An automatic feeder can be a Godsend for busy cat owners who can't always be there at Kitty's feeding time. These feeders range from very simple gravity feed systems to high tech timed and portion controlled systems. While most offer a good deal of convenience, they do tend to have some drawbacks. So which ones are worth your money?
PetSafe 5 Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
- Type of feeder: Battery-operated, programmable 5 meal feeder
- Capacity: Holds 5 cups
- Price range: Under $65.00
The Petsafe 5 Meal Automatic Feeder operates like an automated lazy Susan. The feeder holds a covered serving tray that contains five separate feeding compartments inside. Each compartment holds up to one cup of food and stores it airtight until feeding time. You can program the timer to rotate the feeding tray and serve the next meal at whichever time you choose.
- You can use the system to break your cat's daily diet into smaller portions fed throughout the day, or you can use the system to help cut back on an obese cat's daily intake.
- The food tray is dishwasher safe.
- Since the unit is battery operated, you don't have to worry about your pet chewing through a cord or managing to unplug the unit while you're gone.
- Although the feeder is designed to serve five individual portions, the first portion is automatically available when you load it, which means there are only four portions left to be timed and released.
- Directions for the feeder are printed on a sticker on the inside cover of the system, and the sticker tends to come loose and hamper the rotation. You can remove it, but you still need the directions for programming.
- Although the company claims you can feed wet or dry food with this feeder, some customers found that the wet food dries out.
Out of 42 reviews listed at the bottom of the product page, customers gave this feeder an overall rating of just over 3.5 out of 5 stars. The major complaints were that the feeding tray did not always rotate as expected, either due to the sticker on the inside getting in the way, or because the customer did not push the feeding tray all the way down into the unit so it would make sufficient contact to turn it. Some customers have also complained that their cats were able to break into the feeder and get the rest of the food.
LeBistro Portion Control Feeder
- Type of feeder: Battery-operated, time and portion control feeder
- Capacity: Holds 5 pounds
- Price range: Under $60.00
The LeBistro Portion Control Feeder is a programmable system that allows you to feed your pet up to three different sized meals a day. Serving sizes range from 1/4 cup up to 2 cups per meal.
- There's a low battery indicator to let you know when it's time for fresh batteries.
- The feeding dish is top-rack dishwasher safe. The storage bin should be hand washed.
- Portion control options keep food-focused cats from eating too much food too quickly.
- The top of the storage bin opens a little too easily, and some cats figure out how to get more food.
- This feeder offers fewer feeding options than some other comparable feeders.
- The trap door of the food chute sometimes closes before an entire portion has been dispensed.
Out of 30 reviews listed at the bottom of the product page, customers gave this feeder a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. The major complaints were that the smallest feeding setting was 1/4 cup, and that sometimes the feeder didn't dispense the right amount of food.
Ergo Systems Auto Pet Feeder
- Type of feeder: Electronic, automatic dispensing system
- Capacity: Holds 5, 10 or 20 pounds
- Price range: $116.00 to $135.00, depending on size chosen
The Ergo Systems Auto Pet Feeder system is equipped with a programmable, digital timer that has eight different settings that allow you to feed your cat controlled portions up to eight times a day. The portion is controlled by how long you set the feeder to dispense. You can set it to dispense for just a few seconds to deliver several pieces, or you can set it to dispense longer for larger amounts. You can also vary the portions at every feeding.
This feeder is available in three sizes. You can select a feeder that will serve a single cat or one that will serve multiple cats.
- Small feeder: This feeder holds 5 pounds of food, and is designed to work with pieces sized no larger than 3/8 of an inch in size.
- Medium feeder: This model holds 10 pounds of food, with a maximum piece size of 7/8 of an inch.
- Large feeder: This model is designed to hold 20 pounds of pieces no larger than 7/8 inch in size.
- It's nice to have the option of choosing the feeder size you want.
- The food dish is dishwasher safe, and it can be detached and washed without having to empty the storage bin first.
- The unit uses an auger to dispense the food and reduce clogging.
- Compared to a basic gravity feeder, you can actually control your pet's portion, as well as how often the food dish refills. This can help with weight control, and it's useful for establishing a healthy feeding schedule for pets that suffer from diabetes.
- Compared to the LeBistro feeder, you have far greater control over the portions.
- The power cord has a protective cover to prevent cats from chewing it and possibly receiving an electric shock.
- The system is a little complicated to program. However, Petco offers an in depth list of troubleshooting tips to help customers avoid non-essential returns.
- Since the size of the individual food pellets is so crucial for the system to operate correctly, you may need to switch your cat to another brand to accommodate the feeder.
- It appears the feeder will dispense automatically even if you pet hasn't eaten the previous portion. This can lead to overflows unless you track your cat's eating habits and adjust the portions and times accordingly.
- Replacement parts are not available.
Out of 45 reviews listed at the bottom of the product page, customers gave this feeder an average of 3.4 out of 5 stars citing that they love the way the feeder is designed to work. The major complaints about the system were that programming the timer was difficult, and that the auger motor tended to wear out after 12 about months use or broke immediately for some customers. There were also complaints that Ergo's customer service department could have been more helpful.
Bottom Line, No Feeder Is Perfect
It doesn't take long to figure out that none of these feeders are flawless, but they do seem to make feeding easier for many owners. If you decide to give one of these feeders a try, start using it ahead of time. That way you can make sure it operates reliably before you try to depend on it to feed your cat when you leave her home alone.