Right now, I’m sitting in a villa overlooking a beach, yep, it’s vacation time! Meanwhile, my cat is at home, and my neighbor is keeping an eye on her and making sure she’s fed.
What if you don’t have a friendly neighbor though? Eventually, family and friends get a bit fed-up looking after your cat every time you go off somewhere, so the problem of how to feed your cat becomes a real issue.
An automatic cat feeder is hugely beneficial for people who love their cat, but can’t always be around to feed it every day. Unfortunately, there are so many different models on the market, it’s hard to find out which one suits you.
This is where our guide steps in. We’ll take you on a tour of the most popular models, and let you know what things you should be looking for in an automatic timed cat feeder.
With the words “net” and “smart” in the title, you just know there’s gonna be all kinds of tech geekery going on in the SmartFeeder, and you’d be right. This automatic feeder works by allowing a small number of kibbles into the lower bowl, ready for your cat to eat. The amount it lets out, and how often, are both programmed using the Petnet app – available on iPhone and Android devices.
The Petnet is also programmable by using the NEST service too, perfect if you’ve introduced smart meters and timers into your home.
If you really want a system you can keep tabs on while away, then the Petnet is probably what you want. It’s the most expensive automatic feeder on review, yet it’s the one you’ll need if you travel abroad a lot.
Luckily, one of our review team owns a home with some NEST features installed already. So, we were able not only to give the SmartFeeder a trial, we also teamed it up with a NEXT camera to keep an eye on our feline friend as it feed.
We loved this cool feature, as it allows you to see your cat and check he’s okay. Unfortunately, this adds another level of expense onto an already expensive system. This is the type of geek tech you’ll know if you want it; other people might like to look at the cheaper options available.
Pros: Perfect if you want to keep tabs on your tabby (excuse the pun!) while away. The NEST feature is cool too.
Cons: You’ll pay a premium for it.
Coming down in price to a level that most people would be comfortable with, the Arf Pets feeder does everything you’ll need.
It can dispense up to 10 meals in a day, and programming is completed by using the LCD screen. It’s powered by a pair of D batteries, or alternatively an adaptor that’s provided with the pack.
The Arf Pets feeder is easy to use in practice. Sure, you don’t have a funky app to control it with, yet that LCD panel is intuitive, and it doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes to get to grips with it.
We liked the idea of using batteries to power the feeder. This might suit people who just don’t have a power supply near to where their cats are normally fed.
As for the personal feeding call, we felt it’s more of a gimmick than anything. My cat tends to come and go as she pleases from the food bowl, and often takes a bit of food, before coming back to finish it later.
Build quality is good too, with all the latches, snap lids and switched working well. This is an automated feeder that should last many years.
Pros: Sensible price, well made and easy to use.
Cons: Feeding call function is just a gimmick.
This is a slightly different take on a pet feeder, which is good in some respects, but hampers it in others.
The food is placed on a disk tray with a lid placed on top of it. When the time comes, the tray reveals the food in individually placed segments, 5 per day. Of course, this means you can use wet food in the PetLucky feeder, which is a huge plus point.
While this arrangement is good for a day’s feeding, the lack of a hamper really means it’s hopeless if you’re leaving your cat for longer.
In some ways, the PetLucky is a much better option than the SmartFeeder and ArfPets models. By allowing the use of wet foods, this becomes an awesome daily feeding system, and gives your pets far more of the food they need to stay healthy.
The voice recording system used on this model is better too. It does record your voice properly, and my cat responded to it quickly once completed. The tray arrangement is easy to use, and as the tray is dish washable, cleaning everything up is nice and easy.
Pros: Easy to use and lower priced.
Cons: Only suitable for daily feeding, travellers might need to look elsewhere.
Back to the more traditional hopper systems, the PetSafe Automatic Feeder allows your pet to be fed up to 12 times per day. Programming is done via the top lid, and the hopper can deliver many different types of kibble.
One of the cool features of this automatic feed is the fact it allows you to use your own bowls. Of course, if your cat has a habit of moving its bowl, you might run into problems!
Oh dear, for an automatic feeder that rivals the SmartFeeder at the beginning of our review, this feeder is completely useless! We found so many issues when testing this automatic cat feeder that we had to list them all.
On a more positive note, the power consumption of this feeder is far lower than the rest. If you do find yourselves using batteries, they’ll last quite a few months between changes. The PetSafe feeder also has a higher capacity than all the others we reviewed, so you’ll be able to load this machine up and keep feeding for longer.
Pros: Low power consumption.
Cons: Almost everything else, including the price!
Realistically, there’s only three feeders that we would suggest you purchase.
For the tech geeks – The SmartFeeder is awesome, well made, and once you run with the NEST integration you’ll have all kinds of fun fitting cameras to keep track of your furry friend.
For everyone else – You’ll do just fine with the Arf Pets feeder. Does 99% of what the SmartFeeder does, and everything you need. It’s a real shame the meal call function is bad though.
If you leave your cat for the day – The Petlucky system is good, and can serve wet food too; however, if you leave your cat for longer than a day, it will come up short!