If you’ve ever had to work late or spend the night away from home, you understand the problems associated with free-feeding your cats. Leaving piles of food around is an open invitation to bugs and other pests, and it can be harmful for diabetic or overweight cats. Plus, it’s just plain messy. Fortunately, automatic feeders for cats offer a safe and simple solution.
Automatic food dispensers and feeders for cats work exactly as advertised: you program the feeder to dispense cat food at the times and in the amount of your choosing, and then the cat feeder releases the dry food just in time to fill your kitty’s tummy. This means no more mess, no more bugs and no more overeating.
Note that most automatic feeders will work for both cats and dogs.
Who might benefit from an automatic feeder?
- Pet parents who are away from home for extended periods of time
- Cats who are on a restricted diet – if your feline fur baby is overweight, he should be eating several smaller meals throughout the day
- Picky eaters – we know that cats are famously finicky with regard to the freshness of their food. Setting the feeder timer to dispense several meals during the day will ensure that your cat will have fresh food each time he eats.
- Cats who like to play with their food – and who doesn’t?? We’ve all seen our precious kitties torment bugs, lizards, toys and anything else that moves or looks like it might move. The hunting instinct is strong in cats and there are interactive feeders which will satisfy that instinct. Northmate Catch Interactive Feeder for Cats for cats is NOT an automatic feeder but it may provide your kitty with lots of fun while she ‘hunts’ down the kibble hidden in the feeder.
What to consider when buying an automatic feeder
- Wet food vs dry food: Don’t try to use a dry food feeder to dispense wet food. It won’t work!
- Get a feeder which allows you to dispense various amounts at various times. In other words, don’t get a feeder that only dispenses in ½ Cup amounts every 8 hours if that is neither the amount you want to always feed your cat nor the desired timing of the feedings.
- Make sure the feeder can dispense the kibble size you use.
- Check the storage capacity to ensure that you can put enough kibble in to last the whole time you will be gone.
- If your cat is like most, he will be curious about the feeder and may try to break into the food mother lode so make sure you buy a durable, well-made feeder with a secure closure on the food storage bin.
Types of Automatic Feeders
Automatic feeders for cats come in different styles, shapes and sizes. Most allow you to schedule food dispensing at pre-arranged times, such as every 6 or 12 hours. The storage capacity and price of each varies.
Programmable Automatic Cat Feeders – These convenient feeders are the most advanced and generally cost considerably more than other types of food dispensers for cats. You choose the times for feeding and control how much food is dispensed at each meal. Programmable feeders are a good choice for cats needing to be on a strict feeding schedule for health reasons.
One of the top rated feeders of this type is the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Automatic Feeder. It can be used for both cats and dogs, can be programmed for up to 12 feedings a day, from 1/8 Cup to 4 Cups per feeding of dry kibble or semi-moist foods of various sizes and shapes. It can be significantly more expensive than other feeder options but, in the long run, it may be worth it.
If you want to go really high tech, check out the Feed and Go Automatic Pet Feeder that connects to your Wi-Fi and has a built-in webcam with allows you to watch you fur baby eating from any smart phone. There are, however, only 6 compartments and each one holds up to 1 cup of dry, moist or wet food, medication or treats.
Electronic Food Bowls – This type of automatic cat feeder doesn’t hold as much as a programmable feeder, but it works well for anyone needing to feed their cat while they’re at work. Most models require you to fill up one or more feeding dishes with the desired amount of cat food, and then program meal times into the machine. When meal time arrives, the lid covering the bowl lifts up, slides off, or rotates out of place, allowing your cat to access her food.
The Qpets 6-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder is one example of this type of feeder. This feeder does accommodate dry, moist and wet food but only 6 feedings in a 24-hour period. The fun feature on this feeder is that it allows you to record a 6-second message for your kitty to hear each time he settles in for a meal.
The GemPet Automatic Pet Feeder allows you to program up to 5 meals per day or wet or dry food, in any size or shape and has an easy-to-clean removable “hopper”. This one also allows you to record up to a 20 second message to make sure your favorite feline doesn’t forget all about you while you are gone.
Budget Cat Feeders – The cheapest option available, budget cat food dispensers rely on gravity to keep your kitty’s food dish full. As your cat eats out of her bowl, the bowl is refilled automatically from dry food stored in a container above the bowl. This type is best if you simply want to make food available to your cat on a regular basis while you’re away from home for the day. Cats who have difficulty self-regulating the amount of food they eat do not do well with this type of feeder.
The Vanness Auto Feeder holds up to 3 pounds of dry food and is suitable for dogs and cats.
Pros of Using an Automatic Feeder
Using an automatic cat feeder is a great choice if you work long hours or travel frequently. There’s no need to hire a pet sitter for your next overnight trip, as an automatic feeder will ensure your cat has access to food, treats and medications, as necessary, at regular intervals throughout the day and night. Cat feeders are also of benefit to cats requiring frequent small meals due to diabetes or other health problems. Programmable feeders also allow you to control exactly how much food your cat has access to which helps prevent overeating. The added benefit to an automatic feeder is that there is no food lying around to attract insects and rodents.
Cons of Using an Automatic Feeder
Automatic food dispensers can be noisy, although most cats will get used to the noise and begin to associate it with the positive occurrence of a food drop. The dispenses can jam if you put the wrong type of food or size of kibble in, or just because most machines will eventually break down. If your cat is strong enough and the feeder you bought is not heavy or secure enough, he may be able to tip over or open the feeder.
There is an automatic feeder out there to suit all tastes and needs so read the fine print, read the consumer reviews and get the feeder that provides you and your fur baby with the most benefits.
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