if you don’t have to worry about how much each cat is getting. However, it doesn’t work well for overweight cats as it will allow them to freely eat as much as they want which can cause them to continue to gain weight.
Automated Electronic Feeders
With electronic automatic feeders for cats, you can plan out all your cat’s meals for the day or even several days, depending on the product. These are programmable, whether they have a built-in touch screen, a timer that you manually turn, or a smartphone app.
Automated electronic feeders are great if your cat is on a special diet or you’re trying to help them lose weight. These contraptions will only dispense a certain amount of food at certain times during the day. Some even have sensors that prevent them from adding food if there’s already food in the bowl.
The biggest downside to this type of feeder is that you do have to fill it up frequently. Some only hold enough food for one day, which would mean you have to remember to fill it in the morning before leaving for work.
How An Automatic Feeder For Wet Cat Food Can Help
Whether you feed canned cat food or raw, some foods have to be kept cold once they’re offered. That makes it difficult to prepare in the morning since wet foods can’t be left out for more than a few hours.
Fortunately for these kitties and owners, there are options. Some automatic feeders are refrigerated so you can safely keep wet foods in them for several days if needed. Some types of food may dry out a little by the time of serving but it’s not likely to spoil, i.e. bacteria will have a hard time multiplying in it. Other units have a compartment where you can place a freezer pack to keep it cool.
While some sources will claim you can keep wet food out for a longer period of time without refrigeration, consider this cautionary tale from forum user FakeGourmet:
… my late brother’s cat died from food in the auto-feeder developing bacteria in the summer months. She was elderly, but the vet tested the food and said that is exactly why she died. The food was out less than 8 hours…
But here's the kicker:
Do You Even Need An Automatic Feeder For Your Cats?
Not everybody will need an automatic feeder for their cats, so there’s no point in going out and buying one of these expensive units unless you know for sure that you’ll benefit from it. Here are two scenarios where an automatic feeder can help you out:
If You Have Cats That Need Monitored Portioned Meals During The Day
Some owners are at home all day so it’s easy for them to portion out meals and serve them at certain time intervals, 4 to 5 times per day. However, most people simply don’t have the ability to be at home every time their cat needs to eat.
So, if you have a cat that needs to eat frequently during the day but you’re not around to feed them, an automatic cat feeder will be a huge help to you. Whether you get a smaller unit that you fill once in the morning for the day or a larger one that you only have to fill every few days, allowing the feeder to portion out meals for your cat will be one less thing for you to worry about.
Cats that may need frequent meals throughout the day are:
- Kittens, especially those that have a bad habit of eating too much at once
- Cats that are overweight and will eat even when they’re not hungry
- Underweight cats, as eating more often can help encourage them to gain weight
- Diabetic cats, as frequent meals will help them maintain a good blood glucose level
Some overweight cats can benefit from portion control using an automatic feeder.
If You Are Traveling Without Your Cat
Although you’ll want to find a good pet sitter while you’re gone, you can make it easier on everybody by setting up your cat with an automatic feeder.
Some cats may even make it through a weekend alone with a gravity feeder in place as long as they don’t mind old water and have a sufficiently large litter box. However, most cats will still want someone to come over and spend some time with them, and it’s always a good idea to have someone to check in on your feline friends at least once during the day.
Unless you have a pet sitter who is staying in your home or lives right next door, you can’t expect them to come over several times every day to feed your cats. If you do, you might not be able to afford a very long vacation since you’ll have to pay so much for the pet sitter.
By setting up an automatic feeder, a pet sitter would only have to come over once a day when they can check on and fill the feeder if necessary, clean out the litter box, and spend some time loving on your cat. Then they can be on their way, and your cat will still be fed as often as they need to be.
Using An Automatic Feeder For Multiple Cats
For homes with a single cat in them, using an automatic feeder is as simple as setting it up and filling it. However, it can get quite a bit more complicated when there are several cats involved. This is particularly true if one or several of these cats are on special diets.
If you don’t need to portion out meals, then a gravity feeder may be the multiple-cat owner’s best friend. It’s as easy as filling to the brim, flipping over, and setting out so your cats can eat to their heart’s content. This arrangement only becomes a problem if the cats need smaller meals during the day.
Here's the deal:
Feeding multiple felines using an automatic feeder can be immensely effective if you know how to employ the advantages of your feeder. With that in mind, here are a few ideas that can help you take advantage of an automatic feeder for multiple cats:
1. Use Microchip-Sensing Feeders
As you’ll see in our list of best automatic feeders for cats, there are some feeders that sense which cat is approaching the dish based on their transponder or a microchip in their collar. The feeder will only release the amount of food needed for that particular cat. If the same cat returns several times per day, it won’t get any extra kibble.
