Cats are popular pets for a number of good reasons. For people that have to be out of the home all day or have minimal time to devote to a pet but would like the benefit of companionship and affection when they are at home, cats can be ideal. Quite often independent in nature, provided that they have food, water and access to the outside, cats can be the ideal low maintenance companion.
If your life is unpredictable, or you have to be out of the home for long hours, an automatic cat feeder can be an ideal solution. Depending upon your cat’s diet and the type of feeder, they can even be used for short breaks, meaning that there is no need to ask a neighbour to pop in or go to the expense of a cat sitter or cattery.
Here we look at what to consider when choosing an automatic cat feeder and the pros and cons of this feeding method.
What is an Automatic Cat Feeder?
At their simplest, automatic cat feeders will provide your cat with a set portion of food at a time predetermined by you. This can be convenient if, for example, mornings are hectic getting yourself and your family ready for school, college or work. You can portion up your cat’s food for the morning the previous evening, knowing that they will be fed as usual and leaving you one less task in the household rush to the door.
There are numerous styles of automatic cat feeder and a range of options. Price will vary according to manufacturer, specification, safety features and capacity. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can help you to control the quantity and frequency of your cat’s meals.
Must Have Features for Automatic Cat Feeders
Whilst they vary, the following are common features and things to consider in automatic cat feeders.
Battery operated or powered by the mains
Depending upon where you need to put your cat feeder, a battery-operated version can be the most convenient. However, you will need to check the batteries periodically to ensure it is still working. One that is plugged into a main socket can give peace of mind, with one less thing to check.
Depending upon your requirements, you can either opt for a feeder which allows you to measure fixed portions or one which operates on gravity. Gravity operated feeders will automatically ensure that your cat’s feeding bowl is always full, provided that there is food left in the main container. If your cat is likely to overeat with unlimited food available, this may not be the right choice for you. However, many cats are very good at self-regulating so this can be a convenient option.
If your cat is generally fed at specific times but you aren’t always able to be home for feeding time, feeders can be set to release food at specific times. Some feeders will incorporate this with the ability to offer multiple meals throughout the day in various portion sizes, allowing you to limit the quantity given in one go if your cat needs their food spread over several periods.
While you should always introduce your cat to anything new in your presence and make sure they are fully happy with it before using it on their own, it has been found that some cats will respond more happily to an automatic cat feeder if the food release is accompanied by their owner’s voice. Some owners use specific words when feeding their cat so this feature can be used to record what your cat would usually hear from you when you are feeding them and help them to feel more comfortable with using the feeder.
Wet cat food options
Most feeders are designed to be used with dry cat foods. However, there are some on the market that can be used with wet cat food. If this is the option you need, look for one that has a cooling feature but bear in mind that this type of feeder is not likely to be suitable for extended periods of use, such as when you are away on holiday.
If you prefer to be there to feed your cat but occasionally won’t be able to, there are now some feeders which offer the option to release food through an app on your phone.
What We Loved
1. Capacity. Automatic cat feeders usually hold several days’ worth of food.
2. Standardised Feeding Times. Cats are usually unable to work out how to access the food in the feeder, other than when it is automatically released into the feeding bowl.
3. Flexibility. You can set both times for feeds and portion sizes.
4. Security. Food is generally sealed well, meaning that insects and flies can’t get to it. This also helps to stop other pets in the house from accessing it too.
What Needs Work
1. Price. An automatic cat feeder will be more expensive than more basic options such as a standard bowl. However, many find the convenience outweighs the price.
2. Food type flexibility. Whilst options are available for wet foods, most automatic cat feeders are designed for dry foods.
3. Jammed mechanisms. Care needs to be taken to use the size of kibble for which the feeder is designed, otherwise jams can occur.
Automatic cat feeders can be the ideal solution for the busy cat owner that wants to ensure their feline companions are well looked after in their absence. They can save time and provide added freedom when you are away. Of course, it is always important to ensure that your cat also has a ready supply of fresh water and access to the outside or a litter tray at all times.