A decent bowl is an essential piece of kit when you have a cat. Of course, you could opt for a pretty china bowl or plate, but times have moved on and there are a load of more hygienic and hi-tech options to choose from.
But why upgrade? The clue is in the name when it comes to automatic feeders. The big benefit is that you can schedule these ‘bowls’ to make a meal available to your cat when you’re at work or out somewhere fun. Some even allow you to schedule several meals for your pet, or drop some treats. But there are some considerations.
The first is whether you feed your cat wet food, as some feeders only dispense dry kibble. If you do want to offer your cat some wet meaty treats, you might want to choose one with a seal, to keep odours to a minimum. Then there’s the question of how many meals they dispense and if you want to program the gadget using an app or not.
Then, of course, there’s budget. Some of the hi-tech versions cost more than £100, so considering the ‘extras’ these feeders offer is important. And, if you have a swanky kitchen, looks might matter too. We’ve rounded up most a-meow-sing automatic cat feeders out there to make choosing one a cinch.
If your household revolves around kitty chaos, an automatic feeders designed for multi-pet homes could restore a sense of calm. The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder is designed for homes with plenty of pets and ensures that your cat’s food stays their own.
As your pet approaches the pet feeder it reads their microchip or RFID collar tag and only opens when it recognises an authorised pet. This means that cheeky neighbourhood cats sneaking through a cat flap won’t get a free meal, or your dominant puss won’t pile on the pounds.
The feeder automatically closes when the cat authorised moves away, stopping other pets or children being able to access the food. This makes the feeder ideal for pets on prescription diets or weight management programmes, while preventing food stealing, overeating and waste, if you have a sensitive kitty that likes its food just so.
The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder is compatible with all microchips and can also be used for multiple cats if yours is prepared to share - with up to 32 pets being able to gain access.
The feeder is suitable for wet and dry food and has sealed bowls to keep moist dinners fresh and free from flies. However, the bowls and lid are hand wash only, so there’s no avoiding scraping slippery scraps out of the bowls by hand!
While, like many feeders, this one is powered by four C batteries, it has a long life of up to 12 months, which is longer than others. There’s also a handy low battery indicator light so you can track more down.
This is a great all-rounder that includes pretty much everything in the box (besides a cat), including: one grey bowl, one split grey bowl, one grey mat and one SureFlap RFID Collar Tag for non-microchipped pets. The only slight drawback is that it’s at the top end of the price range for automatic features without smart features, such as app compatibility. But, if you’re looking for a solution for your multi-pet home, this product offers value for money overall.
Most cat owners don’t want to splash too much cash on a bowl, and this is where the Surefeed sealed pet bowl comes in. It offers all the key benefits of an automatic cat feeder for a good price.
The most important feature is that this feeder comes with a sealed bowl and is suitable for wet food as well as dry. This gives you full flexibility when it comes to feeding your pet. The seal comes in really handy for stopping the food drying out – which will please your cat – and prevents nasty odours escaping, which is great for you, unless you love the aroma of fish or ‘beef in jelly’. By keeping food fresh for your pet, you might save money and reduce waste too.
Like most automatic food dispensers, the lid opens when the bowl detects movement – such as your pet approaching - and closes again when they move away. The see-through lid lets your cat see the food and the automatic mechanism is a blessing in hot weather as it keeps flies out.
Overall, this is a great all-rounder of an automatic feeder, without too many bells and whistles. It simply does what you want it to, well and doesn’t take up too much room, with a footprint of 21 x 25cm. But there are a couple of drawbacks.
The feeder is powered by 4xC cell batteries that last for six months – meaning you’ll have to keep some in stock – and then there’s cleaning. While the feeder has a removeable bowl and lid, they are not dishwasher safe, which may be a dealbreaker for some owners. The rest of the device is wipe-clean only, but that’s the case with most.
The Cat Mate C10 Single Meal Feeder is about as basic as it gets. There’s no app or motion detection system, which, depending on how much you like technology, may be a blessing or a curse.
The automatic feeder has a dial at the top, which allows owners to set the time they want to make a meal available to their pet. You can choose any time up to 24 hours later, but there’s no option to set repeat times or shut it again, meaning that once it’s open, it’s open.
The bowl is large enough for a proper meal with room for 450g of food, which is enough for two cats or even a small dog. The bowl can be removed for easy cleaning, but there’s no seal, so undesirable smells may escape, especially if your cat favours ‘fish supreme’ flavours.
Along with simplicity, the price of the device is perhaps its biggest draw. It’s cheap enough that it’s a great option for people who only want to use an automatic feeder once in a while – when they work late, for example. However, if you want to use a feeder regularly, it’s probably worth upgrading to one with more features.
For double the price, you could get one with a seal and motion detection, giving you and your pet more flexibility. But as a way to dip your toe into automatic cat feeders (not literally) this is a good gadget to test out whether you’ll use a more expensive one. Or, it might just do the trick.