The feeder on our list will work for up to 8 pets and can provide several different foods so you can keep your diabetic cat on their special food while other cats get regular food. Although a bit more costly than some of the others on our list, it’s well worth it to make sure that each of your cats gets exactly what they need.
2. Separate Your Cats
Although this generally works better if you can be there to feed and release them as soon as they’re done, you can also separate your cats while you’re gone to ensure that each eats what they’re supposed to.
One way to keep your cats separated is to simply confine one to a bedroom during the day. While this certainly won’t work for all cats, it might be preferable for an older cat that doesn’t like to be bothered by the younger cat anyway. Just make sure you have a litter box in there for them, too!
Another option is to divide the house. For example, one cat gets the run of the upstairs while the other has the main floor. This can be accomplished by using baby gates. You may be able to get away with using just one if you have obese or arthritic cats that can’t jump over a single gate. Alternatively, you may stack several gates to cover an entire doorway.
3. Use Microchip-Sensing Kitty Doors
These kitty doors were designed to keep unwanted visitors out of your house while allowing your pet cat to freely enter and exit your home. However, these can also be placed inside your home so that one cat can get to an automatic feeder inside a certain room while the others can’t.
This would work well if you had one cat that free-feeds well so they could get to the food as often as they wanted while keeping other kitties out that need to be using the automatic feeder for portion control.
4. Put A Feeder Out Of Reach
If all this technology sounds like too much for you, another option is to simply place one of the feeders out of reach of some of the cats. Like with the baby gates that older or chubby cats can’t get over, you may consider placing a feeder on a high table or ledge only your younger, more agile cats can reach.
Whatever method you use, keeping your cats separate will help keep your cats healthy since they’ll each be getting their individual nutritional needs met.
9 Best Automatic Feeders For Cats
We’ve compiled a list of the best automatic feeders for cats, fully updated for 2018. You’re sure to find one that will meet your needs and those of your cats.
1. PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Cat Feeder
This automatic feeder makes programming simple as everything is done from their smartphone app. You can easily feed up to 4 cups of food in 1/8-cup increments. It also has a “Feed Now” option so you can feed your pet whenever you want outside of the normal feeding times.
One of the features that sets this feeder apart is that it has a Slow Feed option. With this activated, the set amount of food is given over a period of 15 minutes instead of all at once. This is perfect for cats that have a habit of eating too much too fast and then throwing up afterward.
A common fear that owners have with this type of feeder is what to do if the power goes out. But, this feeder is prepared for the worst as it has a battery backup and will still dispense food even when not connected to wi-fi.
Possibly the only downside to this feeder is that it does require the use of a smartphone to set up the app and a feeding schedule. This could be a serious drawback for anyone that doesn’t have a smartphone or has an incompatible one.
PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Cat Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry and semi-moist foods
- Electric with battery backup
- Set times to create a meal schedule
- Up to 12 scheduled meals per day plus the “Feed Now” option
- Not refrigerated
The PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Cat Feeder is for anyone that wants to be able to monitor their pet’s eating habits remotely. For multiple-cat homes, you can also purchase a splitter adapter that sends food into two or three separate bowls.
2. The Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Feeder for Cats
If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive automatic feeder, then this may be the option for you. One of the biggest benefits to this feeder is that it relies on batteries so there’s no need to be concerned about your cats getting fed if the power goes out.
Another advantage to the Cat Mate C3000 is that it has small portion sizes. The smallest amount of food that you can give to your cat is just 2 teaspoons! This is great for cats that are on a diet and need small meals throughout the day. However, it only allows up to three feedings every day, which can make it difficult to split up your cats’ meals.
The LCD control panel is built right into the unit so there’s no need to pair it to a smartphone app. It’s also designed with everyone in mind and is simple and easy to program.
Something to keep in mind before ordering this feeder is that it has low ratings because many people have had problems with it. The claims are that the materials are of low quality and so the machine breaks down quickly or doesn’t work right at all.
The Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry food only
- Motorized with only batteries as a power source
- Schedule times to feed
- 3 feedings per day
- Not refrigerated
If you’re willing to take a chance on the Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Feeder, it would be great for someone who needs to place an automatic feeder somewhere that doesn’t have easy access to an outlet. It’s also great for its 6.5-pound hopper capacity and dishwasher-safe parts that make it a cinch to clean.
