One of the first things you learn as a cat owner is how much cats love routine and structure in their day.
You are probably used to being woken up by your cat at the same time each morning wanting to be fed. This is fine when you are at home and able to feed them 2-3 times a day at their ‘specified time’ but if you lead a busy / hectic lifestyle (who doesn’t!) this is not always as easy as it sounds.
Getting back from work late and feeding them is fine, but it does interrupt their usual feeding schedule, which can cause stress.
I personally didn’t like the idea of my cat being sat at home waiting in front of their food bowl wondering when they were likely to be fed. So, I purchased an automatic cat feeder and haven’t looked back since. For those of you who are considering purchasing an automatic cat feeder, we have outlined some of the benefits and provided our recommendation.
From the five that we have used in the past, we would personally recommend the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simple Automatic Feeder which is middle of the range (in terms of price).
The great thing about the PetSafe Healthy Pet Automatic feeder is the fact that you are able to schedule up to 12 meals per day (with flexible portion sizes). Even though it doesn't look as 'stylish' as some of the pet feeders on the market, it is robust (cat-proof) which means that your cat is going to find it very difficult to unlock the lid and steal all the food while you are out.
We also liked the fact that it is easy to clean (has a removable stainless steel bowl), which is also more hygienic.
Benefits of Buying an Automatic Cat Feeder
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your cat is the only one who benefits from having an automatic cat feeder in the house! There are actually a number of benefits for the cat owner as well, which may come as a surprise!
Consistent Feeding (Timing & Portions)
With an automatic cat feeder, you can program when precisely your cat gets fed (and how much in each sitting). So, whether you are on holiday or at work, your cat will always be fed the right amount at the right time. This is particularly beneficial if you are prone to over feeding your cat or if they are a little overweight!
If your cat is overweight, it is not uncommon for a vet to recommend that they are fed smaller portions around 5-6 times a day. If you have a busy lifestyle or work schedule, this can be difficult to manage, but with an automatic cat feeder there should be no issue.
More Sleep & Quality Cat Time!
Being woken up at 5.30am each day by your cat (who wants to be fed) gets a little bit frustrating after a while.
Having an automatic cat feeder means that your cat will take its frustration out on the cat feeder, rather than meowing outside of your bedroom door! Seriously though, using an automatic cat feeder means that your cat will no longer 'associate' you with food and thus the time you spend with your cat will be more relaxing and enjoyable.
If you pay for a cat sitter while you are away on holiday and their main job is to feed the cat, then getting an automatic cat feeder may(!) mean that you no longer require their service. This can actually save you quite a lot of money in the long-term, so should be a consideration.
Factors to Consider
All automatic cat feeders are slightly different, and it can be quite confusing with various types on the market. Some of the key areas to focus on when looking to buy an automatic cat feeder are outlined below.
Meals Per Day
How many meals per day does your cat need?
Some automatic cat feeders cater for a lower number of meals (1-2), others can feed up to 6 meals. If your cat needs to be fed 6 times a day, obviously a cat feeder that only fits 3 meals will not be sufficient, unless you buy two of them! Our recommended automatic cat feeder allows for up to 12 meals per day, which can be split between multiple cats.
Your cat will be using its automatic cat feeder at least twice a day (lunch and dinner) and because they will inevitably have moving parts, ensuring that the cat feeder is durable should be a top priority.
The feeding mechanism should be well constructed, so it is important to review the specification. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the more well built it will be.
Ease of Use
There is no point having an automatic cat feeder if you can’t work it.
Most of the cat feeders that we reviewed are quite straightforward to construct and came with instruction manuals that are readily digestible, but it is worth checking. Reviews are also a good source of information, most users of the product will be quite transparent if they found the automatic cat feeder hard to use on an ongoing basis.
Probably not the most important factor to consider but design is likely to play a part in your decision.
There are lots of feeders on the market; some look better than others. It is definitely wise to select one that is likely to look good in your house, particularly if the automatic cat feeder is to be located in the kitchen or in living areas (where guests are likely to see it).
Size will depend on how many meals a day it needs to serve – those that cater for more meals, tend to be larger in size.
How Secure It Is!
As you know, cats are very intelligent.
If they work out how to open the automatic cat feeder, then its use is inherently flawed. Look for automatic cat feeders that are sturdy and read the reviews and real-life stories to make sure that you are not buying a cat feeder that is simple to break into!
Obviously this is an extremely important factor.
When completing our research, we found that automatic cat feeders ranged from between c. $34 to $180.
We would personally recommend spending between $80 and $130, at this level the feeders tend to use higher quality materials and the feeding mechanisms are more reliable.