If you’re going out on a daytrip, or often work long hours, you’ll need a feeder that can offer your hungry cat multiple meals. The PetSafe Eatwell 5 Meal Pet Feeder may be the answer to your cat’s prayers! It has five little dishes to dispense food, treats or even medication anytime you want, making sure your hungry cat is regularly topped up.
There’s an easy-to-use LCD display and an electronic timer to set up to five meals in advance. This is really handy if you’re out for a while, so you can arrange all your pet’s meals for the day, or might be useful if you are going on holiday and want to dish out dinners for five days – although this would be to make life easier for a pet sitter instead of catering for all your cat’s needs.
One big advantage of this design is that it’s simple to see what your cat eats in a day. Each tray holds up to 200 grams of food, potentially making it simple to exercise portion control or ration treats, which can be really helpful if your cat is a little on the tubby side.
The dishes are made of BPA-free plastic and can be popped in the dishwasher, unlike many other designs. If you’re super busy and get in late from work, this might be a big selling point. However, there are some drawbacks.
The feeder is designed for just one cat, but is quite bulky. However, the biggest issue is that it’s only suitable for dispensing dry food. So, if your cat enjoys a bit of textual variety, you’ll want to give it a swerve, despite all its great features and the fact it’s great value for money.
If you have a pack of hungry cats or frequent kitty gate crashers in your kitchen, you might need a smart feeder. The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect and Hub can only be accessed with a microchip to prevent undesirable kitties stealing food. As well as multi-pet homes in which one pet steals another’s food, the hi-tech feeder is designed to cater for pets with medical conditions or those that require close monitoring.
Designed to make life easier, the posh feeder features integrated scales, which enable pet owners to precisely measure out each serving of food. There’s even an LED guide to help owners serve exactly the right amount of kibble. These features are really handy if you have a chunky cat, and you can keep them on the straight and narrow using the Sure Petcare app, which accurately logs how much and when a pet eats every day.
There are other practical, less hi-tech features, including a sealed bowl to keep kibble fresher for longer, which means less food waste and cash spent on spoiled dinners. There are also two half bowls for treats and a useful drip mat to protect your floor. But when it comes to cleaning, you can only rinse the bowls instead of sticking them in a dishwasher, which is a bit of a downside.
However, there are some nice extras, such as a training mode to help pets learn to use their new smart feeder, and a three-position timer for auto lid closure so not to spook nervous pets. All these features should help to ensure your pet sticks to a healthy lifestyle.
If you have a nice kitchen, you’ll want a good-looking feeder to fit into your shiny surfaces and thoughtful colour scheme, right? The PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Feeder is the best looking on our list, but its model appearance comes at a price.
Having said that, its swanky finish hides some top tech and the product lets users schedule, monitor and adjust their pet's feeding schedule remotely with a user-friendly smartphone app. In fact, the feeder can be controlled from multiple family members' smartphones, so a family can share the responsibility, or fun.
The feeder itself is mains powered, meaning you won’t have to worry about batteries suddenly running out, and it connects to your home Wi-Fi, so you could schedule meals from anywhere. However, if your network is unreliable, it could be a pain. There is, however, a backup battery that will have your back in power cuts, so your pet may be plunged into darkness, but won’t go hungry!
The feeder holds 24 cups, which is more than 5,000ml of dry or semi-moist food – but not wet food. The food conveyor’s design means strange-shaped kibble won’t get stuck and jam the mechanism, and impressively, owners can schedule up to 12 feeds a day, so if your per likes to snack, they are in luck!
The optional ‘Slow Feed’ setting dispenses meals in small amounts over 15 minutes for pets who tend to eat too quickly, while the ‘Feed Now’ option lets owners serve a meal on demand any time from the app or with the push of a pet-proof button on the feeder.
Unlike all the other feeders we’ve featured, this one has a shiny stainless-steel bowl with a removeable holder that’s designed to prevent pets from tipping it over, and the bowl and food storage compartment can be popped in the dishwasher.
In short, this feeder is a fantastic option for people who like to invest in quality kit, but all the features and shininess comes at quite a cost!
How to choose the best automatic cat feeder
Selecting the best automatic cat feeder really comes down to your lifestyle, as well as your cat’s.
If you have a cat with special dietary needs or that’s on a strict diet, there are feeders that make it easier to manage those needs, and for multi-pet households there are special options. The next important thing to consider is how fussy your pet is. If they only eat a certain kind of wet food, or prefer kibble exclusively, it will limit you to a handful of feeders.
But, if your cat lives alone or peacefully with others and is pretty easy to care for, your main criteria will be how often you want to feed them, whether you want to offer multiple meals, your appetite for technology and cost.
Busy people might want to consider a feeder that can dispense more than two meals a day and even consider investing in a smart feeder, enabling them to manage it via an app. But these extra features come at a cost, with more smart options costing more than £150. Essentially, if you only plan on using an automatic feeder occasionally, a value one will do, but a more luxe option could make your life much easier.
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