3. Petmate Pet Café Feeder
This gravity-fed cat feeder is a great way to free-feed your cats whether you want to do it on a daily basis or are simply going away for the weekend. It’s especially great for multiple-cat households so you don’t have to keep filling up the food bowl.
Unfortunately, there have been reports that the food gets trapped in the hopper. Fortunately, there’s also an easy fix for this which is to raise up the back of the unit by around 2 inches (5 centimeters).
This product is made in the USA from PET bottles, making it environmentally sustainable as well as safe for your pets. It also has a removable top that makes both filling and cleaning this gravity feeder incredibly easy.
The Petmate Pet Café Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry food only
- Not motorized or electric
- No timer
- Unlimited portions
- Not refrigerated
If you have cats that are natural grazers and won’t over-indulge or want a simple way to avoid paying a cat sitter for the weekend, then the Petmate Pet Café Feeder could be the product for you. Just remember to stick a book or block of wood behind the back and you shouldn’t have any problems with the food falling into the bowl.
The Pet Cafe is available in several sizes that hold 3, 6, and 12 lbs respectively. The link above goes to the best-selling 6-pound version. However, if you have several cats, the larger version may offer a better solution.
Four times as big, this version of the feeder holds 12 pounds of food at one time which makes it perfect for leaving several cats for the whole weekend without having to worry about them going hungry.
Sometimes filling an automatic feeder can make it not worth the hassle because the opening is too small. However, this feeder has a large opening at the top so it’s easy to get the food in. But, it also securely closes so your cats can’t get in and make a mess.
4. Cat Mate C200 2-Bowl Pet Feeder
The Cat Mate C200 is one of the few automatic feeders that come with an ice pack, so it’s great for someone that feeds wet or raw food. However, a clever and persistent cat can get into it with a bit of work, so if your cat is determined enough, it probably won’t work for you.
Something to keep in mind about this cat feeder is that it only has two compartments for food, which only makes it good for two meals. It, therefore, won’t work well for going away for the weekend for most people. It also doesn’t work well for multiple cats unless each cat has their own unit.
Unlike the other feeders mentioned on this list, this product has a timer that you set for any time between 1 and 48 hours from the current time. Each side has its own timer and will pop open when the countdown reaches zero.
Although it comes with freezer packs to keep food cold, these are small and don’t generally work for the full amount of time, especially on warm days. For that reason, the second portion should be frozen beforehand so it will be thawed but still good by the time the cat goes to eat it.
Cat Mate C200 2-Bowl Pet Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry, wet, or raw food
- Works with a single AA battery
- A countdown timer for up to 48 hours
- 2 portions
- Has ice packs to keep food cool for a limited amount of time
As long as your cat is relaxed and not food-driven, the Cat Mate C200 2-Bowl Pet Feeder is an excellent way to ensure that your cat gets their wet or raw food delivered to them during the day, right when they need it. This product has limitations but might be exactly what you need.
5. Wireless Whiskers AutoDiet Pet Feeder
While the idea behind the Wireless Whiskers feeder is great, this is a product that will not work for everyone. When it works the way it was intended to, it communicates with a tag on your pets’ collars and only opens the doors to allow them to eat for a limited amount of time each day.
You can add and tag up to 8 pets with this feeder and only allow a certain amount to be eaten by each pet. This ensures that thin cats get enough to gain the weight they need and overweight cats are only getting what they need so they can start to lose weight.
Keep in mind before buying this that there are a number of negative reviews claiming that it doesn’t work as intended and that it’s easy for cats to break into. It may also be difficult to teach your cats how to position themselves to open the door when they want to eat.
The Wireless Whiskers AutoDiet Pet Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry food only
- Works both with an electrical cord and backup batteries
- Times the amount of time each pet is eating during the day
- You can set the machine to open a maximum of 24 times per pet per day
- Not refrigerated
If you’re willing to give the Wireless Whiskers AutoDiet Pet Feeder a chance, it just might be the easiest way you can automate portion control. You can even use it to keep the dog out of the cat food by programming it to shut the feed doors when the dog’s tag is nearby!
6. Cat Mate C50 Automatic Pet Feeder
Yet another popular choice by Cat Mate, the Cat Mate C50 feeder is made up of two compartments: one for food and one for ice packs to keep the food cold. Because it works with all kinds of food, it’s perfect for cats that get a mixture of wet and dry foods. Since the ice packs won’t last for long, they won’t work for several days of wet food.
The biggest drawback with this feeder is that determined cats have several ways to beat the system. If they pop the timer cover off, then they can adjust the timer until they get fed sooner. Or, if they’re able to get the lid off, then they’ll get access to all the hidden meals at once.
For the most part, this will work best in a one-cat home because it’s difficult to synchronize two units to open at the exact same time. An aggressive or greedy cat may quickly finish their own food and then take over the food of a shy or timid cat.
The Cat Mate C50 Automatic Pet Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry, wet, or raw food
- Works with one AA battery
- Set a countdown timer for up to 90 hours from the start time
- Four portions set to the timer with one immediate feed compartment
- Two ice packs fit beneath the food compartment
For one meal every day for four days or two meals for two days, the Cat Mate C50 Automatic Pet Feeder will work best in a one-cat home or could work with multiple cats if they are not food-driven. Overall, it functions well as long as your cats don’t attempt to break into it.
7. Iseebiz Automatic Cat Feeder
The Iseebiz feeder combines advanced electronic programming functions and voice recording, with an easy-to-operate interface. Unlike other feeders that only have a couple of buttons to program the whole unit, this product has clearly-labeled buttons for every function, taking the guesswork out of programming up to four meals for your cats each day.
This automatic feeder offers the smallest possible portion size with just 1 teaspoon per portion. It makes it ideal for cats that need to be put on a diet or who have a bad habit of eating too quickly and then throwing up afterward. Of course, larger portions are possible too—up to 39 times larger.
A 3-step process to open the lid ensures that your cats can’t get into the main hopper which can hold up to 3 pounds. It also features infrared technology that checks for food in the bowl before dispensing so it won’t get clogged from multiple feedings piling up.
The Iseebiz Automatic Cat Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry food only
- Uses electrical cord with battery backup
- Set meal times
- Up to 4 meals per day
- Not refrigerated
For an easy-to-use automatic cat feeder that won’t let your cat get in and indulge when they shouldn’t, the Iseebiz Automatic Cat Feeder is a good choice. With a dual-power setup, you can safely leave your cats for the whole weekend without worrying about them skipping a meal.
8. Aspen Pet Lebistro Feeder
If you’re looking for a gravity feeder to match your personal style, then the Aspen Pet Lebistro could be the one for you. You can choose from one of 6 different colors and 4 sizes. It makes it easy to pick a feeder that’s right for you and your cats.
Setting this feeder up couldn’t be easier as all you have to do is fill it and forget it. It’s perfect for self-regulating cats that like to graze throughout the day as they can eat to their heart’s content. For overweight cats, however, you’ll want to look into something that regulates their intake and schedule.
The biggest concern many users have had with this feeder is that the food gets jammed. This is an unfortunately common problem with many of this style of the feeder as there is a lot of food trying to fit through a small space to get into the bowl.
The Aspen Pet Lebistro Feeder at a Glance:
- Dry food only
- Not electric
- No timer
- Unlimited portions
- Not refrigerated
For a fairly standard gravity feeder that makes free-feeding simple, the Aspen Pet Lebistro Feeder may be worth trying out. You can also get a matching Gravity Waterer which can hold a couple of gallons of water to keep your cats from getting hungry or thirsty.
9. SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder
Last on our list—but certainly not least—is the SureFeed automatic pet feeder. If you're willing to invest in an accurate way to feed each of your cats his/her own diet, this could be the solution.
The Surefeed can remember and identify up to 32 pets—perfect even in a shelter environment! If your cats are already chipped, that may be enough for this clever device. You'll have to test it though as not all microchips operate well with it. You do get an RFID tag too that you can just have Kitty wear on a collar.
Reviewers report that SureFeed helps with providing different cats with their own unique diets, making it a popular choice not only when the owner is away.
The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder at a glance:
- Identifies a pet using an existing ID chip or RFID the included collar tag.
- Helps with feeding issues in multi-cat households.
- Gets the right amount of food to the right cat - great for cats on a diet.
- Food stays fresh within a sealed container.
So, which is the best automatic feeder for cats?
As with most things, it depends. If all you need is to keep your kibble from going stale while keeping the food dish full, any of the gravity feeders may do the trick for you. Opt for a larger one if there are several cats in your household.
If you need to serve portioned wet food meals while away, things get a bit more complicated. You must choose a cooled food dispenser for that. If you're a tech-savvy cat owner then one of the smartphone-controlled models may be the best option for you. Otherwise, a simple programmable feeder is what you need.
Whichever model you end up choosing, remember to read the reviews and make sure it meets your needs. And as always, check with our members in the cat care forum for more input.
Don't forget to share your own experiences with automated pet feeders by leaving a comment here as well. Last, but not least, a lot of time and effort went into making this guide so we'd really appreciate it if you could help us spread the word about it. Thank you!